Tuesday, June 24, 2014
my dad used to write us letters.
most of them were penned by hand, his distinctive all-caps block type interrupted here and there with 'm's that looked like the chinook coming down the foothills into the plains. most of them were stories.
although we could all read plenty fine, i distinctly remember being read these letters aloud. mostly my sister did it, sometimes my mother, and the entire experience lingers in the delicious category of my memory. somehow we weren't running around or doing chores or chasing bedtimes and baths. somehow the babysitter was done for the day. somehow we were all sitting still and quiet enough to hear the words. and they filled our imaginations, those words, they swelled our hearts and made us miss the man even more, though we were satisfied with being taken along on even a handful of his adventures. he wrote about water and canoes and rivers and heroes and giants and land and trees. before we left our home, he had built a dream for us to go to. those months–of leaving and packing and moving and driving and goodbye and let's go–could have been the most tumultuous of our lives; all i remember are the letters.
i heard once that george lucas, back when his storytelling was better, consulted joseph campbell prior to the writing of the original star wars trilogy. apparently, lucas knew that it was important to construct myth, and he wanted to get it right.
the letters from my father were constructed myth. though much of the stories was based in 'fact', the most important stuff, the stuff that sticks in my head and can be recited by all of my siblings word for word, that stuff was myth. it started off true and then went somewhere better, became bigger, made more sense and elevated our imaginations to greater possibilities. for kids growing up in the 80s with nikes on their feet and mcdonald's in their bellies, it was important, it was imperative, to construct myth, if for no other reason than to elevate.
throughout much of my life, i have had the luxury of long talks with my dad. early on, it was about anything and everything and most of it was just learning, and it wasn't hard, and it was my favorite time in the car or on the bike or before dinner was done. we would daydream together about going to italy some day, picking up a pair of brand new colnagos or pinarellos at the factory, and then riding and eating our way through the entire country. we would dream about having horses with hooves as big as my head, and a barn to keep them in, and the cool farm chores i could do. making any of those beautiful dreams come true was beside the point. the point was that we could and should dream, and we could do it together, each with his own honest smile, giddy in his heart.
it is important to construct myth.
it is important to have ideals, and embed those in good stories, and tell the stories to children and young people and old people you love. we must remember risk and adventure and challenge and triumph. we must recall comradery and the power of two hands holding together over rushing water. we must remember giants.
Sunday, June 15, 2014
'i like when you wash my hair.'
'you have a mane like a horse.'
'i like horses.'
'they're fast and strong and beautiful. like you.'
it's been years since i've bathed this child. she is in the last glowing months of absolute innocence, unformed by adolescence, game for anything except being a grown up. but now she has height that reaches her mamas, long quick legs, a sense of humor that grasps Irony, and a shattered right elbow. i haven't bathed this girl since she could do it herself, singing and playing in so much water, supervised and unhurried, a cherub with a cloth and bubbles. now she cradles a cast that weighs more than her head, now she steps gingerly, everywhere, now her neck gets pulled by the sling for her cast, now her freckles are fleeting reminders of her carefree days.
Sunday, June 1, 2014
before i became much of a man, my grandfather was gone.
i used to write poetry. it was pretty terrible. and i would send it to my grandmother because she was a master of literature and teaching and she would read it to my grandfather, sitting by his side, at a very long table that used to feed so many hungry mouths, and he would get exasperated and exclaim, "there's just too much sex in it!"
i hadn't had any sex when i wrote any of that stuff.
later on, before i even graduated from high school, my grandfather was gone. he left before i became something more elegant and possessed of agency than a hormone-ridden accident of circumstance and micromanaging. he left before i could run. he left before i met the lady of my life. he left before that lady and i made and raised some sweet sweet children that he would have utterly enjoyed. cancer doesn't care about sweet cheeks.
this grandfather is one i think of often. he had many children. he had much bitterness. he had a hard time figuring out where he fit in a family he loved more than himself. he collected knives and grandchildren and sharpened both with care. he loved hunting. he loved the stories about it more. from this grandfather, i have my champagne taste, a quick temper, and an old seiko watch from the 80s. it may well be as old as i am, and it ticks by the kitchen sink, and blinks rapidly to let me know that its battery is nearly exhausted, and i left it there to do the dishes.
i have a grandfather that knows me now, and i wonder if there is much to be proud of. he knows my children, and welcomes them into his home and laughs at their hilariousness, and hugs them though he can no longer lift them. it seems now that he is the delicate one, that they are careful with him.
the lack of hair on my head, the blue in my eyes, the moles i get removed every few years from my freckled white skin, and my long fingers are from this grandfather. despite my champagne taste, i have joad family resolve, and my jalopy of dignity, however rickety, will make the trip. i got this from him.
there is no resolution here, no respite. onward and upward is the only way to go. struggle makes the most sense. there is no time to falter. the cheeks are still sweet.