These were originally chatty emails sent to family and friends but I wanted to gather them together to not forget the stories. My reconstruction of the order is less than perfect so there’s at least a little back and forth. His (very good) mom is invisible in these simply to protect her privacy. I’ll add more as I find them.
(rediscovered Cribsheet from age two – so out of sync)
Well, It’s Fall and the days have been beautiful cool jewels but they are growing foggy and soggy.
Isaac is a little sick today with a very minor temperature and he is droopy and sleepy as a result. I’m going to take advantage of nap time to say to you all and tell a couple of fresh stories.
It’s Thomas the – Goddamn -Tank Engine all day and night.
- That cheeky little engine and his minions have filled the house – and turned it into a rat’s nest of track and little grumpy trains. The Thomas stories are a little weird because they are full of grumbling and selfishness and frowny faces. There is one basic story line in Thomas series – they fall off the track or bump into something and there are dozens of these stories. As Isaac plays with the trains (He has two states of being right now, asleep or playing with the trains.) it becomes more and more about incredible disasters and pile ups.
- He comes and takes us by the hand and showing us the carnage says: “Are they OK? Are they OK?”
- Actually, I think I’m starting to understand Thomas better for a two year old – It’s full of adventures that go wrong and then “getting back on track”. It’s what he goes through all day.
- He isn’t two – he’s Very two. He’s violent and angry and tender and cuddly and that’s during a random 15 second period.
- He loves music and we play it a lot and sing a lot – he can sing all of the ABC’s and twinkle twinkle little star and Itsy bitsy spider – and lots of bits of other songs – I find it wonderful to hear him. I like a rather strange band called “They Might Be Giants” and frequently play a song called “Dr. Worm” and now I can occasionally hear Isaac singing quietly to himself: “They call me Doctor Worm, I’m not a real Doctor but I am a real worm, I am an actual worm…”
- I bought him a harmonica a while ago and we now and then do what I call the Strange Hillbilly Dance: He has me play what passes for a song on the harmonica while he does this weird little jerky dance. When I finish he says: “Yay!” and we return to whatever was happening before. For some reason we have to do it in the kitchen.
- Peanut of mystery: You know we look under rocks to find interesting bugs. Well I lifted up a big rock on our regular rounds and we found a fully intact peanut under there (where there had been no peanut before). Logic suggests it must be a squirrel who did it but this is a big, heavy rock half covered with earth. It would require 7 or 8 squirrels working as a team with a block and tackle to place that peanut under that rock and replace the soil around it. Or else a single seventy five pound squirrel lifted out the rock and daintily placed a peanut there before cleaning up and moving on. Either way I am disturbed.
- Isaac Ball: Some of you may remember Calvin ball from the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes – kinda similar. When Isaac and his Mom went visit Isaac’s Aunt, Uncle and cousins. They introduced him to baseball which apparently Sam is really into and quite good at. At bat though, Isaac insisted on holding the bat by the fat end and tapping at the ball (on its T-ball perch) pool cue style.
- When they returned his Mom and I thought we better try to introduce him to sports a little more and bought some little guy baseball stuff. It’s a complete failure – the idea of rules everybody has to follow is clear to him it’s just that it means the rules as he see it – right now and subject to change when he sees it differently.
- I took him out in the backyard and set up bases and a batting post and Isaac tipped the ball of it’s perch with the skinny end of the bat – ran in a wacky ricochet pattern around the yard and back to where he started and shouted happily to me (as God is my witness)
- “Isaac a team player!” Which I’m thinking an amused relative might have told him back in Pittsburgh. All of our best to all of you,
Sooner next time,
So Mama & Papa are falling in love with baby all over again. We’re in the grip and we got it bad. Except for short excursions into raw and nasty toddler moods he’s just a tender, shining little person. We walk beside him trying to hold our guts in place.
Right now M is lying on the couch reading with Isaac completely zonked out across her, his head on her shoulder. It’s a strange communion when he sleeps on you, it’s like getting vitamins and warmth from sunshine after a long winter.
