Tim O’Brien, a veteran of war and paternity, opens up to his children

By Tim O’Brien
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Tim O’Brien has come to paternity late. He was 56 years old in June 2003 when his first child, Timmy, was born. His second son, Tad, showed up two years later. He wasn't sure he wanted to have children; his wife, Meredith, had been fervent for this, and the conflict had almost caused a break.

But O & # 39; Brien – who brilliantly captured the terrors of war in fictional works such as "The things they carried" and "The pursuit of Hunted", for which he won the National Book Award – is not a half measure type. Once engaged in fatherhood, he found himself besieged, obsessed, joyful … and terrified. A writer who spent most of his career meditating on death could see that, even for a man in his fifties, "the mathematics of mortality was already prohibitive" and the very real possibility that the young children would leave behind weighed him.

So in 2004, with his second son on the way, he started writing letters to the boys, "to give Timmy and Tad what I often wanted my father to have given me – some fragments of paper signed" Love, Dad "." his father, an alcoholic and inconstant, had been "a mystery to me", he says, he decided to present to his children their father, "a man who could never really meet".

He wrote many of these letters, back and forth, in the following years, noting everything, from advice on life to meditations on Hemingway, whose work sees as "a window through which they could glimpse the things that worried me for more than 50 years – make sentences, make stories. ”He expresses his enormous pride in their achievements, like learning to ride a unicycle and quickly solve a Rubik's cube, as well as his love for magic and his fascination with the battles of Lexington and Concord, in which he sees parallels with his own experiences in Vietnam.

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