Thursday, January 10, 2008

One Week

My son should be back on Wednesday. My son the soldier, from Iraq. For good, hopefully. Five years is enough. I was just thinking that he's the only person that I love, that I don't have issues with. You know, family is the same as baggage. The past is pretty poisonous. Last night, just as I was drifting off, I remembered sharp as an electric shock some moment of shame from decades ago, and couldn't get to sleep. See what I mean? The closer you get, or rather the closer you have been forced to be, the more opportunity for betrayal there is. My mother is the most normal, or rather the kindest of us, and deserves all forgiveness. But she gave my room to my brother. We shared, you see, and he said, "Give this room to me." And she did. So where did that leave me? In my brother's room. I was probably seven or so. I remember the sense of outrage, of betrayal -- the distress and helplessness. My point is, the past is like that. Small things like insect bites, that get infected.

My son, on the other hand, was a joy. He was a really good kid. He wanted to please me, the way kids want to please their parents, if they're allowed to. And I saw that, and honored it. Even as a teenager he was good. Not a weakling, not a goody-goody. Just sensible. And where he wasn't entirely sensible, he was trustworthy. He'd tell me about how he and his friends would go "drifting" -- deliberately losing traction in the car. Hm. I could forbid it, or I could urge safety and trust in providence. I got lucky. I could have forbidden it, and I believe he would have honored it. But we choose our battles, and I trusted that even in something that seems foolish, he'd have, or learn, good judgment. Maybe I was wrong. He didn't get great grades, but that was really on me. I won't go into it now. Maybe I was wrong. But I wasn't going to pressure him. He did okay. Way below his potential, but okay.

I suppose I'm a powerful personality. Most people wouldn't really know that, nowadays. I don't show much of my passion. I really try to keep things quiet. Part of it is maturity, part is just having been savaged by life. My usual persona is just trying to get along. I avoid expressing strong opinions. My point is that as a father I trusted that my strength of character, such as it is, would show through, by my conduct and my habitual demeanor. There was no need for shouting or for threats. A parent's job is to prepare his child for a meaningfully successful life. I had to trust that my boy would get serious about studies when he matured into it -- the way I did, finally, after having dropped out of college several times. Aimless, you see, and without purpose. Until there's a reason.

My son is the only person that it would break my heart never to see again. I'm really tempted to delete that sentence. It's so stark. But I haven't seen my father since the mid-'90s, and he's 6 miles away. My mother is dear to me, and I do what I can for her, but we're not enmeshed. My brothers are just people I grew up with. I have a half-brother I expect never to see again, or rather, only once, at our half-father's funeral. Same with my former wife. I'll see her at my son's wedding. We'll say hello, but not have any conversations.

It's just different with my son. I'm normal, with him. I'm comfortable with him. We laugh at each other's jokes. We respect each other. We're proud of each other. We like each other. We love each other. We understand that we have our shortcomings. But he learned how do deal with my faults, by seeing my example with him. Faults are for overlooking.

So he'll be home in seven days. Christmas never meant anything to me. But I can hardly wait.


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