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Monday, October 13, 2008

Rearview Mirror

Amusing how fragile we are, how such small things can send us reeling. I spoke once here of finding some important papers in the trash. Called up a sense of irretrievable loss. Today I came home to find that some other things of mine had been thrown away. The disrespect implicit in such actions is palpable. Not the kind of disrespect that hates, or is cruel. The kind that is thoughtless -- this action is more important than any feelings it might engender.

When I was seven or so I came home from school to find that my little blue blanket had been thrown out. I was a child who needed some sort of symbol of security. My distress was pronounced. Too late -- the trash had been collected. Why? Why? And the answer was, it was old, and I was too big for a blanket. My tears were inconsolable. Symbols matter.

When I was eight or nine we were having a family time in the livingroom, at the fireplace. Popcorn. Yum. I had to do something, and when I returned, to munch contentedly on my popcorn, it was somehow wet. Odd, I thought, but thought no more about it -- I was safe, after all. And they started to laugh, my brothers and mother. What? The dog had eaten out of my bowl, and they'd replaced what was missing so I wouldn't know.

Small betrayals. An undermining of a presumption of safety and trust.

When I was in high school, I came home one day to find all my clothes and books and papers and belongings thrown out and scattered in the front yard and street. My room was too messy, you see, and this was my father's remedy. I had no emotion about it. I just gathered my things together and continued to live in that house. A few months later it happened again. I collected up my things again and moved out. Took about an hour. No goodbyes. Lived in my car for a while. Didn't see my father for five years.

They're only things. But only things are symbols.

And I realize that I'm an unmarried 49 year old man, and I will grow old and die alone. It's a melancholy fact, but inherent in my temperament, in my congenital inability to trust. My parents and brothers will pass away, my nephews and niece will be distant, my son will have a life and family of his own. I blanket myself in isolation, no one to blame for it since it's not a fault, just a condition.

I can't say these things to relatives. They'd feel only guilt or defensiveness -- something nonproductive. They'd take away the wrong meaning. But I suppose I have to say them. It's what this blog has been for. It wasn't meant to make anyone hate me. There has to be some openness, somewhere. Otherwise I'm trapped, utterly, with no place to go and no hope. It's a way of venting. So I don't have to imagine myself finding my gun, or driving off a cliff.

I can't leave it there. It sounds so dire, and I care in a general way about those distant and impersonal and theoretical friends who come to this blog. But you must know by now that feelings are only feelings, here, and if nothing else, then pride will keep us civilized.


J

6 comments:

bob k. mando said...

It wasn't meant to make anyone hate me.

it wasn't? damn, wrong again.

dang you Jack, dang you all to hell. you keep tricking me.

Jack H said...

See? See?! Exactly what I mean, folks. I can't go on. Poor me. Poor, poor me.

Will C. said...

It is a disgrace how your family treated you. I can't imagine doing such malevolent deeds to a little child. Your father is an asshole of the first order. I've read enough of your blog to comprehend that. A child must have at least one parent or sibling that they can fall back upon for comfort and trust. You had none of the above. At least I had a good and kind mother. My father...well he cheated on her two weeks after they were married and later in a drunken accusation denied that I was his son (projection anyone?). Just a taste of what it was like in my household.
Anyway...probably the reason I am drawn to friendships with creative, intelligent, yet scarred/hurt people.

Jack H said...

Hey! That's so cool! My father cheated two weeks into his marriage too! LOL!

He didn't drink at all though. It would have made the news, if he did. One of those "Family wiped out in bloody massacre" headlines.

I kid, of course. Every family has its secrets. I do keep mine. These are small things, but a child is small, so they seem big. When we grow up, we get them in perspective. Some of us are tougher than others, so it's not really our place to gauge someone else's pain.

My father had narcissistic borderline personality characteristics. Who's to blame for that? He grew up in an emotionally brutal home. The neighborhood kids -- farmers -- stoned his pony to death. My grandfather ran away when he was seven, and supported himself by working on the railroads. My great grandfather drank a fortune away in Montana. How far back does it go? All the way to Adam, clutching his dead son's head, weeping tears his exile never taught him. To quote myself in another context.

But it doesn't go back at all. It stops with me. There are reasons, but there's no blame. Old wounds heal or they don't, but in any case we're responsible for what we do, not for what other people do.

We all know this of course. We hand these same old bromides back and forth like islanders doing each other's washing. It keeps us going.

And don't be talking about my mother.

Joe Rose said...

Your mind's path is a marvelous tour of a very interesting part of this universe. I can't say that it is enjoyable or not, helpful or not, just that it is mighty interesting.

jack h said...

I think of it as a flea circus.