A song about the struggles of the diminishing middle class. Also the story of blue collar workers who make America great——
I have few regrets, but I sometimes feel a sadness when I think how you and I were never able to connect or understand one-another. Perhaps Freud was right, that we become who we are at a very early age and we find ourselves locked into a fixed script. And sometimes this makes it difficult to express the things that go unsaid. So, I want to say this, having you as my son has been and always will be the finest of gifts. My favorite memories is the time spent doing little everyday things with you and your sister. It’s funny, how it’s all the small things that comprise a full life. I try my best to remember this in each draining moment.
I see pieces of me in you and I wonder if you see parts of you in me. These days, I just carry little pieces of you from a distant past. There are memories of that little baby I once held. Then there’s the little boy whose hand I’d hold on walks in the woods. I carry the memory of teaching you how to tie your shoes and how to ride a bicycle. Summer drives in grandpa’s truck down country roads lined with peach tree’s and blossoming almond orchards. Sharing holiday dinners at Nana’s old wooden dinner table. Goofy face photographs. Days at the beach and neon lite nights at the boardwalk, the smell of fried corndogs and sticky cotton candy. Waking up to a snow day with no school and skiing on fresh powder. Hikes in the Sierras and the scent of campfire smoke, musty tents, penny ante poker, Monopoly and watching the family dog sleep next to you. And, then there was a teen boy in a hurry to go out and challenge the boundaries of his world. When I turn down all the outside noise, I find myself asking, where has all the time gone?
As hard as one may try, you can never bring your children home again. They have their own dreams and troubles that they must navigate. So, I fight the current of time and want to try to make right the things that I may have missed or failed to do. The middle years of a man’s life can often times be wasted worrying about careers, bills and trying to make something of himself through hollow achievements. Such deceptive mirages we foolishly chase.
It’s a strange thing, me and my dad never really saw eye to eye. We were just different in ways neither could explain. But, I knew he loved me and would do anything for me. He made sacrifices for me and my sisters that I never understood until I was much older. In spite of it all, and buried beneath it all, we had a love that only a family can share. I feel this love towards you and wanted you to know that. And that’s the simple truth.
I remember when my mom passed away, and how at some weird level I was relieved. This thought left me feeling guilty. I vacillated between anger and a morose acquiescence as she became weak and frail. She never complained even though she was in a huge amount of pain and relying on morphine to stave off the misery. I should have been braver and held her hand. I should have told her how much I loved her and that she was the best mother I could ever of had. I should have told her that if she needed to go, I understood and that she would always be missed. I should have told her not to worry about me and that her family would be fine. But I hid behind my fear, believing she must already know these things, pretending I’d still have time to say the things that needed to be said——-how fucking stupid was that.
I apologize if this letter comes off awkward and overly forthright. I suppose I wrote it as much for you, as for myself———You see, this letter is an exercise in trying to find ways to be more courageous with my love.
“All go to the same place. All came from the dust and all return to the dust.” Ecclesiastes 3:20
What kind of holy book explains life and death in such a flippant manner? I don’t understand.
I climb into my faithful old Tacoma pickup and head west. You can tell a lot about a man by the truck he drives. The cab smells of rag weed, muddy boots and fresh orange peels. I drive past the fields, the farms and the redundant strip malls. I eye pretty small town girls with odd names like Galenda or Karla. Their perfume scented skin I won’t stick around to touch. These places and girls belonged to other boys with their Friday night hot spots and their Sunday morning houses of worship,——— a community of suburban anchored hearts. I’ve tried to fit into such places, but never could.
I drive til I come to the ocean. I check into a cheap motel that wears the odors of mold and a thousand forgotten summer vacations. I wonder how many have made love on this tolerant mattress, or how many have cried themselves to sleep within the walls of this soul suffocating room. The walls are knotty pine with a bathroom sink that drip, drip, drips. Outside my gray skied window the pavement smells of early morning rain, the sun rises with a memory of how small her hands looked when she touched me. Once again I find myself at the edge of this sad stained continent. There’s a damp coldness blowing off the water that chills me to the bone. January is my favorite month to revisit this rundown seaside town. The boardwalk is empty and quiet except for the rusty Farris Wheel squeaking and moaning under the strain of a gusting wind. I pull my knit cap tightly over my numb ears.
All my once hip friends are now vengeful Republicans, need I say more? Out of nowhere I find myself singing “Into the Mystic”——I take a shot of Jameson with a beer back. “And when that fog horn blows you know I’ll be coming home——-I wanna hear it, I don’t have to fear it”.
