I vividly remember this conversation with my father. I was eighteen years old, visiting my parents on winter break from university. Dad offered me a lift to my alma mater so I could visit old teachers and classmates.
We did not talk much those days. I had not yet forgiven him for pressuring me to join the military, and he had not yet forgiven me for not joining the military. He did not know I was queer, and I was not ready to let him know.
Heaps of grimy slush lined the roads. He admonished me to stop fogging up his windows with all my breathing. I mentioned having talked to my eldest brother, and that he was doing well. Dad said nothing. An older, wiser me would have kept my mouth shut, but I was young and indignant.
"Would it be that bad for me to turn out like him?" I asked. My big brother and I had similar temperaments and aspirations. "He is a successful writer."
"After how many years washing dishes?" said my father, unimpressed. "You can get a good job and then write when you are retired."
I suppressed a sigh. "I could, but I would be miserable."
"How are you going to provide for yourself, and your family?" he asked.
"I'm not going to have any kids, so I doubt my income will be that much of a problem," I said. My big brother was the only one of my siblings who remained childless, and I was determined to keep him company.
Dad seemed unimpressed. "You will want children someday."
"Maybe," I said. "If I want kids, I will adopt them once I am able to support them."
"Then your excellent genes will be going to waste." He tried to sound light-hearted, but failed.
"It isn't a waste if I use them to do good in the world," I said. "Like, I can raise my kids well, whether they're adopted or not."
"It's because smart people like you aren't having kids that idiots are taking over," he snapped. "That's selfish. People like you are destroying the world."
I knew he had a temper, but even for him that came out of left field. Was he worried about his 'excellent' genes dying off? He had five children and six grandsons already. His genes were doing just fine without the contribution of his eldest and his youngest.
It is always hard to learn that a hero is not quite the person you made him out to be. Though a great man for many reasons, my father was far from perfect. Up until that day, though, I never truly doubted my father's intelligence or wisdom. That was an illusion that needed to be destroyed.