He is leaving certain baby words behind, Buttnee becomes button & Mimi becomes mouse and we are both impressed and suddenly wistful as another cute little stage waves goodbye in the rearview mirror dwindling out of sight. He’s undergone a growth spurt which makes him look more like a little boy and less like a baby though it’s hard to see what changed.
He is using full sentences at times now and picking up the alphabet and numbers with a particularly keen interest. When he wants to count things he points at them one by one while he says “five – six – five – six”. He loves to learn and it’s fascinating to get to be a teacher to him, watching him construct a universe piece by piece. He takes things in with such interest and attention to detail that I find I have to play the game better myself at times. He observes and talks about tiny details and I find myself looking hard at things he mentions and almost always finding his perceptions accurate. The other day he made a better word choice than I did. I took him out to Magnuson park to watch the kites flying at kite hill. As we were getting ready to go I saw an interesting kite with dozens of little dangly strips of cloth flying behind it and I pointed it out to him. I struggled for a word to describe it and I said “Look, octopus kite.” He looked and said “Jellyfish Kite!” and he was right, that was much closer to it.
The other day we took him out to a public playground in the park and suddenly came face to face with all the dark probing questions that arise from swings and slides and – those – other – kids. He has this odd, cautious quality I’ve mentioned before and to be fair he’s a little under the weather with another cold but at times he plays like a little Swedish philosopher. Swings leave him cold and slides are interesting but as worrisome as being asked to skydive. He walks over rough ground about as well as I roller skate which is to say uncertainly. We put him into this cool boat-like play structure where he carefully sifted and examined the tiny gray pebbles underfoot – moving them from hand to hand, throwing them over the side and dropping them through a little hole in the stern on the “ship”.
Another kid much bigger than Isaac came to play in the boat, spinning the tiller inches from his head. Cautioned by his Grandma to be careful he got mad at Isaac and when he thought nobody was looking he picked up a handful of pebbles and dirt and tossed them at his face. They missed, falling harmlessly but I yelled “Don’t do that!” and watched that kid like a hawk for the rest of our stay. I was thinking of that kid as a little monster when I remembered that Isaac has once or twice whapped a smaller baby at daycare.
I remember someone once said that children before they are socialized are 360 degree personalities radiating everything outward. Naturally and rightly we can’t stay that way. In a social world an adult radiating a 360 degree personality is a hour from prison or an insane asylum. It’s HOW that burning wick gets trimmed that concerns me. Isaac, keep as much of your fire and light and heat as you can while being a nice person, a trustworthy person.
Anyway, that’s the news from Lake Wobegon.
Talk to you soon.
He is vacuuming up information about everything as always, continuing to follow all the threads talked about in earlier crib sheets. He is getting very interested in letters and numbers. He knows many & points them out with excitement. Words become sentences. The first sentence I heard was a few days ago, looking at a picture on the computer screen “That’s a fish.”
He is more strong and agile and if he wants down and out of your arms it’s a little more powerful as an argument than it was. But he seems a little tentative about some physical stuff like walking on rough uneven terrain or getting down off M’s bed by himself. Neither of us knows what to make of it but we are just going to try to help him have more fun with rough-house play without making a thing out of it. He continues to be fascinated by bugs. Yesterday he found a little dead spider on a window sill and cheerily greeted it: “Hi Bug!” and pointed it out to me. I gently blew it away hoping he would think it just decided to leave. But he launched into calling out “Bug? Bug? Bug? Bug?” and after awhile sadly said:”Bye bye Bug.”We were at a coffee shop the next day, me having coffee and him cheerios when he noticed an ant on the floor and got very excited. We had dropped a cheerio (or ten) and the ant was inspecting it. He saw this and picked more cheerios out of the bag and dropped them deliberately around the ant. I’m sorry, coffeeshop employees, but in fairness, ants?
