They told their son he could become anything he wanted, and when he wanted to become a poet, they held their tongues and supported his dream. But now he was 27 years old, chronically underemployed, and didn’t seem to produce much work. Every three weeks or so the son would read to his parents a poem he wrote, and frankly, they usually didn’t understand it. The poems might have been lyrical, but their meaning remained elusive. Still, they praised their son’s work, and used encouraging words, but the time had come for an important talk, to ask their son if he might want to consider a different direction, one where he could gain independence and plan for the future.
They stood at the top of the stairs and called to their son they were coming down. The only light coming from the basement was the glow of their son’s computer screen. The parents exchanged a nod: they were on the same page. They’d rehearsed what they wanted to say. They were going to approach the situation with curiosity and compassion, but the bottom line was they couldn’t continue allowing their son to hole up in the basement smoking bong hits, reading, writing, and occasionally producing a poem. It wasn’t sustainable. And it wasn’t responsible parenting on their part.
The son was a sensitive person and knew his parents worried over him. He had no friends. He worked part-time in a bookstore. He hardly ever left the basement. How could he? He was writing, writing, writing. He was producing two or three complete poems a day, but like many writers was racked with anxiety and an acute sense of failure. His poems had been getting rejected everywhere. Absolutely everywhere. He’d been on the verge of giving up. He’d even been considering killing himself. He had a boxcutter in the top drawer of his desk and he kept taking it out and unfolding the blade and despairing, but he knew he couldn’t slash his veins.
He heard his parents say they were coming down to speak with him. They only came down when there was something serious on their mind: like when grandma died or the plumber had to go through his basement bedroom to reach the sump pump. He wondered what the big news was this time. At least their timing was stellar, because he had news to share with them as well.
Just a short while ago he’d gotten the email that transformed his life. He should have let his parents speak first, but he was too excited. As soon as they appeared in his doorway, he said guess what: I’m getting one of my poems published in Nirvana. It would be his first published poem! They don’t pay, and it’s not the most famous publication, but it’s known by poets and respected. This was the first big step! He’d finally reached that important milestone of publishing.
When the parents didn’t respond at first, the son rushed in and filled the silence. He said he couldn’t have done it without their support. He said he was so grateful they’d given him the space and opportunity to pursue his writing. Really, you’re the best. I love you both.
Oh, he forgot. They’d come down here to talk to him about something important. What was it?