Pleasure Principle

He developed an aversion to the very word “fun.”

I’m grateful to my father, Bill Grimm, for many things, the first and most fundamental of which is my life. As the 16th of 17 children, I’m thankful to my dad — and my mom — for putting more value on bringing life into the world than on personal comfort and amassing wealth. I’m also grateful to Dad for teaching me how to live the life he gave me.

My father knows how to live life. By that, I don’t mean he’s some kind of adrenaline junkie who spends his free time skydiving or waterskiing or riding motorcycles. “Motion madness,” he dubs such activities. When I say Dad knows how to live life, I’m speaking of something other than physical activities. Dad understands, and he has passed this on to his children, that life is enhanced through the mind more than through the body.

Mostly by example, but also in conversation, he has always encouraged us to make something of ourselves. I don’t mean that in the usual go-out-and-get-rich sense. Money was never the point. For Dad, making something of yourself means expanding your mind, broadening your horizons, seeking the higher things, discovering what is true, good, and beautiful. It means not getting sucked in to a life of petty fun-seeking. He is so adamant about this that he’s developed an aversion to the very word “fun.” To him, fun is for children. “Adults,” Dad says, “don’t have fun.” Adults enjoy themselves no matter what situation they’re in, whether it’s work, recreation, or leisure time spent in conversation, reading, or listening to good music.

Accordingly, he did his best to prevent us from being sucked into addiction to fun. I had a childhood friend named Paul whose father owned an off-road shop. After school, Paul and I would walk to the shop and check out the monster trucks, their huge tires, chrome rollbars, and light racks. We’d listen to the men who hung around the store swap stories about climbing hills and plowing through mud in their vehicles. Pretty soon, I began to think nothing could be cooler than off-roading. Every week, Paul invited me to go off-roading with him and his dad. Every week my dad said no. He told me he was worried about my safety, and I’m sure he was. But, over time, I figured out the deeper reason for Dad’s refusals. He didn’t want me to get hooked on the cheap pleasure of “mechanized fun” and grow up to a life of hanging out in off-road shops swapping stories about climbing hills and plowing through mud.

It was the same with sports. He let my brothers and me play sports, but he never pushed us into them or put any importance on them. He attended maybe 5 of my 40 football games in high school, just enough to let me know he cared about me, few enough to let me know that football is not important. He hates spectator sports. The idea of spending a Sunday in front of the TV watching a bunch of other men play football repulses him. When my brothers and I watched sports on TV, especially if we were cheering, he’d barge in to the den, point at the TV, and say in his formidable voice, “That game means nothing to your life,” or “That means less than a fart on the high wind,” or, my favorite, “That game means less than two snails copulating in the garden.”

He was right. Now, though I like sports, it’s rare that I can watch an entire game of anything because, thanks to Dad, I have a sense that there are so many more meaningful things to do.

Another thing I have to thank my father for is my Catholic faith. The greatest gift he gave me was having me baptized. And, just as he gave me life and then taught me to live it, he gave me the Faith and taught me to live it as well. When I was just reaching school age in the late ’70s, the parochial school at our parish in Pasadena underwent drastic changes. The nuns who had taught my older siblings were replaced by laity, who, simply put, were teaching heresy. My dad, despite being the only parent who seemed to care, took a stand. He wrangled constantly with the school administration and the pastor. When the situation became untenable he took his kids out of the school. He looked around for a good Catholic school to put us in and finally found one 20 miles away. It wasn’t easy for him to drive us across town every morning and return to pick us up every afternoon, but he did it because his children’s education and formation in the Faith were more important to him than his personal comfort. Thanks, Dad.

This article is part of the Father's Day issue. To read additional articles from this issue, click here.

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