I give him something interesting to hold onto and look at when I’m changing a poopy diaper. I gave him a little shiny red “Hot Wheels” car and he was looking at it and said “Truck” so I said “Car” and he said “truck” so I leaned down at him and said “Car!” and he laughed and said “Truck!” and we went on and on getting more and more amused at our own silliness. When he says “No!” like a mad little toddler I find I can often change the tone just by being amused. Not mocking, just playful. Months ago we were watching an old movie with William Hurt on TV and Isaac looked at him and said “Daddy!” and I thought “Natural Mistake”. A week or two back I didn’t shave for a week and wore my glasses and my black baseball cap a lot. We were in the video store with him in my arms when he pointed at a video and said “Daddy, Daddy” I thought “Which handsome movie star has he mistaken for me this time?” He was pointing at a picture of Michael Moore on the cover of “Bowling for Columbine”. yOw.
He says “Please” but it’s pronounced “Peas” “Pick me up” is “UP-Peas”. He helps to put away toys and books at bedtime. It’s amazing.
I have to say I am proud of my storytelling self. I can extemporize a kid’s story that takes off, goes somewhere cool and lands on time. Some of my favorites: The Sunflower Seed Six about a bunch of jazz playing mice and their adventures.The Poo Poo Pirate Ship about well…um…just imagine. He came up with the name and idea. “The Bloops”, a race of round yellow aliens whose sun burns out so they go to the intergalactic hardware store to get another. These days because he loves 101 Dalmatians so much, he has me tell him stories about the Sunflower Seed Six saving the puppies from Cruella DeVil in a such a variety of places that I am now hard pressed to think of a single new location. We have saved puppies in the mountains, under the sea, in the desert, in deep underground bunkers, even on the moon! I’m sparing you the 15 or so others.Once in awhile when I’m telling stories I am so tired that I just start to drift off. What’s bizarre is that I continue to talk. The narrative thread gets a little shaky at these times however. Isaac will say “What?!” or I’ll sort of snap to attention and realize I’m doing the storytelling equivalent of driving off the road. It’s really weird.
Isaac is almost 5. It’s amazing. He was a baby just a minute ago. You’ve heard everyone else say such things, now it’s my turn. He is sort of tall and thin. His attitude is grumpy and sweet and playful and manipulative. I cannot believe the guilt inducing things he pulls on me at times. The other day he whacked me with a sword (small, plastic) and I read him the riot act about doing such things. He sobbed: “I thought my Daddy LOVED ME!”. I have never in my life voiced anything like this to him and I doubt his Mom has either (though I snarkily think it sounds more like her) . I think he came up with this entirely on his own. More and more I think people just are what they are from the very beginning and our stories about how “This happened and it changed me” are just fancy ways of rationalizing our peculiar and frustrating natures. He is sort of too clever in some ways. He forgets nothing, asks test questions to check my memory – makes up alternate words and answers with them waiting for me to translate. we read chapter books at bedtime and he loves them and lives very deeply in stories. 101 Dalmatians is a very big story for him. He is still challenged by large motor skill stuff (from his preemie days) and I can see him working these limits into how he does things and how he defines himself. I am doing what I can but I don’t know how much I can do. I get him out kicking the soccer ball – climbing hills – wrestling. He was sort of delicate about anything happening to him – one of those kids who says “ow” more often than they really should. I bought us some of those big foam “Noodles” the swimming flotation toys – and we whack each other over the head with them all time, we joust and quarterstaff with them and I am proud to say that my son can now be whacked in the head without becoming whiny and upset.
Well anyway, I just wanted to reach out to those of you I care about and hardly ever talk to, just to catch up a little. I guess I’ll finish with a lovely thing that happened with Isaac a couple of weeks ago. We had had a great day together and I told him that his Mom was coming to get him in a couple of hours. He said “Can I keep this day?” I said “I guess you can keep any day that you remember.”He said, “I keep all my days with you.”
