Eff You, Harry Chapin

Go F-ck Yourself, Harry Chapin

I went to the doctor’s yesterday, because I am instructed to go every six months to speak with my GP in order to get my refill of Zoloft.  If I fail to do this, he withholds my prescription, my OCD kicks in like the dead man’s switch on a waterboarding table, and my wife finds me in the basement, prone, straightening carpet fibers so they all lean the same way.

It was actually serendipitous that I got to see him in that I’ve had chronic pain in my shoulder for the past month.  Turns out it is “rotator cuff tendinitis” which is common in “men my age” and is “only the beginning” of “chronic pain” brought on by the onset of “middle age.”


So I suffered through a cortisone shot, which made me feel like an athlete—just shoot me up, doc, I still got a few inning left in the old wing—until he made me sign a release.  I asked if all injections came with a release nowadays, but he just shook his head.

“Just this one?”

A nod.  My doctor had been struck mute.  Not a good sign.


“It’s possible that you could suffer some temporary nerve damage.”


“Like semi-permanent paralysis.”

I can’t even begin to fathom the paradox inherent in the hyphenate “semi-permanent”, but at that point I was fixated on the second part of the phrase.



“So no biggie?”

Now just a concerned look from doctor to nurse.

“Like, left side of my face goes slack for a few hours?”

“Well, yeah, but that goes away.  Most patients are more upset that they can’t control their bodily functions.”

“So this could lead me to…”

“Pissing and shitting yourself.”

“Like a goose?”

“If that makes you feel better.”

Of course, the injection was administered with no side effects, and I burned several hundred calories in flop-sweat and bargaining with God for nothing.

It gets you thinking a little bit, though, which brings me to the crux of my tale.

I have a really hard time saying no to my kids.

OK, let’s rewind.  I can make the word “No” with my lips very easily, and use it often.

“Dad, can I use the drill?”


“Dad, can I play with this dry-cleaner bag?”


“Dad, Reilly has a pet cougar.  Can we get a pet–”


Where I falter is when they want to spend time with me and I have shit to do.  This is frustrating, because as a grown-up, we are required to perform certain “grown-up tasks”–work, spouse-time, chores.  Kids don’t see that.  Each day is a playground of expectation and opportunity.  Parents, or adults, who don’t see that are boring, evil, or stupid.

I blame Harry Chapin for this.

Specifically his song “Cat’s in the Cradle” that treacly piece-of-shit message song about absentee parents and their deformed kids.  Every time my kid makes a reasonable request on my time and I have other things I have (or, god forbid, want) to do, that song starts to play in my head.

“Dad, can you build Legos with me?”

“Well I have to mow the–” …when you coming home dad, I don’t know when… “FUCK!  Yes.  Let’s go play Legos.”

“Dad, can you play Mario Bros with me?”

“I really have to grade these–” …but we’ll be together, then, dad, I know we’ll have a… “FUCK!  Yes, let’s play Mario Bros.”

“Dad, I really want to paint your nude form.”

“That’s kind of weird and probably frowned upon by–” …he’d grown up just like me, my boy was just like… “FUCK!  OK, give me a chance to find my jock strap.”

The last one’s made up, I promise, but you get the idea.

If Harry Chapin were still alive I would punch him right in the starfish.  I am sorry your dad was busy providing for you, asshole, and didn’t have time to throw you a ball, but you don’t have to take it out on him with a first-person account of an clueless and apathetic company man and the emotional neglect he visited upon his kid.

Really, if you listen to the song in a certain frame of mind, you realize that the old man is just busy.  I mean, shit, he buys him a ball, calls and talks to him when the kids an adult, sends him to college.  So he missed his birth.  At that point in time fathers weren’t allowed in the delivery room anyway so how much did he miss?  Getting hammered with a janitor in the waiting room?

But now, because of that song, I can’t function like a free-willed man “of a certain age” because of the emotional blackmail imposed upon me by my children and a dead, semi-talented folksinger.

But after my doctor’s visit, I felt strong.  Who knew what the next day might bring?  I could die or worse, be “semi-permanently” paralyzed.  I would live for me, for now.

I was driving back from dropping my oldest off at a slumber party, my son in tow.  It was past his bedtime.

“Dad, play Mario Kart when we get home.”

“It’s your bedtime, buddy.”

“One race?”


And the Cat’s in the Cradle and the Silver Spoon…


“OK, one game.”



Filed under Essays, Kids, Music, My Issues

2 responses to “Eff You, Harry Chapin

  1. Just Joe

    I thoroughly enjoy your essays. I forget how much I miss the live “Matt Lykins”! Keep up the good work.

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