I think my father lived in the shadow of a brother with whom he could never compete. This brother was well-liked, affable by all accounts. He died in combat in 1966, a casualty of the conflict in Vietnam. He died just shy of his 21st birthday and thus, he will always live and loom larger than his life in the memories of our family, frozen in time as someone who never did any harm, if only because he never had a chance. He’s untouchable. My father never stood a chance.
I have never been a fan of perpetuating childhood mythology. I think it comes from being a perceptive child and not prone to believing the unbelievable. My brother and I spent an inordinate amount of time attempting to debunk these myths, wheedling my father in attempts to coerce him into confessing. We caught “Santa Claus,” after staking out our Christmas tree and discovering our parents in the act of trying to sneak a rocking chair under it. We never did manage to empirically disprove the existence of the Tooth Fairy, however.
n. A person regarded as being foolishly or blindly optimistic.
[After the heroine of the novel Pollyanna, by Eleanor Hodgman Porter (1868-1920), American writer.]
In the novel, Pollyanna is the irrepressibly cheerful orphan who triumphs over adversity through the power of positive thinking. Her infectious optimism brings life to a beleaguered New England town and its inhabitants. What’s wrong with that? It actually sounds like a really moving story, the type of story that Hollywood might consider remaking with a modern twist, since they’re so good at recycling stories from the past. Maybe they will do a centennial film to commemorate the publication of the book.