Monthly Archives: July 2011

A BRUSH WITH CONTENTMENT

A few months ago, before he died, my father read my novel, “The Space He Filled”.  He was ninety-four years old, but his mind was still sharp and he positively loved the book.  He talked about it with me at great length, discussing nuances and story, characters and just how and why some of it might have come from my life while other aspects clearly had their roots in my imagination.  He was forever a curious, interested man who loved to question, to learn, to explore territories of thought and knowledge that were new to him.  The experience of being able to discuss the book with him — and it wasn’t lost on a paranoid writer-son that it might be the last book of mine I’d be able to discuss with him — was without question the closest I have ever come to true contentment as a writer, a person, a son, a father, you name it.  I can honestly say that at no point is a child more proud, at no time does one’s chest inflate in quite the same kind of thrill and excitement as when your parent, in this case my father, really and truly gets who you are in the very best sense.  It’s an affirmation on a par with the major head-rushes of life.  I felt a similar thrill when we brought our children home for the first time from the hospital.  A connection, from either end of the parent-child conduit, of great purity and moment.  Now I know it might seem that I’m overstating this moment of affirmation from my dad, but consider that I am a person who doesn’t merely write for a living or a profession.  No, a writer is largely how I self-identifty, right along with husband, father, son.  It’s not what I am, it’s who I am.  So to have one more significant connection with my father on my terms, if you will, my turf — well, it was a quiet kind of bliss, and I savored it to the core of my being.

It wasn’t all that long after this extremely rewarding experience that my father began to decline.  But even as he did, he always wanted to know how the book adventure was going.  He was fascinated with ebooks, the new literary vehicle, and had a Kindle before I did.  The more we went to doctors, the more evidence piled up that his life would not — could not — go on much longer, the more I saw it pushing down upon him, until I realized that I was even luckier than I thought to have had him read the book when he did.  Because soon enough, he couldn’t have.  Wouldn’t have possessed the energy, the staying power to get through a book.  So amid the mounting sense of loss and the gradual understanding that a life well lived was winding to its conclusion, I felt thankful that we’d been able to share that one last meeting of the minds.  The fact that “The Space He Filled” was about a father and son, and the sense of loss that came from their separation — though on vastly different, and fictional terms — only made it seem all the sweeter as I looked back.  We had talked about fathers, sons, the bond between them and the importance of understanding each other.  About how vital such a link was to both parties.  And now that he is gone, how vital that link still is.

No matter how many ways I thought I understood the title of my book, no matter how many intentional turns of meaning I found as I mulled it over, my father still taught me one last surprising interpretation.  I think some part of me, perhaps buried deep in the psyche, wrestled with the book’s theme because I knew what was coming in my own life.  Funny how these things spill out of the subconscious, how they come back to haunt you with their poignancy later on… when they make you realize just how profound, how deep, and how impossible to replace The Space He Filled really was.

