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Posts Tagged ‘love’

She stood at the tree waiting.   Rain had softened the ground overnight so her feet sank a little as time passed mud creeping up.   Long ago the childish message carved in the tree disappeared as new layers of bark did what they do – cover up the years.   She kept her hand where the message used to be.   She did not move even as sweat matted her hair and tears streaked her face.  The bugs didn’t care about her situation.  They swarmed and nipped at their motionless meal.

The Tree

She Waited Here

~~~~~~~~~

He never made it to the tree.  Three years ago on a trip overseas he fell ill and with barely any notice slipped away.  He was traveling alone and had not noticed the severity of his illness when he fell into a deep sleep one afternoon.  He never awoke.

His body was removed from his temporary dwelling after finally being noticed by the housekeeper who had been away.   He had paid cash up front and left no useful information behind for the housekeeper nor anyone else to contact anyone.  The housekeeper had him buried in a slightly marked grave and buried his meager personal belongings, a journal and wallet, with him.  She kept a description of him on hand in the house in case a future visitor inquired.

Years passed.

~~~~~~~~~

When the search party found her she was still attached to the tree.   Drenched from several nights of rain and a near perpetual sweat rashes covered her bitten and weakened body.  She rarely blinked and her face was flush white.   At some point during the waiting it occurred to her he wasn’t coming and she wasn’t going to leave.

“Are you ok? Are you ok,” they repeated over and over.

No response.

“Let go of the tree.  Come with us.  You’re going to be ok.   Let go,” the pleading continued until they finally forced her hands away and carried her to the vehicle.   A tear, so slight, crept from her left eye.

~~~~~~~~~

“Let’s find ourselves,” the note ended openly and without commitment.   One night she had written the note and hastily dropped it in the mail after a long week of anguished failed attempts to compose.  The writing was sloppy and rushed and the stamped was not flush with the corner.

~~~~~~~~~

“Let’s find ourselves,” he read trembling.   Normally the envelope would have been thicker with more words stuck inside of it, but this one had been impossibly thin.   It contained few words.  He packed his bag in haste taking a few clothes and his journal.  He left immediately on the next boat with no idea when he would come back other than to meet at the tree.

~~~~~~~~~
With a little knife they carved “our love grows” deeply into the tree that day.   The hugged when they were done and whispered their promises to return to that tree 15 years from then.  They hugged and hugged.   The wind was gentle and did not rush them.

~~~~~~~~~

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In 2002 my wife and I decided having children might not be the worst possible decision we could make in life (turns out we got two amazing, intelligent, engaged daughters).   I pushed pretty hard for us to at least try, especially because we were relatively young and I had at least an inkling that parenting (not sleeping) couldn’t get easier as you aged. (I was almost 26 so I didn’t know that much mind you.)
What I really didn’t know, and probably didn’t really understand at all until this year with my mom’s own life hanging in the balance, is that I was pushing for an impossible sacrifice.   Asking a woman to have a child seems almost natural until you actually think about it.  Beyond the basic What To Expect When Your Expecting fluff the sacrifice is a total self-exchange of the woman for the child.  She will not only dramatically give her body over to the child for 10 months, she does so forever.  She gives over her career, spiritual life, social status, friends and pretty much everything else.   And we ask her to do in some sort of manifest destiny “of course this is what you always wanted” way.
In the end, it turns out ok. For the most part.  If she’s fortunate enough that the pregnancy and birth don’t kill her or diminish her.  And if her economic situation can afford it.  And if she has tremendous support around her, in her family in her community and her work.   And if her hormones and nervous system keep up to the task.  And if her body can withstand the adjustment to post-birth life.  And if the media and pop culture don’t twist her into self-loathing for failing to be good at everything AND have a kid.   I might turn out ok.
I have a tattoo on my left arm.  It’s a phrase in cuneiform, “Redeeming Sacrifice.”   I got it a couple of years ago with the idea that in life I could only possibly ever hope to scrape the surface of such a sacrifice by trying my best to do whatever it took to not only provide for my family and my community but actually help them thrive.  I fail most days, in my opinion. The sacrifice made by my mom and my wife and countless other women around me to give me life, give my children life, support me, somehow get themselves to an ok place is of a magnitude greater than anything I’ve ever done.   The tattoo isn’t meant as a signal of a one time event but instead as a life long, infinite commitment to try to even approach the impossible sacrifice that is being a mom and being a woman.
My wife is an amazing mother.   Whatever the criteria you have for that distinction I’m pretty sure you’ll rank pretty highly.   She has given everything to these children and to me.   And as far as I know her mom did the same for her kids and I know my mom did for her kids.
What have we given them, really, in return?  A life long wondering whether they’ve done enough.  Whether they are doing enough.  Whether there’s someone else they have left behind. Whether they deserve the vacation or money they get.  Whether they’ve earned out respect and love.  I’m as guilty as anyone on that front too.  I want to blame our culture, which is pretty blame-worthy, but I cannot. Maybe blame or responsibility isn’t the right phrasing, but again I do feel all of us, especially males, need to think really hard about our own existence and decide to sacrifice more to make the pressures of being a female go away. Pushed to my most honest position we need to relinquish our patriarchy totally because we have not even come close to this impossible sacrifice.  We’ll never make up for the past but we certainly can leave the future with a slightly better chance that if you’re a female you can be just as much of Homer Simpson as I am or a leading Dr. or cheating football player or a president or whatever you damn well please.   As long as you’re taking on the burden of existence of ALL OF HUMANKIND you can and should do whatever you damn well please.
Happy mother’s day.  And really happy women’s everyday.  I don’t deserve it but I hope all of you will keep letting me try to redeem the existence you give me through my own self-sacrifice.
much love.

