He looks just like me
But a different version
He’s his own person
I’m just trying to be
Worthy of my greatest fan
Most of us, if not all, are afraid of what comes next…the big next. Now, I’m not going to get mired down in a philosophical treatise on the afterworld or reincarnation, rather I am going to center on the simple act of leaving the life you know behind. Death waits for us all, whether we want it to or not. We worry about the state of our affairs, “who’s gonna support my loved ones, who’s gonna take out the garbage on Monday night,” and so forth. The question that burns the deepest is, “how long before I am completely forgotten?” At least if I am remembered, in some way, then I live on.
Those of us that blog, do so for certain reasons, like catharsis, or sharing beautiful moments, or introspection and trying to understand what it is to be human…reaching out with this to say that we are not alone. We read the words of others to experience their human condition and to see not only what makes us different, but what unifies us as well. Beneath all that, I think, that we yearn for immortality through our words. Many of the bloggers I see have already published books, and in that alone deserve our respect and gratitude for adding to the chronicles, while some of us (yes me) are still finding our voice with hopes of one day writing the next Great American Novel. Is that too much to ask? If I can string the right words together, in the right sequence, I can live forever. It’s wizardry. We are trying to cast a spell, but if we do it wrong we could find ourselves lost in the oblivion.
This carries a lot of weight. I have always allowed fear, more specifically the fear of failure, to paralyze me into inaction. If I do nothing then I haven’t failed yet and the possibility of success is still there, but if I try and fail then the dream dies. Now with age comes wisdom and I have learned at the intellectual level that this is false, that we learn from our failures and can always try again, but at the subconscious level I am still scared shitless. A prime example of this fear induced paralysis was, for me, going to college. I didn’t go right out of high school. I went to work through temp agencies, at warehouses and factories and found myself having nervous breakdowns that bubbled up when I would think, “is this my life, am I stuck?” I had always wanted to go to college, but the fear told me that if I go and I flunk out, then factories and warehouses will be all that’s left for me. It took every ounce of my resolve to fill out the paperwork, but in the end…I flourished. I loved it. I wish I could be a career student to this day. Now I won’t get into the irony that I am now employed at a factory in a managerial position, as it would change the tone of this entirely. Rather, I am going to talk about hope.
As most of you know, I am now the proud father of a beautiful almost-five-month-old son. Now, as much as he can serve as a wondrous distraction, he has also given me my immortality (at least that’s how I see it). He looks so much like me that it’s like having a window into my own infancy. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of my future self sending my current self a letter that not only explains what’s coming, but the right decisions to make to get there…perhaps this’ll be a future post. Now I know this concept seemed a fantasy, but it will happen…not for me, but for my son. I am the letter from his future and hopefully with my help he can make the right decisions and avoid certain pitfalls. Okay end of tangent. This newfound immortality means that it isn’t all riding on me becoming the next Stephen King. I can begin to write with a sense of insouciance. The weight has been lifted, by the hands of a 17 pound, almost-five-month-old mini-me.
So, watch out world…here I come! Right after I change his diaper and I figure out a new way to make him smile and laugh.
I now take my little man there as often as I can. I need him to see these trails as sacred, as our church.
I’ve basked in the warmth
Of summer days
A golden skinned child
The star’s arc
Childhood friends standing
Tall as sunflowers
Photovoltaically kinetically frenetic
Darting like hummingbirds
We drank the nectar of youth
Denying tomorrow’s existence
Invulnerable in our naïveté
We walked the wire
Between boy and man
Eventually the rain clouds move in
And I learned to enjoy
I spoke soothingly, “Did you have a bad dream?”
“It’s okay baby, you’re bubba is here,” I assured him, as I rubbed his back. His crying quieted and I could see he was starting to drift off.
Then, just before dozing back off, he brought his face forward and kissed my chest. I smiled and was overwhelmed by a mix of emotions. Tears rolled down my cheeks.
In that moment I felt whole, that I could be the father he needed, and simultaneously I felt the loss of my father, who passed just a couple years ago. I also felt the gratitude from my little man and knew that, despite typical two-year-old behavior, he was becoming the kind of person I’d hoped he would.
