I’ve taken a long break from Sticky Jam Hands because there is something I’ve needed to write and I haven’t figured out how. I still don’t know but I’ve decided its time to do it anyway.
On 4/2/18 my father Edward Neumann Watson died. At the moment of his death the first thing I felt was relief. Relief that his struggle with dementia and congestive heart failure was over. Relief that those of us that had to care for him and watch him struggle no longer had to. Was I sad? Absolutely, but my sadness didn’t have a landing mark. Was I sad because I no longer had a father – maybe? Was I sad that he died alone in a place that he hated not having fulfilled all of his dreams and desires – definitely but not entirely. But, I pushed that sadness to the side, I boxed up his possessions and put them and his cremains into my laundry room and whenever that sadness came creeping around the edges I countered it with anger. Anger at the Dad who terrified me as a young child. Anger at a Dad who was all but absent during my adolescence. Anger at a man who hurt my Mom both physically and emotionally. I went about my daily life feeling a gap but not acknowledging it. I took back my Wednesday’s and used the time I would normally spend with him doing mundane things like running errands and cleaning.
Cavalier. I became cavalier about something that maybe I should have thought deeper about.
Months later I attended his memorial service, I dressed appropriately and made plans to go to the pool when it was over. But, as I sat and listened to his life and watched pictures of the 87 years that he was alive a thought occurred to me that hadn’t before – that my version of him was not the only version of him. For 79 of his 87 years on this earth he lived a life separate from mine. As I sat at the memorial and watched pictures of him as a young man, as a young father taking his young children to the beach it occurred to me that he was older than I am now by the time I became a somewhat unwanted figure in his life.
Does this excuse his behavior or invalidate my feelings of relief of his death or anger over the relationship he had with me? No. But it certainly did complicate things. Did it soften me a little to think about the circumstances and tragedies that shaped how he was? Yes. Does it take the edge of my anger and round the corners a bit of the animosity I’ve always felt? Yes. Will I be sad in a different way going forward? Most certainly.
If anything his death makes me more worried about my own future, I pray everyday that I wont ruin the relationships I have with my own family – there are times I feel a rage that I am sure I inherited from him simmering to the surface and I need to walk away and remember that what started his undoing was allowing that rage to escape.
If I could go back knowing how I feel now I would ask him to explain/ defend himself for the way that he was; I’d like to know what it was that made him do the things that he did. It makes me wish that I had the courage to ask the hard questions.
Try and remember what it was like to be a child. Try and remember when you where short enough to be amazed by grass and trees and caterpillars. Try and remember a time when you believed that the world was good and there was a huge black line between right and wrong – not just a wavering gray spot.
Try and remember that life is short and that we (most likely) only have one chance to be here on this one known planet that turns carbon dioxide into oxygen and that pours life giving water from the sky. This planet that produces the ingredients for cream filled donuts and full bodied cabernets.
We were given a chance at life: to enjoy ourselves, to feel good, to love one another, to be hedonist or philanthropists or grouchy old men who shake their fists at young whipersnapers. We were given the opportunity to be whatever we want to be be.
We all belong to one huge team of humans – there is no one else like us anywhere, we can create life and make our stay in this world amazing. We have the power to collectively draw together and make music, create art, explore the universe. We also have the ability to destroy ourselves, to turn against one another and serve as an example of a truly advanced life form that cannot contain the evil and destruction that also resides in all of us.
There are two paths, we must at some point turn back and look for the other way, because I am so afraid that we have gotten lost and taken a wrong turn. There cannot be good without evil, there cannot be light without dark – it is all about how we chose to live our lives, the actions and dreams and goals we set forth.
If you are out there and reading this and feel the need to buy a gun or harm an innocent person, if you ever contemplated the idea of getting even with civilization as a whole or just one person in particular who wronged you by making a name for yourself as a serial killer, please stop and go talk to someone. It is not our decision who gets to live or die, this judgement is bigger than any of us, bigger than all of us. Get to the root of your anger and understand that there are other ways to send a message.
Every time our dog Guinness feels like he isn’t getting enough attention he fakes injuries. I know… I know, but hear me out. The first time it happened was when our 18-year-old cat hurt her shoulder and she limped around the house for a few days until we decided to take her to the vet. Not being pleased to travel she spent her time at the vets blinding two assistants and setting fire to the exam room. On the way home she peed on me and ripped the shirt I was wearing entirely in two – I decided that she must be feeling better. When we got home from the cat vet Guinness (unaware of the anxiety riddled visit) started limping… and I could just see the little wheels in his doggie brain spinning:
“Wow, Ruka gets an awful lot of attention when she’s hurt, she even gets to ride in the car!”
He limped for a day or two and then we made him an appointment as well, in his excitement to get to go for a car ride he forgot he was supposed to be limping and bounded into the back seat, ran into the vets office and after a thorough check up was pronounced completely healthy.
Last night while Jason was packing to leave on his trip Guinness started limping again, looking dejected and following him around the house…
“ouch my paw… you can’t go anywhere it hurts so bad”
We examined his paw and there was nothing wrong with it. And then as soon as Jason was out the door this morning he looked at me, as if resigned, and started walking normally again.
Any of you who have ever met Guinness and knows he really is just a pretty face are probably stunned by his cunning, I know I am.
Call it anthropomorphizing if you want but I think some day we might all being praying to his statue.