The World According to Virgil
Virgil had always known about right and wrong, particularly when it concerned other people. He knew that his brother Peter had chosen a career in the Law right, and that his sister Candace had chosen her husband wrong. Never mind that Peter was miserable, or claimed to be, because Virgil was certain he wasn’t. Or that Candace, childless as she and her husband were, were happy (Virgil believed otherwise).
Now the time had come for Virgil’s own children to choose their life, and Virgil knew what was best for them. The oldest, Samuel, would be a great doctor, the middle, Ian would be an excellent lawyer, and his daughter Karen, the apple of his eye, was best suited for accounting.
Thanks to the careers he’d chosen for them they would never want for anything. There would always be a need for doctors, lawyers and accountants, as certain as death and taxes, he always said. Thus, he said, he would be happy in the knowledge that his children had everything they’d ever want, that he had brought them up right, and that he could live peacefully the rest of his days.
He had always imagined himself surrounded by successful children, with equally successful partners and beautiful grandchildren. In his mind, the house would be bursting with family on Christmas Eve, and quiet by evening on Christmas Day. Everyone would do as he said, and everything would run smoothly according to the plans he laid out.
“Dad,” Samuel told him over breakfast one day, “I’ve been thinking about a career in Engineering, you know, building things, what do you think?”
Virgil shook his head and sighed, “Sam, we’ve been over this, the best career for you is Medicine. A great doctor can do a great many things for humanity, and I believe you’d be best at it.”
Samuel bowed his head and ate his breakfast in silence. He knew it was no good to argue with the old man, he knew that his father would never see the world through his eyes, would never understand that the Lego’s and Erector sets that had so fascinated him as a child fascinated him still. It was no use telling him that his favorite shows on TV were about how things were made, and that his favorite subjects at school had always been, and always will be, physics, science and math.
Virgil would look back on that breakfast years later and wonder what he did wrong. He had never understood why Samuel had done what he’d done. Worse even why his brother and sister had followed in Sam’s footsteps.
Samuel’s Medical School career was untarnished and unsurpassed. He was the great doctor that Virgil always knew he would be. Virgil was proud of Samuel, he puffed his chest and spoke of his son as Doctor Samuel.
One day, while Virgil and his children were sitting quietly in the living room, Samuel, clearing his throat, presented Virgil with a check and his diploma.
“What’s this Sam?”
“It’s a check for all the years of tuition, and my diploma. Here’s your medical career, I’ve enrolled myself in Engineering. No need to worry, Dad, thanks to my practice, I can pay for the tuition myself.”
Virgil was speechless and when he looked at his other children for help, they shrugged.
“What did you expect, Dad?” Ian, the middle child, said, “You’ve spent so much time planning our entire lives for us, but you never bothered to ask us what we wanted.”
Ian reached over and handed Virgil a piece of paper. Karen did the same. They were both checks.
“I’ve never wanted to be an accountant, Dad, I’ve always wanted to be an Architect. Who do you think played with Sam’s hand-me-down Lego’s? And Ian, a lawyer? Puh-leaze, he couldn’t argue a case to save his life. He loves Archaeology.”
Virgil scowled and his face turned an ugly red.
“You ungrateful bastards! After everything I’ve done for you! I know what’s best for you, I know what’s right. Engineering? Architecture? Archaeology? Do you realize how ridiculous you sound? Get out! Get out of my house!”
Soon after that, came the first of many Christmas Eves Virgil’s house didn’t burst with family.