Good Memories of 2009, Day 4: 1977

1977

My ex and I started a new tradition last year. Every Christmas, we’re both giving our son some of the music we were listening to the year we were his current age. He’s thirteen now, so she gave him music from 1965 and I gave him music from 1977, the respective years we were thirteen.

I gave him Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours and ELO’s A New World Record. I also put together a two CD package of assorted hits I liked that year, which allowed me to revisit the year I really started getting into music in the first place and rediscover just how many great songs came out then.

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Emotional Abuse

One of these days, I intend to write some about my childhood and relationship with my father, how I believe my struggles with depression are rooted there, and how I think I have become a very good father at least partly because I have such a flawed model behind me to veer as far away from as I possibly can.

For now, I just read a column that hit very close to home. It’s by Andrew Vachss, a mystery novelist and lawyer who is also a relentless advocate for abused children.

I’m a lawyer with an unusual specialty. My clients are all children—damaged, hurting children who have been sexually assaulted, physically abused, starved, ignored, abandoned and every other lousy thing one human can do to another. People who know what I do always ask: “What is the worst case you ever handled?” When you’re in a business where a baby who dies early may be the luckiest child in the family, there’s no easy answer. But I have thought about it—I think about it every day. My answer is that, of all the many forms of child abuse, emotional abuse may be the cruelest and longest-lasting of all…

The whole thing is here.

The Sweet Sadness of Parenthood

A friend posted this poem on her Facebook page and reading it brought tears to my eyes. Ah, parenthood…

“Her Door”

by Mary Leader

There was a time her door was never closed.
Her music box played “Fur Elise” in plinks.
Her crib new-bought–I drew her sleeping there.

The little drawing sits beside my chair.
These days, she ornaments her hands with rings.
She’s seventeen. Her door is one I knock.

There was a time I daily brushed her hair
By windowlight–I bathed her, in the sink
In sunny water, in the kitchen, there.

I’ve bought her several thousand things to wear,
And now this boy buys her silver rings.
He goes inside her room and shuts the door.

Those days, to rock her was to say a prayer.
She’d gaze at me, and blink, and I would sing
Of bees and horses, in the pasture, there.

The drawing sits as still as nap-time air–
Her curled-up hand–that precious line, her cheek. …
Next year her door will stand, again, ajar
But she herself will not be living there.

A Father Dreams…

I’ve been suffering insomnia for a while now, waking up anytime between 2:30 and 5:30 (with the target being rising at 6:00) and not being able to fall back to sleep. I’m beginning to think I may as well start planning to actually make use of the time, since I’m up anyway, rather than just puttering about and waiting for the son rise (when he gets up to get ready for school).

Last night, woke up at 2:30. I had maybe three and a half hours sleep.

This morning, gravity dragged at me like I was on Jupiter. My son, Nathaniel, and I always read for an hour in the morning, and I could barely keep my eyes open. This is all made even more ironic by the fact that the main book I’m reading at the moment is Insomnia by Stephen King. (And no, the problem didn’t start when I started the book).

Once Nathaniel headed to school, I flopped onto the couch and fell asleep. And I dreamed…

…I can’t recall much about the situation…various people I know were at a school or a mall or, I don’t know, some sort of underground base…

I do remember that I was trying to meet folks who could review or otherwise help promote my book (huh, wonder where that came from)…

There was also some sort of lurking threat, like something buried or trapped underground. I think maybe it was down a passage we planned to take, and there was an argument in the group (me, my son, and I don’t recall who else) that it was too dangerous. So we opted to go the longer way around, aboveground.

Up top, we made our way across a landscape full of debris. Construction of some kind was going on. And there was a huge chasm off to the right, three or four hundred feet deep.

We walked close to the edge, peering in. And Nathaniel squatted near the brink, on some cardboard that was part of the general clutter of the world around us.

And I noticed his feet were on a part of the cardboard that actually hung slightly over the edge. And the board started to slip in the loose dirt.

I cried out for him to get back, but it happened too fast. His feet slipped with the cardboard, and he fell.

I landed on my belly at chasm’s edge, grabbing for him.

And I caught the collar of his shirt.

I hauled him back up, over the edge, onto solid ground. And I just lost it, overcome from the surge of terror and the sweet release of joy that I’d saved him, wrapping him in my arms, rolling back and forth, kissing the top of his head and crying harder than I’ve ever cried in my life…

The emotion was so strong, it woke me. I could feel adrenaline buzzing in my veins, but the happiness that I’d saved my son in the dream lingered.

Happiness that he’s alive.

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Life on the Road

When he woke in the woods in the dark and the cold of the night he’d reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him.

When I decided to read The Road by Cormac McCarthy, I had no idea I was going to be exploring the landscape of my own soul.

Before I continue, rest assured I’m not going to spoil the book for you. I don’t do that. The quotes I use are from the first few pages. Also, be warned that there’s a movie coming soon, so if you’re like me and prefer to get to a book before the movie comes along and plants all the images in your head, you should read this soon if you’re so inclined.

The novel tells the story of a man and his son, wandering an ashen post-apocalyptic America, scratching to survive. It is not an adventure story, not in the sense that an adventure story is meant to excite the reader, to offer escape. It is not Mad Max.

What it is, is a harrowing vision of living even when there seems to be no reason to live. Living in a world that no longer gives sustenance, a world without sunlight, a world that breaks the body and the heart and the soul every minute of every hour of every day.

The man takes his son onward through this barren, wasted world, mostly alone. Their moments of victory are petty and rare, a dusty sackful of mummified apples, a cup of fresh water, a warm blanket. They live lives without hope or comfort. They yearn for death. But they keep going.

Why?

Then he just sat there holding the binoculars and watching the ashen daylight congeal over the land. He knew only that the child was his warrant. He said: If he is not the word of God God never spoke.

The boy. The man stays alive for his son. His son stays alive because his father stays alive for him. They’re in Hell. They have no hope. They have each other. It’s stark and real and painful, in no way sentimental. It’s true.

He watched the boy and he looked out through the trees toward the road. This was not a safe place. They could be seen from the road now it was day. The boy turned in the blankets. Then he opened his eyes. Hi, Papa, he said.

I’m right here.

I know.

This is my life.