The Resolution of Pat Conroy

I touched on it the other day -- Pat Conroy wrote books about the painful aspects of his basketball-infused youth, and in so doing alienated his father, his school (the Citadel), and countless others.

If you have read the Lords of Discipline, or My Losing Season, or the Great Santini, then you know that Pat Conroy's childhood was ripped in half by pain and fear. It'll make you cry.

But decades later, it's a different story. And this new story, of resolution? It might never be told better than ESPN's Wright Thompson tells it.

Thompson's story starts like this:

Pat Conroy's dad hit him after games. He hit him with fists, and with open palms, hit him until blood ran from Pat's nose or lip onto his basketball jersey. Don Conroy didn't hit his son only after games. He hit him for smiling at the wrong time, talking at the wrong time, crying at the wrong time, for trying to defend his battered mother at the wrong time. On occasion, he hit him just for the hell of it. Pat's first childhood memory is of sitting in a high chair watching his mother try to kill his father with a kitchen knife and then his dad laughing while beating her to the floor.

That's Don Conroy, who has since passed away.

How often does a story that starts like that later have a paragraph like this?

Reading about himself disgusted even Don Conroy. Starting that day and continuing for the rest of his life, Don set about proving that his son's description of him was false. He completely changed. No one could believe it. When Pat went on a book tour, Don went with him, signing books and often adding: "Thanks for reading my son's work of fiction." Then he would underline fiction, like, seven times. Finally, he and Pat were talking. And laughing. They became close. Don became the book, putting "Santini" on his license plate. He loved the movie, exclaiming to Pat when the Oscar nominations came out, "Son, you and I were nominated for Academy Awards last night. Your mother didn't get squat." It was all so strange, but nothing more so than this: When Pat wrote the book, he humanized the main character, sanding off some of his dad's edges because he didn't think readers would believe the truth. Later in life, Don took on those good traits Pat had invented; Pat Conroy rewrote his father.

Well worth taking some time to read the whole thing.