You try to do the right thing by your children. Feed them — until it hurts, especially when they keep on eating. Clothe them — even when the entire wardrobe winds up under the bed. And suffer through the most dreaded of experiences — drivers education, for which there are not enough adult beverages in the world to settle the nerves.
I always tried to do the right thing by the lads. But now I felt like such an utter failure of fatherhood.
This was like Michael Jordan admitting he never played basketball with his children, or Duke Ellington depriving his offspring music lessons, or Albert Einstein confessing he never bothered to explain that relativity stuff to little Al junior.
How could this have happened to me, a self-confessed lifelong movie buff? Sheesh, I was even a former film critic who once spent more time in more dark rooms than a Dale Mabry two-bit gin joint chippie. How humiliating was this?
But there was the damning evidence as Zeus the Younger arrived home distressed that he had tried to buy a certain movie at a video store that, alas, was not on the shelves. He had tried and failed to purchase a copy of a flick he had never seen: The Godfather, by any standard one of the greatest pieces of moviedom ever produced.
How was it remotely possible a young man could get through 24 years of life — especially in our household, where he was raised on Alfred Hitchcock; David Lean; Martin Scorsese; Frank Capra; and the poignant love story that is Blazing Saddles, noted for its tender campfire and beans scene — and not have been exposed to the Don and Michael and Sonny and Clemenza and Moe Greene's eye?
By the way, did I mention: "In Sicily women are more dangerous than shotguns"?
Who could be responsible for such a glaring, gaping hole in parental responsibility? Perhaps it was Barzini. It was Barzini all along, wasn't it?
But, no, it was me. It was my fault, my oversight, my cinematic child neglect. I felt like a hapless Fredo Corleone fumbling with his gun.
And, yes, neglect it is. As anyone who has ever appreciated the understated logic of "Leave the gun, take the cannoli," knows all too well, Francis Ford Coppola's Godfather (I and II) stands as an eloquent parable about American history, crime and very unique punishment, power, loyalty, family, betrayal, political corruption and the fact that brothers sometimes do not get along.
It's a perfect movie, without a sour note to be found in casting, with Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton and, yes, even Abe Vigoda, although Jack Woltz's horse might take issue with this point. It is beautifully filmed and scored and written. And for more than two decades Homer the Younger had been denied its valuable life lessons, namely that no matter what career you decide to pursue, remember the philosopher Hyman Roth's admonition: "This is the business we've chosen."
There are plenty of criteria defining what makes a movie great. But certainly one standard is the idea that you can watch The Godfather 20, 30 times (and I think I have) and it never gets stale, especially watching Sterling Hayden choking on his pasta, which you have to admit is hard to digest when you've just been shot in the forehead.
I had to make this right, unless I wanted my parental legacy to sleep with the fishes, in a manner of speaking.
It's not proper that a boy's, or even a 24-year-old man's, first copy of The Godfather saga be paid for by themselves. That's what dads are for.
Better late than never. I had just been given a golden opportunity to make up for my past paternal shortcomings, sort of like the way Frank Pentangeli steps up to the plate to settle past accounts with the Corleones, only without the slit wrists.
I would make Aristotle the Younger an offer he couldn't refuse.
Ideally, I would have gotten Plato the Younger the combined versions of I and II. It's a more sweeping, linear narrative. But Best Buy only had the two separate movies. That would have to do.
You'll notice I didn't bother with Godfather III, which is to moviemaking what Luca Brasi is to diplomacy, a horrible mess of a story, the less said about the better. No child should have that movie abuse inflicted upon them.
With a great sense of a burden relieved, I presented the movies to Hercules the Younger. He seemed pleased. At least he didn't try to beat me up with a garbage can lid.
Then I began to worry. Had he ever seen Roman Polanski's Chinatown? Better not to ask. There are some things a parent doesn't want to know.