My Mother Never...

July 4, 2013
My mother never stopped trying to become a successful artist. I thought it was hilarious, because she was born with total color-blindness. My dad used to ask her what her favorite color was. She would say red, and I would high-five my dad. Our family was always pretty f***ed-up. You may think I’m just a really big asshole, but it’s really not my fault. Some people are born without the ability to perceive color, and some people are born without the ability to perceive empathy. I was born with a damaged prefrontal cortex, but I can’t cry about it. It is the way it is.

My mother died of a stroke while I was blending in with the cutthroats at UC Berkeley. I declined to attend her funeral. Pretending to grieve over her wasn’t going to bring her back, but studying for my examination would help me get a good grade.

Years after my mother died, I secured a position as a high school teacher in Ohio. Every year, I assigned a project which required students to create a plan for life after high school. Some of the students were realistic, but most of them were not. “You probably won’t make it as an NFL quarterback,” I would tell Varsity Letterman X. “I’ve seen you play, and you lack a consistent deep ball. No Division I college is going to recruit you to be their quarterback, and no NFL team is going to be interested in a dink-and-dunk passer who lacks pocket awareness.”

Varsity Letterman X would throw a desk and storm out of the room, and most people had similarly dramatic reactions. Against all odds, one of my students, Guitarist Guy, had eventually made it as a recording artist. Guitarist Guy made a point of sending me a copy of every album he produced, with hate mail enclosed. His hate mail was all irrelevant. I had told him that his dream was unrealistic, but I had never told him not to pursue it. There are some things people just don’t understand.

I maintained that I was doing the right thing in helping my students figure out their lives. I certainly wasn’t trying to hurt them. My mother always used to tell me that I had a heart of gold. But how would she have known? She only ever saw life in black and white.





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