Every day is an adventure that I look forward to.
Gnash your teeth
Brandish your claw-hand
Let the power seeth
Know you can be more than you are
Your very being is made up of stars
Pretending gives you a wider horizon
Different hats all waiting for you to try on
Just remember to always return to me
My little man is my favorite you, you can be
So go ahead growl, gnash, brandish and seeth
Because beautiful, powerful and wondrous is what you are to me
I had just heard about another life snuffed out too soon. An 8 year old boy, from Cincinnati, commited suicide a couple days after being the victim of bullying. The articles I read spoke of possible security camera footage, and shortly there after the footage was released.
Now, if you have read my post The Abyss, then you know how deeply affected I am by suicide and depression. Just as I needed to step to the edge of the abyss at the loss of two friends who chose to end their lives, and wonder what went through their minds at that moment, or try to conceive what had brought them to that point…there I sat watching a video of a beautiful young man, beaten and left lying on the bathroom, tile floor. I close my eyes and I can still see his legs, unmoving, and my eyes fill with tears. I feel anger boiling up inside myself, I want to reach into the screen and slap those boys awake that brutalized him. Tell them that he didn’t deserve that treatment, that they don’t understand with their still developing minds, just how much damage they are doing to him. But, as angry as I might initially feel, my eyes are drawn back to those legs and I, again, find myself wanting to reach into the screen, but this time to cradle this young man in my arms and tell him that everything can still be okay, despite how he might feel at this moment, that just because some misguided boys chose him as the target of their hatred, that he is still loved. The love his family and friends have for him isn’t erased by these actions. I want to tell him, that even though I only know him now in his passing, that I love him.
Then I start thinking about my two-year-old, mini-me, and I feel awash in 100 different emotions all at once. I am scared for him. I am angry at a world where this happens. I feel a rage that carries the heat of a thousand suns, at the thought that this could someday happen to him and how I would tear the school down, brick by brick, with my bare hands. I think about what I need to do to prepare him for this possibility. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Boxing. Judo. Let him know that he can shield his heart with the knowledge that I love him more that anything in the world and he could get through this even if it meant we walk off into the woods and live the rest of our lives off the grid. Then I want to raise him to know that bullying can’t be allowed to happen, that at the very least he would alert a grownup right away, or put himself at risk by getting in the middle, but then I worry again about what could happen to him, and my head spins and my heart swells to bursting and my eyes blur with the coming tears.
In the end I’m left not knowing what to do, other than write out my frustration.
In the end I gain a piece of understanding how our fragile spirit can be pushed every so easily from the glass menagerie shelf. A piece I felt I needed to know, but now wish I hadn’t.
Gabriel Taye…you are loved.
I was holding my four-month-old son against my chest. We were face to face and his little arms were slung around my neck. I was swaying back and forth like we were dancing.
In the span of a second I felt his little arms tighten around my neck. Now I know the legitimacy of whether this was a “real” hug or not could be argued, but in that moment it was real to me. And, in that fleeting second, I felt all the future hugs I would receive from him for the rest of my life. It was the first link of a chain that would last throughout my days.
I’ve heard people talk about all things that have occurred in the past and all those things that have yet to come are all occurring simultaneously…just transdimensionally, and now I believe it. In that moment he hugged me for the rest of my life and I hugged all of his ancestors…those I’ve had the privilege of knowing and those I wish I had.
It was Sunday, the day before my birthday, and I was hanging out with family at the local mall. They have one of those play areas where everything is foam padded and there are little activities and things to climb on, all surrounded by a curved bench of seats, so that parents can either sit in the enclosure watching or outside and only have to keep an eye on the single entry point.
When we arrived my sister’s and my cousin’s children were eager to go play. I sent my 12 year old son inside in, to keep an eye on them. When my son entered, this cute little blonde girl who was probably about 8 years old, stopped trying to climb up on a hallucinogenic-inspired mushroom and shot him the meanest, dirtiest look I’d every seen on a kid that age, then as quickly as the look appeared it was gone and she was off playing. It must’ve caught my son by surprise as well, as he glanced over his shoulder at me and gave me the “did you see that” look. I shrugged my shoulders and he continued on into the fray. According to my son, a little while later that same little girl ended up punching him in the back for no reason, as he was walking past her. The little girl, being as small as she was, didn’t hurt him and he just ignored her.
