Father-Son-Mother —(A Letter To Me)

Soundtrack “Colors” by Amos Lee

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.

A thousand kisses deep–

She lives a thousand leagues under the sea at a place called Fountain Crest, it’s an assisted living facility, a rest home, an old folks home, a murky place at the bottom of the sea.  Above the surface life goes on with its bright lights and people racing around here to there, darting back and forth like a flock of frenzied seagulls scavenging through another days accumulation of garbage.  Up there time is cheap, everyone is preoccupied with getting their share as they squabble and fight, wearing out another precious moment, like tiny air bubbles under pressure, each moment bursts and then quietly disappears.

I drift past all the deep sea inhabitants who stare back at me with big exaggerated eyes behind thick fish eye lenses.  They wear homesick eyes like a child dropped off on the first day of school— lost watery eyes left wondering, “What am I doing here”, “Are they coming back for me”, “How will I ever get home again”.  They breath slowly, swaying in the invisible currents, circling aimlessly, going nowhere in particular.  Hands gripping railings, hands holding onto walkers, fingers strumming on a table in time with an old song no one else can hear.  Perhaps its The Dorsey Brothers, Duke Ellington or maybe Count Basie.  The big dance hall echoes with brassy swing music blaring and everyone is dancing beneath a canopy of blue and red colored lights.  Men in dark pressed suits hold women in multi colored party dresses as they flow in unison across a mahogany wood-floor. It’s a Monet in slow motion, couples glide in rhythm with the ebb and flow of jazz music.  She is in love for the first time and no one, not even time itself will take this memory from her—-these days memories and reality swim together.

In the recreation room residents are sitting playing dominos while others stare at the big screen TV.  Some sit solo, silently staring out the window into an empty patio with its neatly kept flower gardens. There eyes go through a series of mixed emotions as they question my presence here.  I am a stranger under their waves of isolation and at first the eyes of the occupants gaze at me with an air of curiosity.   Next comes a stare of surprise, “Is someone sick?”.  Then fear, “Has another one passed away last night?”.  Then comes envy, “Look, she has a visitor”.  And finally thankfulness, “Isn’t that nice, someone has made that long dive—–a thousand kisses deep.”

I no longer look into their faces, at this depth they all begin to look the same.  I watch their hands.  Each set of hands tell their own story.  Swollen wrists, knuckles deformed and twisted, age spots, yellowed nails, blue broken veins, tentacles gripping on to little pieces of life, or what is still left of one.  These are the hands that cradled new-born babies, that reassured a scared child in the dark, caressed the fevered brow of the sick, hands that prepared home cooked meals, washed floors, dishes and folded untold loads of laundry, hands that once wielded a hammer to build homes and dreams, fixed what needed fixed, protected what needed protected, hands that played piano in churches and bars, hands that teased, tickled and pleasured a lover, hands that planted roses and canned peaches, hands that money fell through, hands worn callused by physical labor, hands once clinched into fists of anger, hands clasped together in prayer for mercy and grace, hands that composed love letters, baked birthday cakes, taught life lessons, wiped tears away, hands that then as well as now, still reach out towards life.  If eyes are the mirror of the soul, then I believe hands are a reflection of the heart.

We take her for a drive to visit family members.  We share food and reminisce about the old days.  There is much laughter as we recall funny stories from the past.  We fondly remember those that have passed and reaffirm how they shaped and contributed to the family.  Photos are proudly passed around and stories shared about the “going on’s” of our younger ones.   Claudia has a new job, Chris a promotion, Victor’s graduation, Haley’s skiing, Amelia is walking.   Today is golden, for the briefest of moments time stands still for us—-we feel everything—–we can feel one another—-it’s always in the littlest of things that the sacredness of love is shared.

Back at her place beneath the waves, we have a seat at a table in the dinning area.  It’s late November and a drizzle of rain falls from the evening sky.  There is no longer any need for conversation as we sit staring out at the receding sun and silently hold hands.