What My Son Needs to Know Which I Learned Too Late

Deal W. Hudson
May 8, 2018

The one vivid memory I have of my grandmother, Nana, my father’s mother, was her sitting in a rocking chair smoking one cigarette after another while I sat on the floor of her darkened bedroom, the tall curtains drawn and the air filled with smoke.

It was the annual, or bi-annual ritual, this visit to the Alamo Heights home in San Antonio where my father, Jack, and his two brothers, Morley and Howard, were raised. I was ‘taken in’ to the bedroom, sat on the floor, the door was closed, and Nana began talking, a burning cigarette posed between her fingers and occasionally dipping to the ashtray on the small metal table beside her.

“Never expect justice in this world,” Nana told me, over and over again. On every visit, she would repeat that phrase, and after every visit, I would leave the room puzzling over what she meant. After all, I wasn’t even a teenager yet. The hard bruises of life were yet to appear on my flesh, and my heart was yet unbroken.

Nana’s words would come back to me countless times as I grew older, but it was a long, long time before I allowed them to take root in my basic attitude towards life or my expectations of the future. Looking back, I was clearly a very slow learner.

I reached 40 years of age still expecting people ‘to do the right thing,’ to return kindness for kindness, ‘to do unto others. . . .,’ and those kinds of things. I understood people made mistakes, could act selfishly and cruelly — certainly, I did. But what always caught me by surprised were deliberate, intentional acts of betrayal, dishonesty, and meanness. I was not programmed, as it were, to expect them, in spite of Nana’s attempts to prepare me.

When I try to remember the moment I lost what could be called my naiveté, it was my experience of being suddenly scorned by a group of nuns who ran a Catholic college where I had been asked to serve as a visiting professor. I had served several semesters there, very happily it seems for all concerned when I noticed the sisters were avoiding me and scowling at me when I attempted to speak to them. I was hurt.

When I asked friends on the faculty what had happened, the reason was explained, but it was an extremely petty matter that could have been cleared up with a few minutes of honest conversation.  Instead, the final months of my teaching was a trial for all concerned.  As a fairly recent convert to the Catholic faith, I was stunned that nuns would treat me that way after a long period of happy residence at their college.

Yes, it’s apparent how naive I was at the time, but other events would transpire to reinforce my newly-discovered appreciation of Nana’s wise advice. After all, I moved to Washington, DC and got involved in presidential politics. Enough said! It was there I found out, it’s not only politicians who break their promises, lie to your face, and attempt your ruin. What I experienced with the nuns was nothing compared to the Catholic bigshots I had to contend with in DC, both lay and religious.

If I had paid more attention to Shakespeare than Aristotle, I would have been better prepared for the “real world.” Or, perhaps, I should have paid just as much attention to Shakespeare as I did to Aristotle and St. Thomas. Throw in a better grounding in history, and I would have had the mix about right.

Something else occurred when I woke up to life’s ‘injustice,’ I came face to face with myself in a deeper way. That same naiveté had blinded me to what needed moral and spiritual attention to myself. Yes, I wasn’t as close to the Aristotelian mean as I had assumed — I had had my own bouts with larceny of sorts and needed to own up. That led me down a path of realizing I was no better than those nuns, or anyone else, who had spurned me.

So what is it that I want my son, Cyprian, to know in the 21st year of his life? I don’t want to scare him with a portentous description of life’s tragic vision, but I want him to be prepared for the evil that will be done to him and the evil he will do to others. When evil befalls him, I want him to accept it as part of life and to avoid falling into the blame game. When his choices hurt others, I want him to recognize it, own it, make amends, and pray for forgiveness.

In other words, I want him to be a man who views life realistically but not fatally. I  don’t want him to focus on the wounds but on how to handle them and to heal them if possible. I want him to know there are bad men in the world, but he should not become one of them. Finally, I wish him a resilence in life’s trials that only love can bring.

By Deal Hudson

Deal W. Hudson was born November 20, 1949 in Denver, CO, to Emmie and Jack Hudson, both native Texans. Dr. Hudson had an older sister Ruth, and eventually, a younger sister, Elizabeth. Emmie Hudson, Ruth Hudson and Elizabeth Hudson now live in Houston, TX; Jack Hudson passed away some years ago. The late Jack Hudson was a captain for Braniff Airlines in Denver at the time of Dr. Hudson’s birth. Later the family moved to Kansas City when his father joined the Federal Aviation Agency. From Kansas City, the Hudson family moved to Minneapolis, then to Massapequa, NY, and finally to Alexandria, VA, where they first occupied a home overlooking the Potomac River adjacent to the Mount Vernon estate. After a year, the family moved to a home on Tarpon Lane a few houses up the street from the Yacht Haven boat docks. Dr. Hudson attended Mt. Vernon Elementary School from grades 4 to 6 and has a special gratitude for the teaching of Mr. Hoppe who first told him was a ‘smart lad.’ Having moved with his family to Fort Worth, TX in 1960, Dr. Hudson attended William Monnig Junior High and Arlington Heights HS. In high school, Dr. Hudson was captain of the golf team, editor of the literary magazine (Guerdon), and performed the role of Peter in the ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ during his senior year. Dr. Hudson graduated cum laude with a major in philosophy from the University of Texas-Austin in 1971 where his undergraduate advisor was Prof. John Silber. His teachers at the University of Texas included Prof. Louis Mackey and Prof. Larry Caroline. Dr. Hudson minored in both classics and English literature. Dr. Hudson lived in Atlanta from 1974-1989, where he attended Emory University, receiving a Phd from the Graduate Institute for the LIberal Arts. He also taught philosophy at Mercer University in Atlanta from 1980-89. In 1989 Dr. Hudson and his family left Atlanta when he was hired to teach philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx. Dr. Hudson taught at Fordham, and also part-time at New York University, from 1989 to 1994. Dr. Hudson first came to Atlanta in after graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) with an M.Div. While at PTS, Dr. Hudson managed the Baptist Student Union at Princeton University and became its first director. Dr. Hudson also was licensed at a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention at Madison Baptist Church in Madison, NJ. Dr. Hudson’s primary area of study at PTS was the history of Christian doctrine which he pursued with Dr. Karlfried Froelich. In 1984 Dr. Hudson was received in the Catholic Church by Msgr. Richard Lopez, with the special permission of Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan, at the chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in Atlanta. Dr. Hudson has been married twenty-five years to Theresa Carver Hudson and they have two children, Hannah Clare, 23, and Cyprian Joseph (Chip), 15, adopted from Romania when he was three years old. The Hudson family has lived in Fairfax, VA for more than fifteen years, after having lived five years in Bronxville, NY and a year in Atlanta, GA, where Theresa and Deal were married.

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