The Family Handbook of Mortal Conditions | Pateravaritia



By Rob Ehle

The Family Handbook of Mortal Conditions has been conceived as a monthly random match of mortal sin with family member to create a helpful home reference, not unlike the Merck Manual or the DSM IV.

There was a man once who loved his daughter so much he would lie awake at night. On a good night he would gaze no place in particular, maybe just at the backs of his eyelids, and think about what a gift she was to him, remembering some ridiculous delightful thing she had said that day. But often he was smothered by his love for her. There were so many things that could go wrong, so many ways her spring could turn to winter. To combat a helplessness that was really nothing more than his daughter’s existence in the world, he did everything he could to keep her close to him, to shield her from the gales of an indifferent world. His watchfulness was constant and bright. Wherever she went, whatever she did, he was there. Eventually he found happiness in nothing else. Friends tried to pass time with him, co-workers told him jokes, his wife took his face in her hands. Nothing existed for him but his beloved little girl and his duty to her. Even when she was not little any more. In her middle age, he was still taking her out to dinner like a husband, buying her dresses and truffle oils, now and then a new car. A mortgage once. No one could explain it, this greed for his daughter’s attention and dependence. Maybe he had been deprived of affection as a child. Maybe his marriage, the demands of a grown and equal bond, had taken him aback. But the truth is that he was not happy, his daughter wasn’t happy, and as a very old man he still lay in bed smothered by his love for her.


Rob Ehle’s project, The Family Handbook of Mortal Conditions, will appear monthly on The Owls site.



  1. That is my father-in-law, that is my sister-in-law, and oh what an effin mess of pathology. You nailed it.

  2. I can see already that this handbook will prove invaluable.

  3. […] Read more from The Family Handbook of Mortal Conditions >> […]

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