Saturday, February 7, 2009

Father Figures: Real and Imagined

In my last post, I talked about Charles Ingalls. How he was my hero of a father-figure and how he became the source of my many objects of fantasy. 

What made the fantasy more attractive was that Michael Landon, the actor, was such a hunk of a man and portrayed that role so well. He was handsome, strong, fatherly, manly, and sensitive all at the same time.

What I didn't realize was, his son, Michael Landon, Jr., who is about my age, was having the exact same perceptions of him--not in front of the TV, but on the set itself. I found this out from a Christianity Today article. [link]

"He was my everything as I was growing up," says Michael. "I had a certain vision of my father, a vision I think was perpetuated by the role he was playing [i.e. Charles Ingalls] at the time and by the way the public perceived him. He was the perfect dad." 

The Christianity Today article continued:

But that perfect image was shattered one afternoon when Michael came home from high school. He was met at the door by an uncle, who had clearly been crying. The uncle sat Michael and his sister Leslie down on the couch and broke the news.

"Your dad has left," he said. "Your mother is upstairs. She's a wreck, and she needs you to comfort her."

Today, Landon says he was blindsided by the news. He later learned that his father had been having an affair with someone who worked behind the scenes of Little House, and that unfaithfulness led to his parents' divorce.

The unimaginable had happened: Pa Ingalls, a promise keeper long before Promise Keepers was cool, had had a tryst and split from his wife. A Hollywood scandal indeed.

"My world was completely shattered," says Landon, who was 15 at the time.

That led to Michael Jr.'s foray into the world of rebellion and drugs, until his mother brought him to church where he met God and gave his life over to Jesus.

So, the real man behind the character was just as flawed as my father, and crushed the spirit of his little boy just like my father crushed mine.

I don't really know what to say about this little finding of mine today.  Something about hope. 
  • Hope that I am not the only broken one -- even the real son of "Charles Ingalls" himself was badly broken by the same man who fueled so much of my fantasies.  
  • Hope that such a high level of perfection in manhood is just a fantasy, and thus, I can let go of trying to find it, either in other men or in myself.
I don't know how this relates to my own embrace of manhood. I know it's related at some level, but I can't quite pinpoint how.

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