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.)

18 comments:

Cindy said...

To be able to live connected to a few good and decent folks, to be able to do a measure of work that can be deemed a bit of progress, to be able to articulate to some small degree an ineffable feeling that rises up from within - these are no small feats, and seem to me to be the bedrock of a meaningful existence.

God bless, carry on, and do (PLEASE) make sure you have broadband at least sometimes!

FWIW, you have made a literal difference in my life. I do a few things somewhat differently, and I appreciate a few others just a little bit more. And I do not say that lightly.

Cheers.

Keifus said...

You write well, swit, and you've connected with a lot of us (other) anonymously pixellated yahoos. I wouldn't dismiss that, although you could probably have chosen a more stable support group.

Brewing beer is a fairly relaxing activity, by the way, interspersed with some ready-made kitchen disasters. Seems a good DIY-er aggie hobby (I missed my opportunity to plant hops this year, dammit), especially if a daily ceremonial one is planned.

I think that making yourself happy and honoring your mom and dad are the same thing, here. Or make yourself content: that's way easier than happiness, and almost as good.

Schmutzie said...

I'll say nice shit about you if you die today, but don't die today.

Sounds like one of those transitional periods I especially hate. Transitional periods suck ass. You know what also makes those periods seem better? She's out there somewhere, or he, if you decide to go totally flamboyantly Keifus.

Funny thing about transition periods is that after I'm through one, I look back and wonder why everything seemed so extra-important. Like the whole journey isn't one big transitional period, which it is.

You're like the little brother I thank god I never had, but if you were my brother I'd tell you to focus on what you enjoy, and tune all the bad karma the fuck out.

switters said...

thanks, guys. sorry to repeat myself

Keifus said...

Jesus, Smutty. I build a house with my bare hands, and do they call me Keifus the carpenter? I design the plant with nothing but a slide rule, and do they call me Keifus the engineer?

bright said...

The world is better for you being in it, and I mean that both seriously and solemnly.

雅雯 said...

閒暇為所有財富中最美好的財富 ..................................................

switters said...

My Chinese friend whose name escapes me: My Mandarin is a little rusty after almost 20 years, but the best I can make out of it is that leisure is the richest of all wealths, or something. Very Greek, ironically, and thanks. I'll feel better this weekend, when it cools off and I can start daydreaming.

bright said...

Good news! We need you to start growing stuff.

(seriously, my preview word is "mentards". where do I even begin?)

switters said...

That was a great article.

I probably, realistically, won't be up and running in any serious way till the spring of 2012, assuming I'm not dead of tooth cancer. But the picture is beginning to unfold for me. I see row upon row of tomatoes in the east pasture running west to east. I.e., instead of a tomato orchard, it's going to be a tomato vineyard.

I'm also trying to figure out how I can convert the southern half of the house into a greenhouse.

And thank you. A lot. For everything.

Schmutzie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Schmutzie said...

Ya know, I've got these 4 white vinyl picture windows in the back room of my shop. They're about 30 x 60. And I've got these 3 white vinyl patio door panels, they're 36 x 80. So if you took the 3 door panels and put them side-by-side, you could have a 9 foot x 7 foot wall of glass, and if you took 2 of each of the picture windows and put them side-by-side on top of, say a 20" kneewall you build under them, you could make the two side walls 6 feet x 5 feet. So essentially, you'd have 3 sides of a room that sticks out the back of your house 6 x 9 x 6. Sounds kinda greenhousey to me. All you'd need to do is build a roof and a floor. I've got about $2500 into the material, but I'd let you have it for $0 (sorry, best discount I can offer at this time.) Course, you'd need a truck and you'd need to drive to Chicago. Hmm, Mehldau Trio is in Grant Park this September 5th....nah, never mind. Just thinking out loud.

switters said...

I have it on good authority that Chicago is spectacular in September. He might even remember me.

You sound like Jess; he's already building, and I just see another room to clean. I just want a greenhouse that I happen to live in.

We did the best we could, her 5 kids, milling around a hospice room waiting for her pain to stop. We did the best we could. We sang for her; I hope she heard.

It seemed like it was all we could do. I'll do my best for them.

Rona529665 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Schmutzie said...

Check it out bro.

switters said...

my dear God in heaven

Cindy said...

I like Schmutzie's link better.

Schmutzie said...

Isn't that cool? What an idea. Pretty cool to check out the solo vids submitted by the various people too. It's kinda funny watching someone sitting for 15 seconds and then suddenly singing their part. I saw the director interviewed on TV. He said anyone can sing along, all they need is a webcam, a microphone, and an internet hookup. He emailed them all a vid of himself conducting so they got the timing down. What a great idea.