Thursday, April 29, 2010
On Faith And Failings
If I were to die today, I don't think anyone, including my family, would have anything of much substance to say about my life. I was, at one time, a semi-gifted musician. I read a lot. I had to explain words I used. To be sure, I loved my mom and my dad, but never really told them that, not even in so many words. And I often wished I hadn't waited until mom was dying to tell her how I felt, that the world was a far better place with her in it. What I didn't do was beg on my knees for her not to leave me. That would've been the "momma's boy" in me talking, not to mention unforgivably unfair to either of us.
We weren't raised to express that kind of affection and endearment openly. We were raised to be stoic and to show family affection by making fun of each other. And believe me, we show each other affection a lot, obviously.
What am I doing? What am I doing, indeed. I hardly know. Right now I'm experiencing two existences at the same time, one down here in Alabama, and one in my head up in Ohio. But I'm not participating in the living of either of those existences, at least not in any real, tenable sense.
My faith, our faith, is a decidedly Lutheran one. It's within us, but rarely shared with others. We are not a proselytizing sort of people. Our blood runs deep with the black-as-night soil of the Iowa plains. But my family has faith, mostly in each other, at least sometimes.
In all of my life I have never experienced so much regret and guilt as I have for the last 2 years. I can't remember if I've shared this with any of you, but I told Jesse that dad would be ashamed of me, of my being miserable at work and at play. Jesse informed me that he wouldn't be ashamed; he'd be frustrated with me. Little comfort, but little is better than none.
So I just went ahead and lied to mom as she lay dying, and told her that I'd be just fine. To make things worse, I think she knew I was lying. Of her five kids I was the one she and dad worried about the most on account of my proclivity to take things so viscerally, so personally. After all, dad had the decency to drop dead in an instant; we had to watch the strongest woman any of us have ever known be reduced to a bag of rotting organs and bones, vomiting every 45 minutes for 8 days.
I'm not looking for sympathy. Er, maybe I am. I don't want you to feel sorry for me; I'm doing that for myself aplenty. I guess I just want you, like for myself, to try to do a better job of... living? Not that you're not doing that already. I guess I'm mostly talking to myself but channeling my dad's voice in order to do it.
Living. What does that even mean anymore?
Okay. Here's a promise I'll make to you and to myself once I finally (hopefully within the next year) move up to Piqua: At every sunset, I'll crack open a reasonably cold beer (or wine, should the moment strike me), and I'll watch that sun set on an acreage of mean size, shape and order, but I'll let the rosy-colored fingers in the dusky west reveal that during the course of this day I worked hard to improve my lot, and my lot, that I'm now one day closer to growing the perfect tomato, that my day was productive, simple, genuine, and hard-won. In the winter I'll build a small fire by the apple tree, with snow on the ground to avoid Pasture Fire 2011!!! In the bleak midsummer that beer won't get chugged 'till close to 8pm, which will be glorious in its way.
It's a start. I owe it to them. But even more so, I owe it to myself. For, indeed, it's within me that the both of them now reside, and if the substance of my life ends up being a sincere story of the lives of my mom and my dad and my family, at long last catalogued and organized and set down with pen and ink with an affection that no instrument yet invented could measure, I would be honored for that to be, in total, my penance, my atonement, and my redemption.
Or I'll just clean toilets and the nursing home. You tell me.
No other son had such remarkable parents, and no other person is more proud, blessed, and grateful to have had the honor to be called their son.
May God bless your people.
Oh may he remember them in their time of trouble,
and at the hour of their taking away.
And God bless you incredibly decent folks. Thanks for listening.
(I.e., Piqua or die. Or both. It's a good fit.)