Okay, before I get too far into the following events, I want to preface this with me priding myself on being a non-violent person, who had never been in an actual fight in my adult life. You might call “bullshit” and bring up how I had taken up Brazilian Jujitsu for several months, but I would counter this with how BJJ could bring about the end of a confrontation without causing any real physical damage to your opponent through the use of submissions. It’s for that reason alone that I found that style of martial arts so interesting. I still hoped that I would never end up needing to use it and it served me more as a form of exercise. Okay…back to the Play Place.
As us adults were sitting there carrying on our “adult” conversations, I picked up on the familiar growl of my niece, who liked to pretend she was a monster and try to scare me with her curled little hands looking like claws, her teeth bared, and the growl of a small breed dog, but which issued from her diaphragm on up. This growl sounded like it was happening with regularity, and my mom, who is in retirement, went to go investigate. I continued participating in the ongoing conversation, but when I heard the unfamiliar voice of some guy being cross with my mother–I was out of my seat and at her side in a fleeting moment. I stood between her and this man, as I quickly surveyed the scene. I could see my niece, crouched in front of her little brother, her arms spread in a protective radius around him, with her teeth bared and that same growl resonating from deep inside her. There, two steps in front of her, was the same cute little blonde girl from earlier on.
“…I’m just saying that your daughter is no angel either. She knocked her little brother down and yelled at him like it was his fault, and now she is just being protective of her little brother,” pleaded my mother.
“I don’t think there is any reason why my daughter should have to put up with that kind of behavior. She’s in there to have fun and your child keeps growling at her and she needs to stop!”
His tone was sharper and he’d gone up an octave at this point. I found myself sizing this guy up. Like a scene from a vampire movie, I could almost see and hear the blood flowing through this guy’s carotid. He had a scraggly goatee and some tattoos were visible on his forearms. A tough guy. This realization didn’t scare me, but spurred on the flow of adrenaline. Like my favorite superhero, Wolverine, I almost called this guy “bub’.
From the moment I stood up to this point only about three seconds had lapsed. I looked him straight in the eyes, and with what I only can guess was a look of complete flat affect and the slightest curl of a psychotic smile, the words, “you need to control your tone,” seethed from between my teeth.
“Well…well, you guys aren’t listening to me!”
I could feel my nearly nonexistent smile begin to blossom, spreading across my face, but not touching my vacant eyes, “Oh, I’m listening. I’m hanging on every word.”
I could see him deflating, the air let out of his sails, as he glanced back and forth between my mother and me. He wasn’t dealing with just a petite AARP member. He entered the play area, gathered up his daughters and made his way towards security, muttering his intentions as he walked past.
Security showed up and after a quick rundown of the events that unfolded, from the little girl’s hitting my son unprovoked, to my niece protecting her brother, we were told with a smile and a shrug, “Well, you have a nice day.”
I sat back down and experienced the full effect of the adrenaline dump, leaving me on the verge of tears. I felt sick. I hated how quickly I devolved into an animal, ready to pounce at the slightest provocation. I had been no different than my niece, teeth bared and growling, becoming my mother’s protector.
I’ve told this story to a few friends and they always tell me that I’d done the right thing, that I should be proud and some level I think I am, but mostly I feel horrible. I imposed my will on another human being, a sort of submission through intimidation. I would never discourage my niece from protecting her little brother, and I will always come to my mother’s defense, so why do I feel so bad? I wish I could go back in time, or meet this guy again, and educate him on the psychosocial interactions of children, how my niece’s posturing was purely defensive–a reaction to his daughter’s actions, that were perceived as offensive, and how children should be allowed to work out their differences on their own. Not having the chance to rectify the situation, I’m left feeling empty, that somewhere out there another human being feels less of himself because of my actions. I don’t take Brazilian Jujitsu anymore.