Talk to you soon,Hugh
He’s 4 and a half and he’s like an optical illusion that changes with the angle of view. He’s still just such a little boy and yet he’s way way way past toddler. He’s thin with little baby fat in his face. He’s still small and so innocent and crazy scared of little things but he’s determined to be tough and the urge to fight is strong in him.
The other night, playing with cars and tinker toys we built (following his instructions all the way) the… car wash of pain! It had features to spray the cars with cold water, beat them, smush them and chase after them to bring them back when they ran off.
He really has an intense and strong personality and he is far from a pushover. He’s like a cat you love. You say “You’re such a good cat” but you are under no illusion that the cat is “good” (ie: thoughtful, kind or ethical) merely that he’s his own perfect thing and he’s cuddly. What a good Isaac! He tells me he’s bigger and tougher and stronger than me. We rough-house and I toss him around and flip him and spin him, we wrestle and I let him win by dancing on my belly. The poet Robert Haas once wrote of “the poppa body” the Dad who gets climbed on, tread upon, smushed, piled on, etc. It’s delightful to be and I will miss it when It’s not my role anymore.
For some reason, either my influence or just inborn, he has a powerful drive to be funny. About half the time this works and about half the time it’s anywhere from neutral to awful. The best funny stuff he does is out of a clear blue sky.
I brought him in from the car one day and went back to unload some more things. When I came back in he was holding my telephone up to his ear and talking, saying something like:
“This is Isaac, Is everything ready? OK, thanks, goodbye”.
I said, “What are you doing?”
Isaac: “Making a phone call”
Me: “Who are you calling?”
Isaac: “The officials.”
He’s also got a lovely way of seeing connections and a gift for metaphor. We were putting up glowing stars in his bedroom. He put two stars side by side and he said “This is you and me.” he put one a little off to the side and said “this is Mommy” and put two up above and said, “this is Grandma and Grandpa” he put a few more stars up here and there with names for the people and pets they represented and stood back to look at it and said. “I’m making a star map of my people.”
He also made up a good rhyme about the holidays, it came out so perfectly that I can’t believe it’s really an accidental rhyme.
Isaac Compares the Holidays:
“Halloween is better than Christmas
scary is better than sweet
and it’s also better than Thanksgiving
because on Thanksgiving all you do is eat”
As long as he’s been able to really follow stories I’ve been making them up for him and lately our storytelling is team-based which involves a certain amount of sacrifice of quality control on my part but some of his story ideas are great. Sometimes we cooperate on bedtime stories, both of us wandering forward through unknown territory nudging the other in the direction we want to go. The problem is that when you are a parent you tell the story like an airplane trip. That is, it gets itself organized, lifts off, has some excitement, and comes in for a landing. When Isaac sees a shared story coming in for a landing he grabs the controls and sends it off on another trajectory. “Suddenly they saw a light under another door!” Until at last the Dad packs his parachute and bails out somewhere over Omaha.
Boy is busy trying to catch up on the physical side.
Lately he’s been getting a wind in his sails and wanting to move more like a normal kid. I know that sounds terrible, like I don’t think he’s a normal kid but the fact is, he’s got his issues and they all go back to being a preemie. He is what the docs call “Low tone” or hypotonic which means his muscles are a little weak and it affects his coordination and motor skills. His balance isn’t very good, and he’s always been a strangely careful kid – feeling his way up and down stairs – carefully navigating bumps in the sidewalk I can hardly notice. His run has been an awkward fast walk and he doesn’t like challenges to the status quo – he has never been a kid who liked riding on shoulders or getting tossed in the air, at least not much or for long. He has always (of course) been this way but I didn’t think HE had much noticed it, he seemed so confident about who he was and what he wanted to do. He seemed like the poster child for sensitive-little-verbal-kids-who-just-aren’t-that-into-it. But lately I have this feeling like he’s thinking about and even worrying about it a little. We’ll be doing something together and he’ll say “I’m really strong” or “I’m going really fast!” We feed him images about being a big strong fast boy and believe me we are fairly stealthy about it – just trying drop in a lot of positive stuff about having fun using his body. But it’s dawning on him that he isn’t as easy in his body as kids who are even younger. He’s starting to notice and it bothers him.
