Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Father/Son Duo Fail to See Eye to Eye For Record 70th Year


93 year old Doug Mitchell and his son Lance proudly announced to the Indianapolis Sun that they have been at odds for 70 years.
“He says seventy, I say sixty-nine,” said Lance Mitchell, now 71 years old. “But who’s counting?”
“I am,” shouted Mitchell senior. “I’m counting and this all started in 1940 when you wouldn’t stop crying.”
“Whatever, pop. You know everything. You’re always right.”
“What? What did you say?”
“His hearing is going and so is his memory. Trust me.”
“Trust you? Like I trusted you with my car?”

The story goes that when a teenage Lance wanted to borrow his father’s 1950 Plymouth Sedan to take his friends to the quarry. He ran out of gas and the car ended up in a ditch.
“What did I tell you before you left?”
“To have a good time?”
“No, I said, ‘Make sure you fill her up.’ That’s what I said. Your mother even heard me. 'Fill her up.’”
Mabel Mitchell passed away in 2002 so she could not corroborate her husband’s claim.
“That’s bullshit! You don’t even know what you’re talking about. All day long, the bullshit just flies out of your mouth.”
“Bullshit? I’ll tell you what bullshit is. Your college degree. I tell him to go the Navy, to get into a trade and what does he do? Nothing. Just wastes his life.”
“I wouldn’t call a History degree from the University of Chicago doing nothing.”
“Of course you wouldn’t. You actually think it’s useful. He's proud of it.”

The two have been arguing about life choices, politics, religion, and sports longer than any father and son in history, shattering the previous record held by Tom Scheib and his son Tom Jr. of Schenectady N.Y. The Scheibs had been arguing for 58 years before Tom Jr. shot and killed his father in an argument over the proper way to change the oil in his truck.

“They didn’t have the endurance,” mused Lance Mitchell. “Most fathers and sons reach a status of quiet resentment. Like a truce. They will bitch to their respective spouses about each other but when they are in a room together they don’t argue. They don’t even speak except to say Merry Christmas or goodbye. If it weren’t for football most sons would completely disown their fathers. Me and dad aren’t like that. We’re not quitters.”
“So why did your marriage fail?”
“Pop, she died,” Lance explained. His wife Sherry passed away in 1997.
“Oh, you and your excuses. One after another. He’s got an answer for everything.”

Diane Belluci, author of Fathers and the Sons who Hate Them, said it is not unusual for fathers and sons to argue.
“This trademark of the male relationship has its roots in biology. The pack leader, the dominant male, must earn that position. When the breakdown in traditional communities and families occurred after the Second World War, males were left with the impotent positions of assembly and grunt work. The leadership roles that made this country great became archaic and males turned their aggression on each other.”
Belluci explained that record setting dysfunction like that of the Mitchell Duo is not to be admired.
“We can learn something from the petty, immature hell that rules their lives, but no one should seek to emulate their intolerable relationship. No. This is not a record to be proud of. They are an extremely unusual, maladaptive pair and they should get help immediately.”

“I’ll get help when Lance grows up,” declared Doug Mitchell. “Not one minute earlier.”
Lance rolled his eyes. “The problem is that I don’t like him. He’s got a big mouth. He doesn’t know when to shut up. From my choice in girlfriends to my preference for baseball over football, it’s always been a battle. He’s a product of his generation.”
“Baseball is for sissies...."
Doug Mitchell paused to suck oxygen from a home respirator. He has suffered from emphysema for a decade.
"If you like baseball then you’re a sissy.”
“Not everyone can be a longshoreman, dad.”
“That’s sissy talk,” Doug wheezed.
“Did you even know what was in those boats you worked on? Are you that ignorant?”
“I did my job. That’s all I did.”
“So you admit you’re ignorant.”
“I admit you’re an idiot. Why can’t you be like your brother?”
Lance's older brother Tim has been estranged for 20 years.
"We think he's in jail," said Lance.
"At least he had guts and ambition," added Doug.

Doug and Lance Mitchell didn’t want to discuss the secret of their seven decades of disputes. Arguing had become as natural to them as swimming for a fish or flying for a bird.
“It’s a way of life. I’d say I was happy with it but my father would just contradict me.”
“Won’t you ever shut up?” asked Doug. “Hand me the remote control.”
Lance looked at two remote controls on the coffee table.
“This one?”
“Yeah, you got shit in your ears?”

Lance looked murderously at his father and then slowly handed him the remote control.
“You’re welcome,” said Lance as the silence in the room was broken by the blaring television volume. "I wouldn't take that kind of crap from anyone but my dad," he added.

Memorable Quotes:
"What was silent in the father speaks in the son, and often I found in the son the unveiled secret of the father." Friedrich Nietzsche

"Every father should remember that one day his son will follow his example instead of his advice."

"Love and fear. Everything the father of a family says must inspire one or the other." ~Joseph Joubert

"A father carries pictures where his money used to be."

"When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years." ~Mark Twain

"Mother, I'm going to get my things and get out of this house. Father hates me and I'm never coming back." Marvin Gaye...moments before his father shot him to death.

"The child is the father of the man."

"You know nothing!" Father to his son.

I'll dedicate this to handyman Al and Cora who are now proud owners of a baby boy named Desmond.
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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.