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The day of my first child’s birth (July 4th, 2003) remains one of the formative experiences of my life. Yes, it was a holiday and the day Barry White died and she was born as the sun was going down and the fireworks were sounding off (I swear this all happened as gloriously as you’re thinking). That’s all the pomp though it’s the instant change in circumstance that made it formative.

All the thinking and imagining before a child’s birth did not prepare me for the reality of the moment when your child screams her first cry and you realize as a dad it will be your responsibility to keep that child alive until she can fend for herself.

An instant romantic all encompassing wave of movie like love didn’t wash over me in that moment. A profound sense of fatherly protection did. We don’t have much control about what happens in life but I somehow felt and still feel I did have some say in that (and my other daughters) life coming to be. If I had the nerve to create I needed to have the courage to protect my child.

This sense of protection grows more nuanced as I age and my daughters age. At first it was just about feeding, sleeping, breathing and mom. Making sure that baby was touched and it’s body could grow. And now it’s still about those things and it’s about education and relationships and sensitivity and awareness and self actualization. And ultimately the biggest act of fatherhood is letting go. That time will come. It’s not here yet.

The love, O the love! Of my daughters is unbearably deep sometimes. It was never love in an instant for me, it’s been an extensive root system that as our lives become ever more intertwined I realize how profoundly their existence is in some sense my existence and that their protection is my own protection. They give to me not out of obligation nor some sense of knowing what I’ve ever been through (pity) but because children don’t have the baggage of a noisy world. They love me in such beautifully simple ways.

The most incredible pride I feel about being a father is that my daughters love each other so much. They are best friends and defenders of each other. They are very different persons but they go together so well. What more could I hope who above all as a dad wants his children to survive and thrive? I want them to have a life long companions who will love them and share the pain and joy and bumps and journeys regardless of all the mistakes they will make.

The more my daughters are able to integrate and shape the world of their own and need less of me and my protection the more of a father I feel I become. It’s one of those zen things. The more they become themselves and go out in the world the more love of them as themselves I experience.

And the birth of my daughters was also formative in that it softened my own view of my dad.

God do I love my dad. All those times he pushed me to “stop bitching and just do it” or got me up real early to go fishing or threw a football or earnestly played me in chess and didn’t just let me win. All these times he said get a job or eat your meat first… And ultimately, “Russell, you’ll be lucky to count close friends on one hand when you get older” to remind me that friends matter and you need to cherish them in this world.

All these things seemed here goes dad again. These sayings and actions making me uncomfortable as a kid. And once I had kids I realized that’s why dad did it. That’s why. He had to keep me alive long enough so that he could love me.

Happy Father’s Day to everyone.

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