He’ll say things like “I love riding my tricycle!” or “I like to go fast on my tricycle” but the fact is, I bought him this stupid little cheap tricycle a long time ago and he was really excited about it and hopped on it and went around the block pedaling (but with me pushing – killing myself bent over pushing this thing and remembering all the way that I didn’t buy the one with the big pushing stick attached to the back) and that was about it. He’s been out on it once or twice since then with really minor results and now almost always turns down any chance to get on it. When he does he just paddles along with his feet on the ground. So today with a whole day together, I was tossing about for something to do – and it’s always too easy to let the kid just hang around the house playing which is what he says he wants to do because to tell you the truth, I kind of feel like hanging around the house playing too. But damn it it’s a beautiful day and how many are left in this season? And for now it’s my job to get him out and moving. So I get this idea – “Let’s go back to Patty’s house and grab your tricycle and we’ll go to the park” and he was for it so we took off.
The park I had in mind is Magnussen, a former Naval base by Lake Washington with a couple of miles of flat walkways and tall poplar trees and abandoned sealed up military buildings and weeds up to your stomach. One of my favorites – I love scrubby old places with ruins, especially if they are down by the water. Now we get to the park and get his tricycle out and put his great silly helmet on and he sits on the trike & bursts into tears and says with this oddly confessional tone as if he was owning up to a crime: “I don’t know how to ride my tricycle! I don’t know how to go fast on my tricycle!”
He wasn’t angry, he was sad. He was acting like he’d let everybody down.
“You can learn, sweetie” I said “nobody knows how to ride till they learn.”
“But I can’t learn!” He wailed with huge tears falling “I can’t learn.”
For a moment I sort of blanched because I was shocked that this playful little guy I know so well had such complicated and dark feelings about anything: “I can’t learn?”
“You can learn” I brilliantly suggested.
“I can’t” he sobbed.
So instantly and intuitively I decided that the best thing I could do would be to lie to my son.
So I picked him up and cuddled him and I said, “Can I tell you a secret? When I was your age I felt exactly the way you do – I didn’t think I could learn to ride my tricycle and I felt terrible but my Mommy and Daddy worked with me and taught me and I learned to ride – it was a lot of work and I had to try really hard but I was so happy when I learned!” Maybe it wasn’t a lie, I have no idea.
Grimly and still crying he accompanied me to a very gentle little hill nearby and I put him on the tricycle and put his feet on the pedals and told him to push and he went downhill suddenly laughing happily – “I DO know how to ride my tricycle!”
Until he got to the bottom where gravity forced him to a stop again and the tears started all over. And this is the kind of moment where you just want to say “The hell with it” and let the kid off the hook – You see two roads – One where you are dragging a miserable kid through some big lesson because it’s “good for him” and another where you shrug off the implications of giving up and just tell him he doesn’t have to do it. And they both sort of suck.
But you DO have to do something.
So I talked him into going back 4 more times – each time at the bottom he was mad and frustrated – each time he was rolling downhill he was pedaling and happy – The last time he hopped off the tricycle happily called out “I’m all done!” and started to run off down the walkway. I shouldered the diaper bag, camera and discarded helmet and and tricycle and set off after him. Watching his little figure prancing along under the blue sky thinking about how he was meeting up with a new kind of problem – a conflict with himself.
The rest of the afternoon was very nice. I caught up with him and we reached a scrubby little apple orchard at the moment that an apple thunked to the ground. He was delighted and we practiced throwing fallen apples and chasing them – then to my surprise he got back on the tricycle again and practiced some more – he was so beat when we were done that he conked out in the car and stayed asleep even as I carried him inside and laid him on the bed.
Hereditary ghosts haunt families: Ghosts of helplessness and limitations, of loneliness and lack. Being blind to this haunted mansion is what gives it unchallenged power over us.
