Friday, March 11, 2011
If Revenge is a Dish That is Best Served Cold, Then How Do You Prepare Guilt?
The G-Word has been on my mind for a very long time.
And not just on mine it seems. It has been on the minds of many of the people that are in The Club. That's what I have decided to call it. Too bad if anybody doesn't automatically know what it is. That's up to them to figure it out for themselves by reading and research.
Nyah freakin' NYAH.
The Club is the name from now on. Period. The name, from my perspective, of the lot of all of us parents, who are forever changed by the shitstorms that have besieged our precious children.
And they are many.
And they are diverse.
And if there is one commonality I am seeing lately, in reading people's blogs, in reading people's e-mails to me, in listening to the words of people who happen to be speaking to me about the subject, there is one thing we all share a level of, or it least from the cheap seats it sure feels that way to me.
We all have closets FULL of Guilt.
I didn't use to capitalize that word.
I do now. I don't know why. I guess it has such a hold on me these days, such a power, it has earned the right to be a word with a capital letter at the front of it. Congratulations Guilt, you fucking turd, how's it feel to finally get the respect you so unrightfully don't deserve? Asshole.
What is ironic about Guilt is that I denied to others and to myself that it really had me by the hairies for a very long time. Which is strange in and of itself because I usually am not all that ashamed to admit what a weak human being I have been in the past two years.
But NOOOOOOOOOOO...I just wouldn't cave and come right out and say that Guilt had me beat. Wait...did I just use the word 'hairies'? Good God, have I totally lost any little bit of decency I had left, if I had any left at all?. Fantastic...now, not only have I gotten my ass kicked by my emotions to where I don't know if I'm coming or going, but my slang is so out of control I might as well just change the name of the blog to 'Fucky Fuckerton'.
Man...I've got some anger this week, huh?
Yeah. I really do.
It's easy to do, as I've seen people I've grown to care about suffer setback after setback, not to mention we've got our own fair share of problems that keep stacking up. It feels like it is never going to end. I try...I really do try, to find some positives and focus on them.
But sometimes it's like trying to hold on to an electric eel.
I'm betting that ain't easy either. It's slippery as all get out and it's wet to boot. Then of course, it's writhing around like crazy, cause it doesn't WANT to be out in this nice, sweet smelling O2, it wants to be back in the water. And just like a seizure, it also lets you have a funky electrical JOLT to your digits as a little reminder of that fact.
So what do you think you do?
Yeah...you drop that sucker unless you are made of some pretty astounding stuff.
Me? Not so much.
I've alluded to a Day of Epiphany I had some few weeks back, a day that I realized just how heavy my Guilt was, and just how much weight it was adding to my already increasing bulk. I think I'm ready to talk about it.
Yes kids, it's Story Time with your Uncle Ken again. So grab your slippers and your favorite Pillow Pet and gather round, and bring some snacks because Uncle Ken may be a nice guy but he's WAY too broke to feed you all and you know how he likes to go ON and ON and ON with this crazy shit once he gets going...
There now...all settled in? That's better.
Anyway...I believe it was on a Thursday, on Christmas Eve Day.
I'm in the Dungeon (that's what I call the basement) working. Wrapping up some stuff to go out before the holidays for shipment. In lieu of listening to Stern all week, which was The History of Howard Stern Act IV, something I was just not into this year, I was going the music route.
I have LOTS of it. I can't fit all of it on my iPod, which really pisses me off. I hate that you cannot add memory to an iPod, that's ridiculous. It's one of the few things about Apple that I just hate. And I am a huge Apple supporter. Hell I used to only use a Mac. The only reason I don't now is I can't afford one.
And you gotta give them props...their Christmas ad they sent around? AWESOME design. Truly. I even saved it I was so impressed.
I have my iPod hooked up in the dungeon to a Bose iPod Dock. You wanna talk about good sound? Awesome. It is just extraordinary. It was a Christmas gift from last year that I should NEVER have received. Last year, on December 22nd, I got laid off from my job. Jen and I decided to return all of the gifts we had bought for each other to try and save money.
