Seven Days : Authentic Conversations and Relationships that Changed My Life and My Father’s Death

"Fellows like yourself": fathers in John McGahern's short stories"
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The scene is suffused with a father-daughter affection that might not make sense to people outside the dance world, but as Bob holds Nicole like a guitar and shows her how to move her arms and legs, a secondary, familial tension underlines the routine. Bob is an awful role model who historically ditched Nicole, is absent when it matters most, and brings home disposable women not much older than her.

At this point in the story, Nicole is depressed and acting out in ways that foreshadow her real-life struggles with relationships, alcohol, and drugs.

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Do this, do that. The scene has a meta-dimension as well as a historical one: All That Jazz contains a similar scene where Gideon played by Roy Scheider and his year-old ballet-dancer daughter Erzsebet Foldi practice while she interrogates him about his love life. It even lifts lines and images from films and musical productions that Fosse and Verdon worked on, putting them in different contexts that shed fresh light on where they came from and the motives of people who used them first.

The child matures against a panorama of dedication and genius, but also infidelity, substance abuse, professional treachery, and unthinking callousness between entertainers who might also be friends, lovers, or spouses. I have my child brain that does not notice that that is odd behavior. She has a different take today than when she was a child and a young woman, living in the middle of it, in an era when behavior we think of as destructive was considered an occupational hazard. That, plus the relative dearth of video footage compared to the Bob Fosse treasure trove, meant that Michelle Williams would turn to Nicole for help with fine brushwork.

He went to a dialect coach, and he listened to interviews of my father speaking on set all the time. She says that it took a while for her to get used to the idea of somebody other than Roy Scheider playing her father, but she grew to appreciate the qualities Rockwell conveyed that the public had never seen. He has a way of becoming very introverted at times, lost in his own thoughts, that is to me reminiscent. The production design, set decoration, and costumes turned the experience into even more of a memory trip.

That set was exactly my living room. There were cherubs on the wall, and paintings of mothers and babies and orange crushed-velvet wallpaper, and a white marble fireplace and these wrought-iron things, and a psychedelic couch.

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The writers and co-executive producers—including Lin-Manuel Miranda, who has a cameo in the finale as Scheider, and Joel Fields of The Americans — were all concerned with the minutiae. They had a policy of confining the story to things that were on record as having definitely happened, or that plausibly could have happened, based on what they knew about Fosse, Verdon, and the constellation of famous names orbiting them. It falls within the spectrum of possibilities, because we know that she once threw a TV set out of a window because she was so upset with something a reporter said.

Even with a general commitment to accuracy, there were compressions and omissions. That experience echoes comments her mother made in a s interview about why she separated from Bob.

Stevie, whose mother is dead, thinks:. CS After his mother died, his father slept with him:. When my father came late to bed and enquired as he took off his clothes if I was awake, I nearly always feigned sleep. He never interfered with me in an obviously sexual way, but he frequently massaged my belly and thighs. As in all other things connected with the family, he asserted that he was doing this for my good: it relaxed taut muscles, eased wind and helped bring on sleep.

In these years, despite my increasing doctrinal knowledge of what was sinful, I had only the vaguest knowledge of sex or sexual functions, and took him at his word; but as soon as it was safe to do so, I turned away on some pretext or other, such as sudden sleepiness. Looking back, and remembering his tone of voice and the rhythmic movement of his hand, I suspect he was masturbating.

During the beatings [that his father gave to him and the other children] there was sometimes the same sexual undertow, but louder, coarser. AW Army after their son, Luke, was killed in Korea.

Nor does the memoir mention an experience resembling the one that opens the story, in which the father recalls for his son an execution he saw while he was an IRA prisoner during the War of Independence. He had thought that he would be the one to be executed, but he was spared. It is likely also that, had his father advised him to emigrate to America, he would have mentioned it in the memoir.

The story differs, however, from the other stories about fathers and sons in that neither the father nor the father-son relationship is the primary focus. To his mind such employment would be better for the boy than advanced education. But he becomes enraged when he learns that Colonel Sinclair has ideas about sending the boy to Sandhurst to train for a career as a British officer.

His rage is directed as much at the son for expressing an interest in the idea as at Colonel Sinclair, and he orders him to stop working for the Anglo-Irish couple. His success apparently contributes to a lasting rift with his father. But the memoir does not mention any disputes between the elder McGahern and his Protestant neighbors.

Both the fictional and the real father seem motivated in their refusal in part by the fact that the sons have chosen careers not approved by the fathers. He had written to his son about his desire to move to Dublin, suggesting that they might once again live together. The next day, Jim departs, without any reconciliation.

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He would move to Dublin, away from where he was no longer protected by his position of sergeant, away from where he had accumulated enemies and much dislike. Once he acquired a Dublin property, we would all move in with him and pay him the rent we were now paying landlords. I began gradually to see how attractive it would be from his point of view. John wrote a letter to their father, signed by all three, offering assistance in finding him a place but declining the offer to live with him.

The father did not reply to the letter, and when the two sisters, Margaret and Monica, visited him, he took to his bed and would not see them AW The story seems to be a combination of both imagined and real incidents. The father fears that, if his second wife inherits the property, her relatives will eventually wind up with it. So he proposes transferring his property to the son.

But the son refuses the offer, seeing it as mean-spirited and cruel to the stepmother, Rose, who has been very loyal to her husband. The father is angry with the son for rejecting his plan, and next day the son leaves, saying goodbye only to Rose and thereby foregoing — as in the other stories — any possible reconciliation with the father. In the story the son brings his lover to meet his father and stepmother, Rose, at their small farm. The father reluctantly gives it to him but rejects the offer for a new watch in its place.

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A short time later, the lovers marry without informing the father. Then the son, without his wife, visits the father to give him a new watch and to tell the father and stepmother about his marriage. Later, he attempts to damage the watch by wearing it while he is hammering stone and sticking his arm with the watch on it into a barrel of water he is preparing as potato spray.

When the son tells the father about his marriage, the father angrily reveals that he has already heard about it. Later the son finds the new watch hanging by a fishing line in the barrel of corrosive spray. In fact, he says that neither his father nor his paternal grandmother ever mentioned his grandfather AW ; 10 nor is there is any mention of a gold watch passed down from grandfather to father to son.

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McGahern does mention, however, that when he brought his first wife, Annikki Laaksi, a Finnish woman, to meet his father at the farm, she so disliked him that, like the woman in the story, she refused to spend more than one night in his house and never returned for another visit AW McGahern describes his reaction:. I rose and went straight up to him, my hands at my sides, laughing.

He hit me.

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I fell a number of times and each time rose laughing. I had passed beyond the point of pain and felt a strange cold elation. He was growing uncertain. I had passed beyond fear. He and I knew that an extraordinary change had taken place. I reared a son that would lift a hand to his father. I reared a son. But McGahern also mentions in the memoir another aspect of his father that complicated their relationship.

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Help us tell more of the stories that matter from voices that too often remain unheard. Anyka Ivey March 26, at pm Reply. Not the past or the weather. Family features. My grandfather suddenly passed on April 26th.