We can become the ghosts of our own lives if we stay trapped here long enough.
So I have a kid running around my ankles looking up to me asking me to tell him this is a nice world – “Tell me the spiders aren’t scary …that they are nice sometimes. Why do cats chase mice – why do dogs chase cats? There was a ghost in that video, what is a ghost? Why don’t the big kids want to play with me?”
My Dad is slowly dying. It’s a degenerative disease and there isn’t anything to be done except to take good care of him and make him comfortable. They say he has 6 months to a year. I know these estimates can be wrong and I also know he is eighty years old and not feeling well.
When I was little, my Dad actually scared me yet I remember adoring him. My love for Dad was always touched by fear. He was huge and powerful and angry a lot but I know there was a period where I was his little guy and he loved me too. I remember him lying in bed and me (as a tiny toddler) pounding on his back, just wailing away like a crazy thing and him laughing like it was charming. I often got a feeling like he loved whatever was indomitable and fierce in me, even when tasked with punishing me. Sometimes my Dad, my brother and I played soccer in Central Park in New York and I would fling myself after the ball like a madman because he laughed with such pleasure at my go for broke intensity.
Then I lost him to fear. He drifted off into a consuming fear of financial failure and for the rest of my childhood, he was the worried drinking man who never had any fun with us. To my detriment, I think I learned that the adult world was a terrible place from my Dad. As a kid, I remember once looking up at the building he was working in and shuddering thinking about what he was living out because he seemed so unhappy. What in the world was he communicating that created this shockingly negative belief in me?
I remember at times trying to stay out of his way because he was a minefield. I remember concocting ten thousand ways to make him laugh because he so badly needed to. I remember his wit flashing like a sword and me trying to stay close but just out of reach. My Mom was such a reasonable and peaceful presence but Dad was a force of nature that you could only warily try to predict. I told him later how intimidating he seemed when I was a kid and he said: “You’ve got to be kidding, I was a pussycat!”
As an adult I came to see his inner pussycat – he really has a very tender and gentle heart but it was masked by stress all those years – things hit him really hard and he gets shaken to his core by worry and it makes him growl and bark. He went through life as if he was always under attack. I love my Dad very much but always with a wistfulness that I couldn’t have had more of him.
I know in his heart he didn’t believe he deserved love and the truest, sweetest love in the world is treated as an enemy invasion by hearts like that. At best, they find love frightening and overwhelming. They feel that their worst failing, the one they’d rather die than own up to, the one they think reveals them as hideous, the one that hurts the most, is about to be uncovered by the person who looks the most like the one they’ve been dreaming of. Your dream come true and your worst nightmare overlap and the nightmare wins. At this moment, shame catalyzes into pride and pride bars the door against risk and intimacy.
My venue for spending time with him as a young teenager was watching tv together in the evening. In his cups, he would tell me little loving things that just sound hilariously awkward and weird: Often he’d repeat that I was a Planned Child, in other words, that they’d made me on purpose. The idea that I was sitting around worrying that I might have been an accident is SO STRANGE…it was an almost unimaginable worry to me, and a freakish thing to raise repeatedly. Unless you understand that the person saying it is trying desperately hard to say something deeply emotional in a way that contains nothing emotional, to scour it of risk. From my current vantage point, I know exactly what he was saying as he sat beside his gentle, goofy son: I love you very much, please never forget that. But he would speak those words to me for the first time, somewhat later, last year when I was 44 years old.
Further into the evening and his cups he would explain that when my brother and I were all grown up he would do himself in – as in “his work would be done and he could go”. I would then (every couple of nights, mind you) gently try to explain to him why he shouldn’t do that. I realized with a start one day in my twenties that his message equaled “If you grow up I’ll die.” and that he had placed me on suicide watch for him at age 13. Alcoholics say incredibly stupid things, this idiocy was our relationship run through the alcoholic distortion filter of self-pity, drama, and hopelessness.
