A Wolf at the Table
A few years ago, I watched the movie Running With Scissors. It was based on the book, a memoir, by Augusten Burroughs. It is about the time he spent with his mother’s psychiatrist, a dysfunctional family. I thought it was funny.
So when I saw Augusten Burroughs’ A Wolf at the Table at McNally Robinson, I got interested in buying and reading it. A Wolf at the Table is Augusten’s memoir about his father, mostly about his life before Running With Scissors, when he was still little.
He wrote about how he couldn’t remember his father at all before he was six years old. He remembers being two years old and living at the farmhouse with his mother and brother and crawling under the neighbor’s bushes, but he couldn’t remember his father. He must have felt his presence on the stairs leading to the basement, but he couldn’t remember his face, him being there.
His first memory of his father was when he and his mother came back home from Mexico. They went away because his mother said that his father was dangerous. Now that they’re reunited, Augusten describes how it was at home. His parents hated each other and they were always fighting. He describes his relationship with his father – how he pushed him away when he wanted to sit on his lap; how he gave him a baseball mitt but wouldn’t play with him and show him how to catch a ball with it; how he terrified him with his tempers and “mind games.” He also tells about his fear of turning out like his father.
I think it was a very honest account of his life as a young boy. This is the first book by Augusten that I’ve read. I haven’t read any of his books yet at that time. But I found out on the internet that he’s known for writing his memoirs with humor, except for this one. Even if this one isn’t funny, I already started to like him as an author. Although he wrote about his sad life, it doesn’t drag you down. But it tugs at your heart. You read sad stories where you feel sympathy for the author or the main character, but it’s not what I felt for Augusten. Rather I felt empathy for him. Maybe it’s just me. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s just a very honest story that anybody who has longed for a parent’s attention, especially a father’s attention could very well relate too.
In one of the final chapters of the book, Augusten wrote, ”I used to believe I couldn’t grow up right without a father, that I would ever be ‘normal’ without one. But maybe a father is really a luxury after all. Maybe you could grow up without one.”
Father – a luxury? So sad but it’s true. And yes, there are lots of kids who grew up without fathers and they turned out alright. (Myself included) But I also want to point out that I think this is changing. I’m seeing a new trend in our current generation of fathers. I think they are now more involved in their children’s lives, even with the higher rates of divorce nowadays, we see ex-couples with joint custody of their children or the fathers regularly visiting their children.
I just want to say that I loved the ending of the book. It is so touching. Augusten ended it with an epilogue. It’s about how he felt this other father’s pride and love for his son who was graduating from Medical School. Augusten has never felt it from his own father and he thought that he would never ever feel it. But this man’s love for his son was so strong and it overpowered him and it leaked into him. And he felt it. He felt that love. And I was like, Wow!