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50-50: Everybody Loses

Saw another poll or something this week that pointed out how America is divided almost evenly on just about every key issue (although the tea baggers are doing their best to drive more people away from the GOP).  How did this happen?  How is it that I could be living in the same country as someone who hates gays, hates black people, hates anybody who isn’t exactly like them?  Haven’t we all been subjected to ROUGHLY the same set of facts, information, and whatever else you get in school and just walking around on the streets of Anytown, USA?  (Right, I know, I’m dreaming.) Have they never heard of “the melting pot” theory of why America is different from the inbred, scared and hateful postures other countries have traditionally taken?  The fact that there are differences is a strength.  It’s even embodied, for Christ’s sake, in our president.  He’s both black and white!  What could epitomize this country more perfectly?  And somebody should warn all those people all over the world who, despite the damage done by eight years of Dick Cheney playing puppet master, still want to come HERE, not someplace else.  They might be in for a disappointment when they realize how many hunkered-down, scared little ostriches we’ve got here.  But on the other hand, there’s the other fifty percent — I like to think of it as the “Me Fifty” — which, although it’s basically more timid, more hesitant to step forward and raise hell, is still half the country.  And why is the 50-50 split seemingly worse today than it has been in the past? Well, it’s just my opinion, but I think the Dark Forces (and I don’t mean the folks who are comfortable with black people) are far more charged up and filled with zealous tunnel vision than they were in the past. They seem to think they’re God’s legion, and those of us who are still dumb enough to be Democrats (as in “the Democrat party”, rather than the Democratic party, which is what it’s actually called) or doubters are clearly Satanic or just dupes in the horned one’s evil machinations.  Give me a break.  As much as anything, I think it boils down to religious zealotry.  Let me be clear — I have no problem with religion.  I don’t partake, but I have no problem.  Except that it tends to put blinders on the bearer.  It tends to foster the idea that YOU, not they, will go to Hell if you don’t think like they do — about ANYTHING, not just God.  They blur the lines between God and individual freedoms and rights, so that they only like the individual right they seem to think they have to tell the rest of us how unamerican we are.  And they really believe it, for the most part. If you’re not following the dictums of the God-Right, you’re unpatriotic.  Well, bushwah.  I say it’s time for a little back-stiffening among the liberal half of our nation (or more liberal than the other half, at least), and that we should be just as aggressive as the God Right about the Great Arguments of our time.  Enough of feeling like the ceiling’s about to fall in and we’ll lose everything we’ve gained.  That would come under the heading of “self fulfilling attitude” in my book.  And look at it this way.  We only have to sway half the country in order to have everybody on the same page!  That’s not nearly as daunting as, say, seventy-five percent, right?  So this is a winnable argument!  It’s just a matter of expending thew energy.  Putting forth the effort and persuading the Dim.  But not right now… I’ve got to go get some lunch, and then there are the phone calls I need to return, the car that needs washing, trash needing to be taken out… jeez, what made me think I had time for this blog?  I guess we’ll have to let the Dim remain dim, and hope they can’t find their guns in the dark.


The Obstacles To Writing

As I dive into the blogging discipline (and this time I swear I’m going to stick to it) it’s a good idea to consider the many things that will instantly, with the zeal of white blood cells rushing to crush a newly invading bacterial infection, hit me with a fog of distracting, demoralizing, sticky complications that prevent me from doing what I want to do most — which is write.  First, my family.  They love me, they want my attention, they mean well.  They also have no idea, no matter how often I tell them, that I can’t jump up and get the trash cans taken out and then just sit right back down and pick up where I left off.  It doesn’t work that way.  This concentration business is no mean feat.  Then there’s my checking up on the baseball scores, the ever-present game in progress, which of course commands my fatalistic attention.  I’m a lifelong Dodger fan, you see, (that’s the LA Dodgers, to those of you living outside the USA and wondering what it might be that so fascinates Americans about that damn game — which is the subject, I would think, of another blog at some point) and the attendant pain of following that particular team is both epic and the stuff of legend.  It’s also the stuff of bonding with one’s father, at least it was for me, and for that I will forever love the Dodgers, bums or not, because they’ve given me cherished memories of times I shared with my Dad.  Football, shmootball, I say.  Anyway, also among the distractions creating that aforementioned fog (which is the source of my blog’s title, Bloginafog) is my own personal weakness — hunger. The stomach is the enemy of the mind, and don’t let anybody tell you any differently.  Then come late night tv shows, the life crises of one’s children, the somewhat wearying quest for a JOB in this economy to underwrite one’s life — including one’s writing — and of course the snowstorm of internet distractions, social media, and the various means, in my case, that one must employ to market and publicize the books, movies, and television I write.  Now you might well say that I have successfully managed to crank out this particular first blog without any of the above mentioned tormentors driving me to distraction.  And you’d be right.  Sometimes in the writing life, the writer wins.  Chalk one up for me (although upon checking, I notice that we can’t chalk one up for the Dodgers tonight).