I don’t much blame him now. He was caught in a bad dream and he didn’t know how to climb out – he lived with us like a terrified cat scrambling for safety, he lived in fear. Fear doesn’t so much kill love as weaken and dilute it to the point where it isn’t very tasty or nutritious. Much to his credit, a couple of years later (after a truly dark, dark night of the soul) my father did exorcise his miserable old family ghosts. He turned his life entirely around. He had a rather stunning spiritual awakening and transformed into a better, happier person. I’m so grateful this happened, it was like a miracle, and it gave me a father worth having, which is far better late than never.
My version: Throughout most of my life, I struggled to make grown-up decisions. Meeting with no success at the traditional trials of adulthood, I tried to play an eccentric game nobody else was playing so that the rules and the outcome were up to me: Basically an extension of my childhood of fantasy play so deep that I lived part-time, in another dimension. I tried to dive between the cracks in the world and not get sucked into terminal adulthood and it turns out there is a terrible price to pay for it. It was an attempt to slip past mortality and limitation when the deepest import of life in this strange world is informed by mortality and limitation. I embraced the illusion of freedom that comes with making no ultimate choice. It was like going to the best restaurant in the world and ordering nothing because any choice would limit my options.
If there is a spiritual equivalent for shameful waste in this world I think it is the thing held in reserve, the gift not used, the ingredient we selfishly do not add, the words not said, the warmth not shown: As a person, this is the spiritual virgin who will not be touched by life…and therefore wastes that life. We are spiritual fires and we are here to burn up with loving each other and exploring the depths of the mysterious world till there’s nothing left of us.
I always talked a good game but I had no idea how much love scared me. I was absurdly confident in many ways and wildly naive. Like my Father, I was too scared to get out of my head and approach another with my heart vulnerably exposed. Like my father, I didn’t believe that I deserved love.
It took me forever to realize this. I always knew what an ordinary, flawed person I was inside and how likely to disappoint. Anyone who was losing sleep over me looked like someone who needed cool compresses and sympathy. I felt when they were in love with me that it was a sort of dream and dreams were far too unstable to invest in. I don’t know what I thought the alternative was: A cool-headed love affair? A rational decision to love another person? I could never have done that. I was scared of the prison of the particular. What if this particular relationship isn’t really it? How do you know? How can you ever really know? I should keep my options open…Then when my detachment truly DID disappoint my person, my heart would break at what felt like an incalculable, unbearable loss and I would often explode into a co-dependent pursuit of the same person who I couldn’t be bothered to appreciate properly just days or even hours before. It was a futile merry-go-round of wasted chances. This pattern is useless and self-canceling but when you’re living it, it just seems like the only thing you can do. “How else am I supposed to do this?” There are ways but they are invisible from that perspective. It’s the perspective that must be abandoned.
I never even understood love until Isaac came into my life.
It’s not that loving a child is like romantic love but it is a state of being in love helplessly and truly… and until I felt it, I didn’t understand that loving isn’t at all about things making sense.
It’s about meeting a power greater than your infernal, internal, eternal wobbling and uncertainty. It’s about giving up the distance of uncertainty and surrendering to being a human animal living out the mortal and imperfect life we have received with all the intensity we can bring to it. It isn’t about making sure things are safe or real by scrutinizing and questioning them to uncover the real truth: it’s about accepting Love as truth. It’s about not withholding. There are plenty of times in life when what is offered ISN’T right for us, and love isn’t about accepting those wrong things. It’s about when the right thing is there, recognizing it by its scent (not its appearance or name) and tearing down all the barriers to it inside yourself. Accepting Love turns you into a bear. Not violent, or vicious, just certain the way a bear is certain and determined the way a bear is determined.
When reciprocity is suppressed, gamed or denied in the critical developmental moments of openness between people love’s circuit can’t complete. Joyful partners who thought the magic moment had come at last are stranded earthbound as one or both of them opt out of synthesizing at a higher level in favor of good old power, control or safety. This is choosing a lower good over a higher one. Every love makes these choices, to rise up or fall back whether in friendship, family or romance. Every true love is made of truth, courage, and constancy but every true love remains aloft through faith and joy.
