I recently gave some thought to an old friend I had neglected for many years. He is figuratively impotent. Jake Barnes devoted his life to his children, never knowing it was his tragic flaw.
I encountered Jake the other day and felt unusually saddened by what he failed to express. He told me one of his children was getting married this year, and he had no idea how to spare her the humiliation of being in his company on the blessed day. Jake’s wife is a sweetheart, equally devoted to her kids, and equally abrasive to them by her very existence. Caroline can poison an event with unselfishness.
When the upcoming wedding became the topic of conversation, Jake and Caroline parried the blows of insensitivity quite well. They appeared confused as to the appropriate course to negotiate with respect to the wedding plans, so everything would be perfect for their loved ones, while they remained invisible, eliminating any embarrassment their daughter might suffer as a result of their presence, but available for blame in the event of something unforeseen.
My long-time friends are simply wrong, and have always been. They never listened to the wisdom of their growing children, but chose to guide them as best they could. They failed to appreciate the need for young people to ensnare themselves in the traps laid for them by acquaintances less caring and loving as parents. They interfered regularly in the lives of their children, not recognizing that parental obligations cease at birth. In their zeal to fulfill the duties of the clowns they emulated as their children were developing life values, Jake and Caroline became visible to the dismay of their offspring.
My advice fell upon deaf ears. My friends need only cloak their happiness in silence. By blending into the background, they can minimize the damage they will inevitably cause by exhaling at the nuptial ceremony and subsequent familial celebration. There is no doubt they will, however. Jake and Caroline are impervious to pain. After all, it is all about the kids. One of my own children will wed this summer, and I will shed a private tear in the aftermath, thinking of what Jake will miss.