That was the only one we could not return. Now, we MIGHT have been able to had we put up a stink. But Jen insisted that we didn't. I'm glad she did. I LOVE THAT THING. The sound is amazing.
Now, I have a very peculiar relationship with music. It does weird shit to me, which is why I usually DON'T listen to it. When I say weird I mean I really tend to get into it.
It moves me.
I get involved.
It started YEARS ago, when I used to use music as a sort of Psychic Shield.
Especially, and yes, if you really need to you are allowed to laugh at me, Star Wars.
When I would be in my room trying to stay away from my Step-Father and under his radar so that I might make it through the day without any unnecessary 'unpleasantries', I would have headphones on listening to the Star Wars Original Soundtrack by John Williams on vinyl, transporting myself back to Tatooine or the Death Star, anywhere but my home, and I developed a relationship with music as a sort of makeshift teleportation device, a way of getting both inside and outside myself.
My rapport with music was so strong I started playing an instrument not long after Star Wars came out. I played several woodwind instruments for years. Clarinet, Bass Clarinet (which was my favorite though I played it very little), Oboe and a Tenor Saxophone.
I gave them up to pursue art more aggressively later on. (Between you, me and the wallpaper? I always wish I had stayed involved with playing music. It is one of my single greatest regrets in life. I was always first or second chair, I played my guts out, I loved it and I got a lot out of it. Art is so...solitary. Gee...I wonder why I started to move more toward that and away from Team Geek Sports?)
I know that this might make very little sense to you, but it does to me. Listening to music helps me think and NOT think, all at the same time. It helps me reach places in my head that are peaceful but it also relaxes my brain to a level that allows me access to areas that are too dark for me to enter when my conscious mind is actively blocking me from going anywhere near them.
As has been my habit of late, I was listening to a compilation of music, what they call in iTunes a 'Playlist', aptly named 'Moody Shit', that starts with a haunting selection from Dead Can Dance called The Host of Seraphim, peppers in some heart-breaking stuff for me from Field of Dreams, some inspirational stuff from LOST, some noble music from Saving Private Ryan, and it is also VERY heavy with some selections from The Green Mile, and by that I mean the score by Thomas Newman, not some of the period songs from the movie, though 'Cheek to Cheek', sung by Fred Astaire, does end up being included because of its pivotal role in the film.
As I was wrapping some rather brutal boxes, three 24 x 24 x 12's that had some mammoth statues in it, all requiring double ply cardboard for shipment overseas (that I had to special order), that mindset began to take over since the task at hand did not require as much thinking as it did doing. Like wrapping an intense overseas shipment, art for me is sometimes like that. Once the initial creation and inspiration get worked out, and the technique part starts, I can lose myself.
Actually, the two (art/music) often go hand in hand. Talk Radio is ONLY on when I am doing the initial designs and layouts. I can half listen to it. I can only have music on AFTER the hard part is complete. In those initial stages I need mostly silence or talk, with long pauses and long breaks to think and stretch. Later on, with music often playing in the background, my hand scribbles away at whatever is on the page. Or wall. Or canvas.
As I was sweating over some packing peanuts and cardboard, getting this shipment just right for a very important buyer, I began to think a lot about The Green Mile, since the music was on in this compilation. And not so much about the film itself at first, but rather my obsession with it over the past 15 months.
I have watched it, I shit you not, probably once a month in that time. Sometimes more. And I listen to the music extremely often. It is, without question, the most listened to music on my iPod.
I began to, on a semi-conscious level, consider the reason why, something I had only barely brushed the surface of previously, but for some reason during this particular series of moments I was no longer protected from allowing them to be fully explored.
