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Monday, March 20, 2006

Tony Soprano's son: like most fans of The Sopranos, I was surprised by last night's episode. For those of you who didn't see the show, Tony Soprano is comatose in the hospital after receiving a gunshot in the stomach. His son A.J. (photo) had a hard time coming to terms with his father's possible death.

At the beginning of the episode, he cannot bear to visit his dad in the hospital and he refers to him in the third person ("Tony Soprano won't die"). By the end of the episode, he has accepted his father's mortality and even vowed to seek revenge on his father's attacker.

For any man, the death of his father is a pivotal moment. My dad died of a heart attack when I was 11 (in 1962). One minute he was there, a loving father, and then poof, he was gone. I've spent my whole life trying to heal that wound and understand what he wanted for me.

I have been fortunate to be able to recreate the loving father-son bond by fathering two wonderful sons. One of the reasons I enjoy coaching Little League so much is that my dad coached me in baseball 50 years ago. When I'm out on the field giving instructions to one of the players ("Hold the bat this way"), I sometimes get flashbacks of my dad helping me.

Figuring out manhood is a complex and confusing task for boys and young men and they naturally turn to their father as a starting point. When boys have no father in their life at all, they may turn to other male role models, such as teachers or coaches. I think this creates a responsibility for men who have fathering or mentoring skills to volunteer.

I guess you'd put me in the Robert Bly school on this point. I really think boys need to get this kind of training or modeling from a man.

Will A.J. really seek revenge for his father's shooting? I have no idea. One hint: TimeWarner CEO Parsons said today in the NY Times that Tony Soprano "will be around for the next 19 episodes."

In any case, we will have the opportunity this TV season of watching A.J. grow up and come to terms with his role in the family and his responsibilities as a man.

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