I have a friend; I'll call the friend "Bob," but I'm not going to reveal anything about Bob to you here, not even his/her real gender. I'll use "he" as a pseudonymous pronoun.
Bob is an adult. Old enough to have gray hair. Old enough to remember the Kennedy Assassination. Old enough to know better.
Bob's parent is still living. This parent is old enough to remember horse-drawn carriages, outhouses, to have lived in a world where there had not yet been a world war of any enumeration.
Bob helps financially. Bob does household repairs and helps with medical needs.
Every time Bob sees his parent, Bob cries. Real, pendulous, fluid, tears.
"You are garbage. You are a liar. You are worthless. You have done nothing but let me down. You have accomplished nothing. You never will accomplish anything. You are doomed. Your life is crap": Imagine hearing all that from a parent who has been saying all that for over half a century, who will never stop, who will never see any worth in you, and who will be dead sooner rather than later.
That's what it is like for Bob.
He won't stop helping this parent, ever.
I was an abused kid. I mention it a lot but I don't often go into details. Anything I've said about the topic in public, civilian settings (outside of Twelve Step meetings shared with other formerly abused kids) is a tip of the iceberg.
There is so much no one will ever hear.
After today, if anyone reads this blog post, there is one thing readers will know.
I loved my dad. I was and am very proud of his service during World War II. He saw combat in the Philippines and New Guinea. American GIs like him saved the world.
My dad was very handsome. He had pitch black hair. To this day I find blonds just about asexual. Shiny black hair against pearly pale skin is my undoing.
My dad was a working man and he never got fat. He was active till the end.
My dad was very dutiful about the things he was dutiful about.
When it snowed, my dad shoveled, early and often. He was a thousand percent reliable in a snowstorm. He was a demon shoveler.
He never used any equipment other than a snow shovel and his own muscles.
Daddy would shovel not just the front walk and the driveways. He would shovel any potential pathway we might take. I used to put out food for birds. Daddy would make sure a path was clear for me to do that. Our yard ended up looking like a snow maze.
I never touched a snow shovel. It was never suggested to me that I should do so. Shoveling snow was Daddy's job. I kept the kitchen full of homemade cookies. He liked them, and said so.
I left home. People I am related to did not show much of any interest in keeping in touch with me via telephone or print media. Years of silence.
My natal home is near New York City. New York is covered in international news. I could be living in a tiny, medieval hamlet high in the Himalaya. I could be living in sweltering jungle in Africa. I could be in a café discussing leftist politics in Berkeley, California. When a snowstorm hit the New York City area, it made the news that made its way to me.
In fact I just now received an email from Liron, living in Israel. She is watching coverage of the snowstorm hitting the New York City area today, Thursday, February 13, 2014. She is worried about me. Come to Israel, she says; life in Israel presents some potential hazards, she admits, but we don't have snowstorms like that!
Anyway … back to Africa, or Nepal, or Berkeley, or Indiana.
I could be hundreds or thousands of miles away from New Jersey, and news of the latest severe snowstorm to hit the NYC area would reach me.
And I would instantaneously return. I would smell it, first. That unique smell of a kitchen with laundry hanging on the line above the dinner table. That unique scent of snow drying off of cotton and wool clothing suspended in a small, densely populated room. That unique winter scent combined with a bit of tangy cabbage and lusty, salty, fatty ham. Some potatoes, always. I would hear the banging of snow-encrusted shoes against a welcome mat and a shovel scrapping across a gravel sidewalk. I would feel the artificially heated air, hear the baseboard heaters kicking on. And I would look out the window and see Daddy shoveling snow.
Now, an adult myself, hundreds or thousands of miles away, I would feel a new thing – one of those feelings that informs you that you are no longer a child, but are an adult, now. One of those feelings that hits you so hard with time that you suddenly realize that ten percent of all life at all times – at least ten percent of all love, of each sex act, of every birthday party, christening or wedding, ten percent of every pop song, ten percent of every cupcake – whether we are conscious of it or not, is utter terror, despair, and the unknown. "I am worried about Daddy."
I am worried about Daddy. I want to protect him from time. I want to go out there and take the shovel from his hands and take on this snow myself. He's so dutiful. He's always the first on the block to start shoveling. His sense of duty will not allow him to realize he is aging and this snow is a big snow, quite dangerous. The weatherman keeps issuing warnings. "Lift with your leg not with your back. Stop if you get winded." Daddy will pretend it's foreign talk and that he is a simple peasant who does not understand, to whom these rules of torque and spines and weight and time do not apply. Of course he understands. English has been his primary language since he was eleven years old and they killed his father.
And then I'd remember. I'm hundreds or thousands of miles away. By the time I got there, the snow will all have melted. And they don't want me there, anyway.
How could anyone who didn't live through my childhood understand.
I think of this every time it snows. Every time. Every last damn fucking time it snows I think of this. And I cry.
Love you Daddy.
|Father and Son Shoveling Snow. Wyeth|