08 October 2007

Having Watched the River Flow

"You must love the crust of the earth on which you dwell more than the sweet crust of any bread or cake. You must be able to extract nutriment out of a sand-heap. You must have so good an appetite as this, else you will live in vain." ~ Henry David Thoreau

"The deeper that sorrow carves into your being the more joy you can contain. Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter's oven?" ~ Kahlil Gibran

The three days away were absolutely blissful. The sound of the Guadalupe River, high and fast-moving these days, soothed my soul. Time away from Crazy Land and from the hurtful hands of medical professionals was a joyous reminder of how things could be.

Then, on Saturday, a major water main break left us without water until Sunday at 5:00 p.m. It's funny how attached you become to bathing regularly. Fortunately, my mom is generous with her shower.

Aside from that, we're rapidly approaching the ten year anniversary of my dad's suicide. He decided to check out nine days before my birthday. I've always wondered how he could have done that to me. Oh wait, silly me.

My father was a deeply disturbed man who spread misery of all kinds wherever he went. Physical, emotional, spiritual: It was all fair game for him. He saved a large measure of it for me. Nonetheless, he was my one and only father. I loved him, even though I didn't like him, and his suicide was devastating.

These days, memories come unbidden as I watch television or do the dishes or any of a thousand mundane acts. Sometimes, it's as simple as the word "Daddy" echoing in my head. The ironic thing about that is that I stopped referring to him by that name when I was very, very young. The horrors of my very own childhood concentration camp washed that name out of my vocabulary. I guess it's those tiny-child memories that take hold deep within our subconscious, springing up to surprise us when our guards are down. Shortly after his suicide, I remember sitting in the bathtub, with my head absolutely empty of thoughts, which were blasted away by the holocaust of his gun shot. "My daddy's gone." It felt unbearable. The silence that preceded and followed that thought stretched on like nuclear winter for what seemed an eternity.

Ten years later, I've come to terms with it, as much as one ever can. The reality of his self-murder, the anguish of not being able to penetrate his self-destructiveness and delusion have been tempered by time. I'm angry with him still. I pity him still. I still wish he had been capable of love. I still live with the wounds he inflicted on me, before his death and after. I'll continue to talk about his death as the month grinds on, because that's what I do, that's all that I can do.

Life seems to be an intricate maze in search of reconciliation between the child I was, the adult I thought I might become, the person I am and the one I'm becoming. I'm trying to recreate the inner narrative by which I define myself. The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves are critical to human beings; they are, in essence, that which denotes our individuality. I'm a composite of events, cataloged and assigned personal symbolic meaning, separate and apart from others' remembrance of the personality they once knew or their perception of me now.

We are all many things to many different people in this journey. Our brains hold our histories, keeping track of songs long-since forgotten, tiny moments that are unavailable to us in conscious memory. I struggle to meld together the things I remember all too clearly and the puzzle of what comes now, allowing those deep, hidden roots of memory to nourish me in silence and darkness.

It's not an altogether dark exploration, though. The Guadalupe River is high. There's a squirrel napping on a limb outside my window. The mystery of the cosmos takes my breath away.

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