پسر خوانده

کتاب: زندگی در چند بخش / فصل 62

پسر خوانده

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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Stepson

My dad never had time to analyze the present. And the past was the past. He was all about the future. Full steam ahead.

He was a dreamer. You could say he hoarded dreams. But they all revolved around the same goal. He was going to be a star. Nothing short of stardom would do.

Of all the side roads and jaunts and harebrained ideas, of all the distractions and detours, he probably had the most success with his magazine, Star’s Homes. He would find the addresses of stars and take photos of their houses and publish them for tourists. “Here’s Jimmy Stewart’s home! There’s Lucille Ball’s mansion! Hey look it’s Robin Williams’s place!” He’d list his own name and home in the magazine. Joe Cranston! Hollywood producer. Well, would ya look at that! “Joe! You have a place on the beach in Malibu?”

Sly grin. Why sure.

My dad lived in a condo in Studio City. He felt a blurb about his imaginary beachfront mansion somehow gave him credibility—and he also thought it was hilarious. Behind the laughter was the hard fact that he’d never have a Malibu address.

When I was just getting my career going, I worked for him. The business was mostly mail-order then. I went to the PO box in Hollywood and got the checks and cash. I stuffed the magazine in envelopes and mailed the envelopes to subscribers. And then the business evolved. Dad made his money at point-of-purchase, at all the places they sell Hollywood memorabilia, like the world-famous Grauman’s Chinese Theater. The shops would take the magazine on consignment. They got a piece, he got a piece.

At the end of the magazine’s run, he still had the big names of yesteryear, but very few relevant stars of today. He needed to update his list, get more current stars, and that was beyond him. I was one of the few current actors pictured in Star’s Homes.

“Would you look at that, Bryan,” he’d say. “You made the cut.”

He was trying, in his way, to help me. It wasn’t so different from the way my aunt Sunday clipped my name from the weeklies. My dad was proud. He was trying to show it.

But I always felt there was a hidden agenda. He was continually trying to get me to promote and produce his screenplays. He’d hold up a script. Do you think you can get this to Tom Hanks?

At twenty-five, as soon as I was steadily employed on Loving, I started loaning him money. Small, manageable sums to start. Then we graduated to larger amounts. I covered his utilities and his rent on occasion. And then I paid the funeral expenses for his mother when she died.

I’m sure Eddie loaned my dad money and never saw it again. Uncle Eddie wasn’t rich, but he had a job; he worked as a gaffer in Hollywood for thirty years and made investments. He might have ended up a hoarder in the end, but he didn’t squander what he’d earned.

Dad came to me fairly regularly. A few times every year. It felt like a role reversal, like he was my son, asking his dad for a loan. I didn’t cherish the feeling, but I couldn’t spend my time being angry. He didn’t much like it, either, but he was often desperate; he was often the recipient of pink-hued caution bills from the gas company or departments of water and power. He was always on the verge of losing service.

I came to accept that he relied on me financially, but that I couldn’t rely on him emotionally.

One day, he asked to see me. Something very pressing. I sighed, knowing that the “in-person” request always meant a big check.

Sure enough, he asked to borrow $30,000.

“Thirty grand?” I said. “Wow. Why do you need $30,000?”

“I can’t tell you.”

“We’re not going to play this game, Dad.”

He hesitated. “Cindy is sick,” he said. “But you can’t tell her I told you.”

Cindy was my dad’s wife of thirty-five years. The woman he left my mother for, the woman he stole from the husband he’d knocked out cold in the courthouse corridor when I was a boy. In spite of their rocky beginning, Cindy and my dad were actually well suited. I’d gotten along fine with them ever since she and my dad quit drinking. At our wedding Robin moved to give my father a hug, and Cindy, already seriously drunk at our afternoon ceremony, said, “Get your hands off my husband.”

I took my dad aside and I said, “She stops drinking, and you stop drinking, or I’ll never see you again.” I meant it. He knew I meant it. And that was it. They stopped. And they both became born-again Christians.

Now Cindy was facing cancer. Two kinds of terminal cancer, in fact. She didn’t want chemo. She wanted to cure herself naturally, and she found some doctor in Mexico who had promised recovery to patients by “cleaning the blood.”

Robin and I checked out the website. Very shady-looking. The process was illegal in the United States, so the doctor had set up an operation in Tijuana.

I talked to a board-certified oncologist, who told me that there was no hope. One of those conditions was a death sentence. Two? With 100 percent certainty, she had maximum of a year to live.

But my father begged. It’s going to save her life. He was desperate.

Robin and I discussed the matter and we agreed. We knew this transfusion wasn’t going to save her life. And yet Cindy and my dad believed it. I said to Robin: “You know what this is? This is a $30,000 Get Well Soon card.” We gave my dad and Cindy the money, and they were extremely grateful and ventured into her treatment with hope.

Cindy died the following May. Almost exactly one year after her diagnosis.

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