Unfit Father

Published on March 10th, 2016 | by Richard Black


My Dumbening


This is my brain. This is my brain on toast.

At some point during my life I became a moron, a sweet and lovable moron, but a moron nonetheless. It’s really kind of sad. I used to be a pretty bright guy, at least I think I might have been. My mind, apparently, isn’t what it used to be.

Prior to my dumbening I’d always considered myself to be a somewhat witty, intelligent and thoughtful individual. I’ve graduated from college and held a number of jobs over the years, some for more than a month or two. I even had a subscription to the Economist for a while and I’d managed to read it from time to time when I didn’t have a bottle of tequila to help me fall asleep at night.

It’s fair to wonder just what happened. I often do. Unfortunately I’m in such a decrepit mental state that I can’t recall, precisely, just what occurred.

My best guess is that the drop in my mental capabilities must have been a gradual process. There was no defining moment. I haven’t had a stroke, at least I’m pretty sure I haven’t. At some point however I crossed the cerebral equivalent of my Waterloo. On one side was a guy who could hold his own in a discussion about the geo political implications of our second invasion of Iraq and on the other was a man who shouldn’t be allowed to eat creamed corn without a cork on his fork. That, at least, is what my wife Laura would have you believe.

If the truth be known I’m pretty certain I’m still riding the crescendo of my intellectual capabilities. Last night, for example, I read the first three pages of Brother’s Karamazov eighteen times before I fell asleep.

“You keep flipping the same pages back and forth,” Laura noted, “are you reading it in Russian?”

“Of course I am,” I huffed in an attempt to retain the last tattered shreds of my dignity.

“Then you might want to try turning the book right side up,” she said softly and went on write a treatise for WHO which I thought was a band but turns out is also an acronym for the World Health Organization. 41 years old and still learning.

While Laura hasn’t told me in any explicit terms that I’m about as bright as a cinder block she does ask questions that imply I need to be reminded to put on my pants every morning before I put on my shoes.

“Did you remember to lock the car?” is one of her favorites and often followed by “Did you remember to turn off the stove?”

Up until a few years ago I used to give my wife a sharp response to each and every one of these questions. If memory serves I said something like “of course I did I’m not a fucking idiot” or “just how stupid do you think I am?”

Laura, to her credit, never gave an honest response and it only took me a few hundred thousand times to realize that I don’t lock the car or the front door or turn off the stove a frighteningly amount of the time.

In my defense locking a car door becomes a lot more complicated when one has a five year old in tow. Under the best of circumstances moving any child from the car to the front door is a ten minute process. The child has to get out of the car, close the door, open it again to fish out a backpack, close the door again halfway before you remember to grab her coat and then run to the end of the driveway to keep her kid from diving out into the street to look at a pretty rock.


Moses parted the Red Sea. I manage to lock a few doors from time to time. Life is relative people and I’m doing the best I can.

Quite frankly it’s amazing that I manage to do as well as I do. Even with the full command of my mental faculties I’ve never been all that good at multitasking. Throw a child into the mix and the fact that I can get everyone inside the home in less than half an hour is a miracle on par with Moses parting the Red Sea.

Marriage and raising a child takes a toll. They’re tough jobs and by tough I mean that there’s a lot to remember particularly birthdays, anniversaries, parent teacher conferences and potential meetings with child services just to name a few.

I’ve never been good at dates. The first time I met Laura I was pretty loaded, so much so that I invited myself to the wedding she was attending the next day. Laura had the good sense to decline and I had the good sense to grow a big crop of facial hair in anticipation of the next time we met.

That however is a story for another time. It turns out that I’m also not all that good at the other kind of dates, the ones that indicate a time and a place in which something should happen.

I used to be great at dates of the calendar variety. As a kid I was something of a history buff. 1066? That’s when the battle of Hastings was fought and a date that in which the Normans began their conquest of England. 1215? The signing of the Magna Carta and the beginnings of democracy in England. 1588? The date the Spanish armada was routed on it’s way to invade Flanders, the beginning of the end of the Spanish empire and the rise of England as a global power.

These facts, I feel compelled to mention and in the spirit of honesty, would be much more impressive if I didn’t have to Google them for the purposes of this piece.

Dates these days, as a husband and a father, are of a much more personal and loaded sort as well as the bane of my bane of my existence. There are just too many to remember. Laura likes to celebrate the first day we met (for the second time when I wasn’t inviting myself to the wedding she was attending) as well as our wedding anniversary which I’m pretty sure occurs sometime in April.

It’s a rather tall order particularly for a man who hasn’t remembered his mother’s, father’s, or any of his siblings’ birthdays in more than 40 years. There are only a few dates I can recall on an annual basis. The first is my own birthday. The second is my sister’s and the third is my wife’s. Under duress I can manage to remember my daughter’s birthday but it takes a lot of eye scrunching and constipated looks in the hope that I can buy enough time to remember one of the most important dates in my life.


The smoldering remains of what used to be my home.

If I were a brighter man I’d indulge the possibility that I may have never been all that bright. Fortunately I’m not and I’ll pass over the fact that I can’t even manage to chew gum and walk at the same time without chipping my teeth or that maintaining a marriage and raising a child are daunting tasks for a man of my limited capabilities.

You’ll have to excuse me now. Laura is complaining that there’s a hint of natural gas in the air and wants me to check the oven. Before I give it a look though I think I’ll have a cigarette. I don’t usually smoke indoors but it’s cold outside and Darcy is over at a friend’s house. I’m sure there’s nothing to worry about. After all what sort of idiot can’t remember to turn off a burner on a stove?

Thirty minutes after writing this post Richard Black was found wandering around the smoldering crater of what used to be his home. His wife has contacted their insurance company and an attorney to begin divorce proceedings. His daughter continues to repeat the phrase “daddy didn’t turn off the stove” over and over again to anyone within earshot. 

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