If I could have learned this earlier I would have been a happier person than I mostly have been. I’m incredibly grateful simply to know it NOW and to have this opportunity to experience loving someone this much. From the first minutes with Isaac in the neonatal ward, two months earlier than he was supposed to arrive, I have lived in a new and far better world. This tiny person knocked down the walls of limitation and uncertainty about love that I couldn’t touch simply because he was mine unquestionably and I was his and it absolutely exploded any impulse whatsoever I might ordinarily have sought to maintain a little distance and hold any part of myself aloof. True joy is to occupy your life and choices completely and without reservation. That happened to me the day we met. In one second I clicked into a deeper relationship to life than I had ever known.
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” – Mahatma Gandhi
As a teenager, Isaac will wake up from the dream of perfect Dad and realize what an ordinary person I am, he will realize with horror what a flawed ninny I can be and recoil from knowing that he’s made of the same stupid stuff. But it won’t matter so much because he’ll discover another view of me later on – I’ll just have to live with the exile for a time when it comes. Growing up means forced disenchantment from the beautiful magical exceptionalism of childhood thoughts. But that flat disenchantment is merely another kind of spell and another kind of blindness, mechanically serving the required stages of separating from the bubble of parental love. Someday he will look back and know as a grown-up person that he was loved as much as a child can be loved: That he brought me so much delight and satisfaction, that we exulted in exploring the world together…that simply allowing love to BE is automatic as gravity if you just let it happen. Until he has kids of his own he won’t have a clear idea of how much it meant to me, how wonderfully life-changing it was. He allowed me to own my life as I never had just by being a part of it.
When a profound deepening of your life occurs it will never come from sufficiently thinking it through. A huge boulder deep in your soul shifts and disappears and you feel the difference. This takes work, not time; time is the background music. Time is the subtext of our building story. Time is the illusion of change through worry.
When my Mom was alive, her love for me was like the sun shining on my life & I was so acclimated to it that I didn’t realize until she was gone the extra bit of warmth that had always been there. It clicked off like a light when she died and a cold wind I had never felt before began to blow. What Isaac gave me was the chance as a grown-up to experience that same loving sunshine again by giving it to another.
To live in this world
You must be able
do three things:
To love what is mortal;
to hold it against your bones knowing
your life depends on it;
And, when the time comes to
let it go,
to let go.
from American Primitive
The big negativity shows up at times now, mostly when he’s tired or hungry and manifests as a kind of furious contrariness. A desperate need for mutual exclusives.
“Up Up Up “ till he’s up…then ”Down! Down! Down!”
He’s still his sweet self a lot of the time. But at times he seems like the biggest victim of his own mood (I guess that’s true for all of us really). Toddler moods look like a nightmare where you lack the skills to comfort yourself and cool down from any little thing. He looks like he is infused with more power then he knows how to handle and just rattles with the stress of it. He’s in a growth spurt and gobbling up knowledge like mad and it demands a lot of him. At times he is provoking but we do our best to keep cool and steady. There are advantages to being somewhat geezerly.
The physical caution I talked about before is still there but he’s having more fun scampering around. We go out in the back yard and I blow bubbles and goes after them and pops them. He runs and dances and talks about it. “Running!” “Dancing!”
He sings “shake your booty’. Only that line thankfully. No, I can’t imagine where he learned that.
He is SO verbal! He surprises us with something he says almost everyday.
We were in the backyard yesterday and he pointed to a patch of moss and said:
At daycare he started calling people by each others names then laughed and said: “Joke!”
Another day he turned a book upside down and pretended to read it, then he put it down and said “Isaac funny!”
I’ve had what I guess must be a sinus infection for the last two months – this is like being on day six of a cold for eight weeks. One of his phrases is “Daddy coughing”. Great. My Doctor said “The only people who get it worse than day care parents are teachers”.