Something Missing

I am unsure of my preferences or opinions. I'm nothing but the shell of a man living a shadow man's imitation of autonomy and the freedom of choice.I knew something had to change.

But I didn't know what. I felt so trapped, so helpless.I decided to ask the man who had always been there for me, my father, for help.

"Dad," I said to him one night over dinner, "I'm not happy."

"What's wrong?" he asked.

"I don't know." And it was true -- I didn't know what was wrong with me or how to fix it. "It just feels like something is missing in my life." And that was also true -- something was missing from my life, and that thing was happiness.

The next morning, Dad drove me to the airport for my flight back home for Thanksgiving break. He gave me a hug and said he loved me before dropping me off at security and driving away in his minivan with the windows tinted black so no one could see him inside (he had a reputation to protect).

As soon as he left, I felt a wave of relief wash over me -- finally some time alone without having to worry about impressing Dad or letting him down by being myself instead of who he wanted me to be. Now I could relax and think about what I really wanted out of life without having to worry about disappointing him if I chose differently than what he thought was best for me (law school).When we landed in Indianapolis, Mom greeted us at the gate with her arms wide open ready for a big hug from each of her three children (two biological and one step-child). She took us straight home after picking up our luggage from baggage claim so we could unpack our suitcases before dinner.

We ate steaks on the grill outside while drinking beers in lawn chairs around the fire pit Dad had built in his backyard over Memorial Day weekend last year when all three of us were home together (the first time all three of us were home together since Mom remarried when I was nine). After dinner we sat around talking about our lives while drinking more beers and smoking cigars until Dad said it was late enough that we should probably go to bed because we had an early breakfast appointment the next morning before going out into the fields with him on his tractor mower doing whatever needed doing outside before lunchtime on Thanksgiving Day.

The next morning after breakfast we all went outside into Dad's massive backyard where he kept several tractors parked behind his garage along with various other pieces of farm equipment like planters and seeders and sprayers used for fertilizing crops or killing weeds or insects depending on what kind of crop you're growing -- corn, soybeans, alfalfa hay -- plus some heavy machinery like backhoes and front-end loaders used mostly for building things like roads or bridges or houses but also sometimes used by landscapers or construction companies building new developments where they plant trees along streets as part of their landscaping design because trees can grow faster than grass and help shade them from the sun and keep them cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter so they don't die as fast when it gets cold out.

Dad showed us how to hook up his sprayer to his tractor’s hydraulic system so he could drive around spraying fertilizer on his crops while we followed behind him on our own tractors doing whatever else needed doing -- mowing, planting, harvesting, etc. We drove around all morning doing our chores before stopping for lunch. After lunch we went back outside and Dad showed us how to hook up his planter to plant seeds in rows so they can grow into crops -- corn, soybeans, alfalfa hay -- that he can sell at the local farmers market or use to feed his cows and pigs and chickens with so he can sell them for meat or eggs or milk.

After showing us how to hook up the planter Dad said we were done for the day because it was time for dinner (turkey) and afterwards everyone would watch football together on TV until bedtime. After dinner I sat down next to Dad on the couch while everyone else watched football (I don’t really like sports) on TV. I waited until there was a commercial break before asking him again for help figuring out what was missing from my life that made me unhappy all of the time. He thought about it for a minute before telling me that I should try thinking more positively about myself and my place in this world instead of always doubting myself like I did -- doubting my abilities as an artist, doubting my intelligence relative to other people’s intelligence, doubting my attractiveness relative to other people’s attractiveness, doubting my place in society relative to other people’s places in society, etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc.

I went up to bed early that night because I had an early flight back to school the next morning and needed to get some sleep. I was exhausted from traveling all day and from helping Dad in his fields all afternoon.

I thought about what Dad said on the car ride home from the airport after dropping me off at my dorm.

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