And totally unexpectedly, that day of all days, I was at a point of extreme, higher than average vulnerability. I don't know why for sure. Exhaustion certainly, as I had been getting at most 5 hours of non-quality sleep a night. Feelings of pressure, feelings of doubt, of fear are at the forefront of every conscious hour. A profound sense of sadness over many things, not the least of which was Bennett.
Feeling like a failure for not having a clear path for my career after a full year has past since being laid off last year on December 22nd, feeling like less of a man even though through perseverance, dedication and lot of luck I still made a very decent living in 2010. And certainly I've been feeling very distant and disconnected from family and friends.
I missed my mother, more now than I have in my entire life. So much it hurt to even think about her. I missed my friends, both those still in this world and those who had recently left it behind. SO much so that I actually sent as many of them gifts that I could afford, and the ones that I couldn't? I wrote their names down for special things to do on their behalf in 2011.
As I was leaning over this giant cardboard box, I noticed that the ceiling was leaking water directly over the top of it. And it was a serious leak. Not a drip, drip, drip, but almost rain-like in the frequency of the droplets of water. Pop. Pop-pop-pop. Pop-pop. Pop. Pop-pop.
I looked up to see where in the hell this new problem could possible be coming from, probably one of the pipes needed some Magic Duct Tape. But then I felt the warm wetness that then cascaded from within the wells of my eyes all around the upturned areas of my rounded face. Like a bursting fireworks of water, originating from my tear ducts.
I was crying? Again?
What the hell for?
I slumped over against some boxes, wiping my face, taking off my glasses, wondering where this was coming from. The music on the iPod was from from The Green Mile, specifically called Coffey on the Mile, music which was played when Paul Edgecomb, the part played by Tom Hanks, executes John Coffey in the electric chair (Old Sparky) for the murder of two little girls. A murder that John Coffey did not commit.
After that music ends, the queues seque back to the present (the film is told in flashback) to the older Paul Edgecomb, who is telling the story of this man, John Coffey, who had a special gift of healing the sick, or injured, even the dying, but because he was an uneducated, very simple-minded Negro man in the Great Depression, and because he was found with two little dead girls in his arms (whom he had actually been trying heal when he found them after they had been raped and stabbed to death) was tried for double murder and sentenced to die.
When Paul encounters John, he is already on Death Row, which is often called The Last Mile. On E-Block in the Penitentiary where Paul worked, their floor was lime green, so they called theirs The Green Mile. After Paul discovers John Coffey's miraculous gifts, and after John even removes the brain tumor (the size of a lemon) from the wife of the prison's warden with his 'powers', Paul finds himself at a crossroads in his life, because for the first time ever he fears for the survival of his immortal soul.
He wonders how God will judge him for allowing one of his miracles to die. He feels he has to do something. His wife, played with elegance and grace by Bonnie Hunt, has the warmest advice, the kind only a wife can give. She tells Paul to find out what John Coffey wants.
Coffey tells Paul that this is what he wants. See, John is so connected in with other humans, what they feel, how they feel it, and we are so inherently bad and thoughtless and brutal, he describes it as feeling like pieces of glass sticking into his eyes all the time. John Coffey WANTS to die, to be free and then he tells Paul that if God asks him why he allowed it he should tell God it was because John asked him to.
The execution proceeds. It is a profoundly sad moment in the film as you begin to realize what the world has lost. There is metaphor there certainly, and so much more.
Back in the present, Paul Edgecomb completes his re-telling of the story and explains that he is now 108 and still in excellent health. This is apparently a side effect of John giving a 'part of himself' to Paul when John healed Paul's bladder infection earlier in the story. Mr. Jingles, a fellow inmates mouse, whom John resurrected from death, is also still alive — but Paul believes his outliving all of his relatives and friends to be a punishment from God for having John executed.
Paul explains he has deep thoughts about how 'we each owe a death; there are no exceptions; but, Oh God, sometimes the Green Mile seems so long.' Paul is left wondering, if Mr. Jingles has remained alive for all of this time being but a mouse, how long will it be before his own death?