The bed-stand clock glows with its red digital numbers, the sound from the dripping faucet warns me of time passing by. How do I carry on? Where do I go from here? Am I too old to start over again? Have I squandered too many chances. I’ve moved to new cites, I’ve found new jobs and I’ve broken promises to the few who might of cared for me. I’ve never been one to reinvent myself or attempt to tame my faults or bad habits——I’m all that’s left of my best mistakes.
I sit on a carved up and pigeon stained bench at the end of the pier. A wrinkled asian man is standing as still as a statue as he waits for a fish to bite his line——I suppose we’re all waiting at the other end of one kind of fishing line or another. A young kid with chin stubble and unkempt hair takes a seat next to me. He asks if I have a light. He helps me cup a flickering flame from my Bic lighter. He squints as he stares intensely out at the foggy horizon. I know that look, I know this kid. He speaks “You got a wife?” “Yeah, I’ve had a couple of them.” He continues his interrogation “You got a job?” “Yeah, I’ve had a few those too.” “Did you get everything you wanted?” “Like most, I suppose I got what I deserved and a few things I didn’t expect. Sometimes it isn’t what you get, but more importantly, it’s being happy with what you’ve been given——-gratitude is the scale on which to weigh a balanced life.”
An older me talking to a younger me, what a gift. “Take good care of yourself dude.” I grab his cigarette, then take a hit off it before stomping it out. “Look after your health kid, you’ll wish you did when you get older——-and yes, we all do get older, that is, if you’re lucky.” He pushes his shaggy hair back “Do you ever think about your parents?” “Everyday I do. You won’t understand the sacrifices your parents made for you until you become one yourself. You’ll look at your children and be amazed at how parts of you became their flesh and blood. The best of times will be the time spent with your kids. Remember to give your weary parents the love and respect they deserve. The kids grow up too fast and our parents grow old and frail too soon. Once they’ve passed on, they’re gone for good. Time moves in one direction, forward. Regret is the child of missed opportunities.”
“Many acquaintances will come and go, but few will be elevated to the position of trusted friend. Choose your friends carefully, because they’re the only ones who’ll enjoy your ridiculous humor, tolerate your irritating idiosyncrasies and stand up for you when this world leaves you feeling insignificant, irrelevant and unworthy of love. They’ll embark on crazy adventures with you and provide you with the sweetest of memories. Your friends and family are your tribe and their unconditional love is the only thing that will sustain you through the good times as well as the bad.”
“I know that at your age you won’t believe me, but this life is tragically short. Don’t squander the time you’ve been given being bored or angry. Monies a fleeting vapor, a job that doesn’t suite you is a snare, pleasure without sacrifice is quickly forgotten. Look for true love and nothing less. You’ll know it’s true love because she’ll bring out the best in you. She’ll make you feel things you never felt and it will cause you to do things like hold her hand when she’s frightened. She’ll bear your children and cook you your favorite meals. For her, you’ll fix the things that break, mow the lawn on hot July afternoons and snowplow the driveway on cold January mornings. All these seemingly insignificant small things will comprise a full life. Keep your priorities straight and you’ll enjoy each day as it unfolds.”
The kid offers up a grin. “When I grow up, I wanna be like you.” “Take your time kid, being an adult isn’t all it’s cracked up to being.” I climb in my truck and head back home as I give a glance in my rear view mirror.
He said he’s now a Christian
Another poor excuse for me to scale
He sent me a letter with biblical quotes
Two thousand year old words laden with emotional quicksand
Everything neatly arranged into his boxes of good and evil
I wonder where I’d fit in—–these days
I miss that old friend, this new one no longer laughs at life’s foibles
His company makes our past feel irrelevant, like noticing dings on my car door
I’m reminded that time can be ruthless
Isn’t that just like me, turning the past over and over in my hands
Another shelf-life expired, I’m learning to throwout what’s soured
And this relationship has devolved, leaving a bad taste in my mouth
It took me a long time to get to this place
Sometimes it feels as though no “there” follows this “here”
Old friend, more shadow than substance
Everyone peddling their rendition of love
As if such things came with instructions and warranties
I went back to my fathers house
With him no longer living
That house is just dust and empty rooms
Like leaving a voice message on a dead mans answering machine
Pick up, please pick up, only the mumblings of a disembodied voice
I had to lose my soul, my mind, my self,
I had to lose my everything
To find a voice
The price of loving someone
Is equal to the pain that comes with losing them