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Friday, November 23, 2012

THOUGHTS: On Gratitude

This morning, I'm enjoying time with my son. He is playing with his little toy race cars, loving it, while Star Wars plays on the background.

Yesterday, we had a feast, and I did the typical American deed of eating so much that it physically and emotionally hurt when I was finished. It was delicious, and it hurt in the best possible way.

It was a very unexpected and pleasant turn of events. The past few weeks have been turbulent, as they were at third point last year. And I've made some horrendous mistakes that have contributed to this state, not least of which is the abhorrent lack of communication with the wife. While fear based, one could argue very logically so, it is also avoidance driven. No matter how it's defined or what actually transpires, one can only take responsibility, as much responsibility as we can. We always have choices, even if we aren't conscious of them at the time.

So where does the gratitude fall in to this formula? The gratitude... I am blessed to have had a wife for 8 very difficult yet rewarding years, and whatever happens, I'm very humble in that experience. I'm also so fortunate to have had a son for four and a half months when some people never get that opportunity. I also have another son who unexpectedly fell into my life, and he's two years, seven months, and seven days old today, which is incredible. And (most days, like any toddler) he's filled with joy and curiosity and energy. He's smart, and he's funny.

And because these are the obvious things, I'll call them the tip of the iceberg. There is much more beyond sight to be thankful for, even the mundane and the every day stuff we take for granted.

So take a breath and breathe in life. It's all good.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

PROPHECY: Coming Home

We were hunkered down, hiding behind a big sandstone, my friend, his fellow-soldier, and me. The enemies were firing on us, and here we were in the sweltering heat, with no backup and no way to call for any.

A bullet came and struck the other soldier.  He slowly reached up, and put his hand to his temple. He looked at the blood where the bullet had struck him, and then he started muttering something as he laid down, looking like he was getting ready to have a nap.  I knew the result would be more tragically permanent.

I looked up, and my friend had finally managed to get a call out to help.  I looked past him, out in the vast mountain desert valley, and I saw a huge airship, reminiscent of the helicarrier from The Avengers losing altitude fast... so very fast.

I looked towards the west, where the hills were obscuring the setting sun, and decided to run.  I didn't want to be where that airship was heading.  I sprinted faster than I knew I could toward an old soccer stadium.  In the desert, with the signs of war surrounding everything, this derelict stadium was an odd beacon of safety from that monstrosity and whatever it was carrying.  I ran across the field and jumped into the bleachers, with barely enough time to see the bow of the ship smash the foxhole where I was calmly trusting my friend to get the word out that we were under attach, that help was on the way.

Darkness had set in, and with it, the horrifying realization that the enemy had a headquarters nearby, with lights, gunfire, talking, and laughing coming from one of the recesses into what was left of the stadium's inside infrastructure.  I cautiously began to look for an escape, but when I poked my head above the bleachers, I noticed that the enemy had sent out a search party.  Apparently, they knew I was there.

I slowly crawled to one of the stairways leading to the exit and the field.  Once I got there, one of the search party guys started coming up the stairs, flashlight and machine gun in hand.  I knew I was screwed.  Before the light found me, another man started yelling at him.  I couldn't understand what they were arguing about, but seconds later, the first man turned and went back towards camp.  I exhaled, but only in time to realize the second man was spotting me himself.

Knowing for sure I was busted, I did the first logical thing I could think of to ensure my survival:  I ditched my wallet (my I.D.), which could dispute my lie that I was, in fact, Canadian and not American.

The man escorted me back to their camp, where I got to know them all.  They were very intelligent, persecuted, and kind people, and I had a sense that they were protecting their home from invaders, regretting every time they pulled the needlessly violent triggers.  They all spoke English fluently, and we walked philosophy, family, honor, regret, all of that.

I stayed with them a few days, and one of them, a man I had gotten to be kindred spirits with for whatever reason, had offered to take me "home" to Canada.  (I still hadn't gotten up the courage to tell them the truth.)

The next thing I remember, we're at a small airport, somewhere in North America, but I can't remember where.  I just remember walking around, being trusted with that privilege as we were good friends at this point.  We sat down, this new friend of mine and I, and had a meal together.  I remember talking to a mother and her little girl, showing here places on a large map of the world plastered on a wall.  Then I excused myself from everyone.  I told them I had to use the restroom, but I knew that this was going to be the only chance I got to guarantee seeing my son again.  When I got of sight, I quickly hustled for the security line in the small terminal.  For whatever reason, there were glass dividers around a tiny, make-shift United States embassy.  I ran in, fully expecting to be tackled by the Marine security guards at the door way.  I was tackled, all the while screaming "I'm American!  I need help!  I'm home!  I'm safe!  I'm American!  I live in Alaska!"

