A change has come over me. I do A things differently than I used to. The change has been subtle, slow, but other people have noticed it as well. My life is different. My wife complains, but it's not my fault. I am suffering from creeping Harry Cohenism.
Harry Cohen is my father. For years, this was nothing more than a statement of fact. He is my father and I am his son and other than that, we had very little in common. He could spell and I could not. He could do math in his head and I could not. He could not sleep well or at all past 6 a.m. and I could sleep soundly and forever and he was always, but always, way older than I was.
Now, however, we are both the same age -- middle-aged. He is upper middle-aged and I am younger middle-aged, but we are essentially the same age. I can talk to him as I would a friend, but because we are both men we talk about nothing of consequence anyway. Still, this is something. For years, we didn't talk much at all.
I sleep like him now. I used to sleep like me -- deeply and endlessly. When I was a kid, this would drive my father mad. He would look at me sound asleep in my bed at, say, one in the afternoon, and explode with frustration: "Get up, get up!" He could not understand how anyone could sleep so late and I could not understand how anyone could not. Sleeping, in fact, was one of the very few things I did really well. I excelled at sleeping.BB ut no more. I wake up at six in the B morning. My eyes open and that is it. I try to go back to sleep, but I cannot. I lie and look at the clock and wait for the sun to come up, but there is no going back to sleep. For a long time, I worried that something was wrong with me. I could not figure out what was happening and then it occurred to me. I was becoming my father.
It was weird. I had written a column about how I hated mornings, about how I loved to sleep, and the Reader's Digest had reprinted it. I got 3.2 million letters from terrific sleepers all over the country and, over the years, the letters continued to come in. Someone would pick up the Digest in the doctor's office, read the piece, and send me a letter saying they were just like me. Only by then, I wasn't like me anymore. I was like my father. I thought about taking the letters home and reading them in the middle of the night when I couldn't sleep. I felt like a fraud.
I think most people know what I am talking about. They have this sense of slowly growing into either their mother's or their father's body. For men, the realization hits when someone tells you that you walk like your father or from the back you look like him or you just find yourself tilting your head the way he does. A friend who used to curse his father's cigars and the way he got ash on his clothing, one day looked down at his own lap and saw it flaked with cigarette ash. He knew who he had become.
My father was a runner. It was his sport and for years it was the one sport I could not care less about. My father knows the names and the times of all the great runners of his generation -- Finns with wonderfully melodic names -- but just hearing them mentioned bored me. Now, however, I run and I am beginning to take an interest in it as a sport. I even know some of the names.II know that by all logic I should be I becoming my mother, too. After all, half my genes are hers and, knowing her, they are the dominant ones. But for some reason, I feel that her genes declared themselves early and that from here on out, it is my father who is taking over. After all, it is my father and not my mother who falls asleep in front of the television set, and it is my father and not my mother who gets bogged down in detail in the middle of telling a story, and it is my father who will tell you the same story twice -- only each time a little bit differently. I am even beginning to like opera.
For a time, I thought that I was my own man, that I could be exactly what I wanted to be. I recognize now that there is such a thing as a genetic manifest destiny -- a case of the future really being the past. I don't have any problems with that, though. My father is a grand man -- sweet and sensitive and smart. I didn't realize it until recently, but in many ways we're a lot alike -- not like my son. Boy, can that kid sleep!
I wonder where he gets it from