As I sat there in the basement, thinking about the story, I had those Epiphanies about many things, and understood why in many ways I was so connected to the story of The Green Mile for this long. Looking at it now, it seems so obvious I don't know why I had not connected the dots any sooner. But that's the thing about emotions...they cloud your ability to think rationally, logically.
I have carried this tremendous Guilt with me, for so long, over what has happened to Bennett because, even though I question my Faith in so many ways, I have felt partially responsible for destroying, by my lack of quickness, my lack of decisive action, one of God's miracles.
In many ways, to see a child grow and develop, while maybe not directly controlled or even directed by God, can truly be described as miraculous to bear witness to and to be a part of. Any parent can tell you this. My friend Richard, a.k.a Dora's Daddy and the author of Daddyspeak, uses the phrase all of the time. Back when I was a card-carrying Catholic, I'd have used the term myself.
There is a beauty to it. A grace to it, whether you believe in a supreme being or not.
It is the most humbling, most life-altering event in your entire life.
It's power over you is immeasurable. The connection you share with your offspring is like nothing you will EVER know in your lifetime, and only those that have one can understand what that means.
And only a person who has one that suffers can understand how hard it is to endure.
And for me, because of the fact that I took way too long to act on many things involving Bennett's Infantile Spasms, I had been feeling, rightly or wrongly, that I had helped destroy that miracle by adding to the burden of the delays and problems he faces today and the problems he will be facing for the rest of his life.
Now a lot of people would argue I did all I could. A lot of people would argue that I acted to the best of my ability with the limited knowledge I had at the time. Some of that is true. Some of it isn't. Some would argue that even the parts that aren't true are not worth dwelling on. For Bennett's sake, and for the sake of my future mental health and the sake of my entire family unit, they'd have a good point.
I'm not questioning that. And there are times I might agree.
I'm talking about trying to figure out why I was obsessed with this film, and why I felt this burden sometimes that I could not put my finger on. As Bennett's father, I failed him in a lot of ways, and I live with the Guilt of not listening as strongly to the voices in my head that expressed counterpoint during the early stages of his treatment.
Hell...even at the FIRST sign of trouble, WAY back in February of 2009, I could have acted faster. I justified it by saying he was my second kid.
Maybe that's acceptable. Maybe it isn't. I don't know.
But some fathers would have had their child in the ER that first night of that very first twitch. That can't be argued. We did eventually make an appointment with his Pediatrician and went the route we did. And it is true...we didn't have a clue what Infantile Spasms was and even when we did? It hardly seemed REAL.
When we got shuffled around at the local hospital here, and got less then speedy service from them, we were patient. We didn't make a stink. I figured...well, the doctor's were not worried, why should I be? Their apparent lack of concern and need for speed made me think 'Oh...OK, so then there is plenty of time to work all this stuff out, I don't need to move like The Flash and get this thing fixed as fast as lightning'. Though that voice in my head, and even the voice on these pages, was often in conflict with that notion, I suppressed it.
I was so...SO...wrong.
So why tell this story? Why now? I don't know. Not like getting it 'off my chest' changes anything. Bennett will always be Bennett. I will always love him. He'll always be my son, nothing will change that. And yeah, there are times I have to go someplace quiet and hide and bang out a good cry when I see how far behind he is and those feelings of Guilt get to be too much for me to handle.
Are they wrong to have? There is no right and wrong in this, kids. There are just feelings and emotions, good days and bad days, ups and downs, battles to be fought and won and fought and lost, don't be fooled.
There are days the Guilt does NOT wash over me. Days where I do NOT feel like the King Shit of Turd Island. In fact, you might be surprised to know there are some damn GOOD days every once in a while. Then on other days? I feel like I want to stop the Earth and jump off.
That's just Life in The Club.
I suppose I'll get used to it.
Something nutty? Even as I was writing this I stopped to take a breather and read a couple of blogs. What was the subject of one of them? Guilt. Go figure.