I could feel myself smiling, although the celebration turned bittersweet as I looked up, and there, on the other side of the glass divider, my new friend stood looking at me.  I could see the hurt on his face.  He had risked so much to bring me here, only to have me run away and expose my lie in as indirect a fashion as possible.  And I grieved for him.  He held up a piece of paper, an itinerary that he and I had worked out together for this trip, and the look on his face was one that burns itself into your memory for lifetimes.

As the authorities started asking me questions about who I was, where I came from, where I lived, how I wound up here, I looked up to see where my new friend was.  I couldn't find him anywhere.  He had obviously left, and I hoped that he would smuggle himself back to his own home safely.  Suddenly the guilt had washed over me.  If I had been honest, I probably could have helped him.  I could have gotten him home safely or helped him bring his family here.  But I lied to protect myself.  I selfishly chose to be with my son, even though what's been happening to this man and his family and community and country was far more evil than an American son potentially losing a father.

After this flood of thoughts, my gaze fell upon the carpet there in the airport terminal.  The last thing I remember seeing was a crumpled up piece of paper.  I don't know if I imagined it, as I doubt my vision was that good, but it looked as if the ink had started running in a few places, as if drops of water had landed on it.

Drops of water or tears.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

THOUGHTS: The Unjust Bitterness of Grief

On Monday evening, while I was doing my radio show, I wound up posting this as a facebook status:

"I miss my son. I miss him with parts of me that I've buried over the years with denial and grief. He'd be 7 years old in about an hour and a half, and my little boy Malcolm has already experienced over 7 times of what Tiberius had on this earth. It's not fair, but as much as I hate it, I'm convinced that Tibbs was one if the lucky ones that accomplished his mission in the blink of an eye. We shoul
d all be so lucky. God didn't take his angel back. He took my son, or rather, my son went to the next place, teaching in four short months lessons about love and joy that the rest of us will take lifetimes to understand. Tibbs, I love you, I miss you, and I'm trying to understand why you left, but I just have to trust that you made the right decision. I'll see you again, and I can't wait to tell you about your little brother, your mom, the dog we got, Alaska! (We moved to Alaska! How cool is that?!) You probably know all of this already, but indulge an old man, young by your new standards I suppose. I think about you all the time, son. Be good, and I'll be patient. I love you."

It was this weird catharsis of stream-of-consciousness that I really didn't feel like I had any control over.  I started writing, and I just couldn't stop.  I wanted to just put up a quick note, and I didn't even want to touch on the subject.  But I did.  I did and it was like the dam broke.  It just came pouring out, sentence after sentence, and I wasn't even aware of what had happened when it was all said and done.  I felt like I had blacked out, like the thought was there, and for a brief second, I actually felt it, and then it left.  It left.  It's gone.  Oh, I know it's there somewhere, hiding out in one of the dark recesses of my brain or my heart, somewhere being buried by the stupid self conscious that's trying to "protect" me from the hardship that is grief.  But dammit, I want to feel it.  I want to meet it and deal with it, because as it sits, it's just been looming in over everything like a storm cloud in the distance, ominous as it slowly moves and just sits over me.  I want the storm.  I want the wind and the lightning and the rain and the floods.  I want the earthquake.  I want the strife, something tangible that I can put my hands on and wrestle into submission, or at least let wrestle me into submission.  At least to have some sort of interaction with this monster.

Monday night was the first time I felt like I saw it's face.

The messed up part is that I don't often think about Tibbs.  I think about the grief.  I WANT to think about Tibbs.  I want to remember him, remember my son learning how to laugh, learning how to make cooing noises, learning how to roll over, but instead all I'm allowed to focus on in my head is the grief that seems to smother his memory at every turn.  Every time I start to feel something, it goes away, and I just become bitter.  I'll even do stuff like play a certain song, look at pictures, try to remember a smell, and all I seem to be left with is that empty, cold, disdain for what I should feel that's buried.

I don't want to say that I hate this thief of my son's memory, this monster that's taken its place.  I understand it's reason for being, and I'm accepting of that.  I just want to be able to coexist with it, to establish a relationship with it, so that, every once in a while, I can humbly ask its permission to move on by and go visit Tibb in my head, tell him about the life that his mother and I have delicately and brutally patched together for each other in the aftermath of his short and powerful life, and how painfully difficult and beautifully rewarding it's been for both of us.

Sigh... I just feel like I'm forgetting too much, and I loathe it.