After speaking with you tonight, one thing became abundantly clear which was we hardly know you anymore. The voice I was hearing was both distant and disinterested in what I was trying to say to you. This was yet another anniversary of a day you did what nobody thought you could or would but did. You draw no inspiration from this. Your 33rd birthday is but days away. We want so much to celebrate this day with you but you have every excuse lined up to avoid all of us being together.
You would rather sit home alone in self-imposed solitary confinement than be with those who you mean the world to. WHY? You have hurt me while not meaning to but you did. Why? Are we nothing to you now except for when a hiccup in your life occurs when you rediscover we exist?
Some of the things you told me that seem to cause a smile to be heard from your face were deeply troubling. What in the world do you think you are doing or thinking about if you are thinking at all. This is not who we know you as. Do you know you anymore? It is not for me to like your friends but you can’t say that even with the best of intentions they are leading you nowhere but down a cracked crooked hill road where those who forgot what it means to accomplish something with all odds stacked neatly against them have fallen headfirst into. Is that the life you are looking for?
We know your boss likes to browbeat you into submission as that is his way. Yet your co-workers including his son manage to shoo him away like a pesky fly. When he rants they look downward (or so you have told me) and go about the day as if nothing happened. You are as strong as you are tough but you have forgotten that. Resignation to the misguided notion that this is and will always be your life as it intended to be has sapped your energy while removing your resolve. It’s hard to smile through the pain. Boredom and loneliness are your frequent roommates. I am sorry I cannot help you with that but I know you can if you decide you need to. You know if I could help I would. For you, I certainly would but my intervention would be a detriment.
I don’t want you to carry me around like some worn-out knapsack that is held together by the dirt and mud from the bloodstains that cut right through you like a razor blade slicing through flesh leaving it to rot away.
There is no reason to crumple me up like an unneeded piece of paper that is reconfigured into a ball of sorts and throw me into the garbage if not toss me into the gutter until the skidmarks from tires shred me to pieces or cover me in the blackness from the exhaust from every car that runs over me. Why can’t you understand I want you in my life where you belong? What horrible secret do you have locked away in your emotions that force you to keep me at bay?
As I was not and am not the quintessential perfect father you are not and never were the quintessential perfect son. Neither of us has deviated from that path. Yet we have freely shared our mistakes, shortcomings, joys, and fears. There was that unbreakable iron-clad father/son bond that was supposed to endure forever. Perhaps that was just what I thought or imagined would be. Should I have asked you if that was the case? Why would that have been necessary? If you can’t face me in the light as your father so be it but nonetheless say why before you bow left, bow right, take three steps back while stepping back and walking away or standing stoically silent in place.
A response to our invitation to leave the non-luxury of your closet like apartment to visit your parents to partake in a hot home-cooked meal with other savory delights not to mention a very unexpected long overdue surprise for your birthday was rejected due to illness real, imagined, feigned or perhaps the anxiety of a long unfamiliar trip via railroad and subway with a possibility of getting lost in a forever panic-filled moment personal safety concern or getting physically lost which considering your phone has a GPS along with transit maps and schedules to guide you along your way was a near impossibility. Any of the above would have to be the root cause of a decision you made but in fact, did not.
STOP WAIT HOLD ON! THERE HAS BEEN A CHANGE!
Thursday morning the phone rang as the caller ID flashed the name, Lee. Our son Lee was calling to say he would be coming to us that day with even better news that it was your intent to stay overnight. Mom could not conceal her excitement as she hurriedly rushed into the bedroom to awaken me to deliver this incredible turn of events. Joel, she called out to me as I lay there with one hand buried under my pillow fast asleep with Juice on the other side of the bed guarding me “Lee is coming.” Half-awake or half-asleep still in the middle of a dream or a thankfully evaporating nightmare I sat up with little to say.
With my morning ritual of pill taking, sugar checking, insulin injecting, eye drop insertions, with the final task of inserting my hearing aids complete it was time to get dressed. Off with the flannel pajama pants and on with my black dress pants. Off with my thermal shirt that was underneath my flannel pajama shirt tucking my white t-shirt into the garment worn underneath clothing. On goes the Tzitzis with my white shirt resting on top. Finally, I was ready to compete in another day.
On the way home when I picked up the bag with the oversized cake box in it the box tore through the bottom of the bag. Of course, I missed my stop which meant I had to stay on the train until the end of the line until the motor was rebooted so we could head back the other way. I frantically sent a message home I was one stop away and needed somebody to meet me on the platform. I could not carry the cake box which had nothing to hold onto to it along with three stuffed plastic bags filled with food. When I finally arrived home (Lee greeted me on the platform smiling broadly to take a couple of bags) collapsed on the couch ultimately drifting off to sleep.
How is it possible that he and I could speak on the phone for a couple of hours joking, talking, laughing yet in person I did not know him? What is wrong with me?
Dinner time. Lee had a hot home-cooked meal. With a contented grin, I handed Lee a birthday card that he loved but was caught off guard by the amount of money in it. Next, I gave him a blank envelope that I told him it was important he open it right away. In the envelope was more money. I was not trying to buy his love as by that time it was evident neither of us ever stopped loving each other but the gift clearly touched him. The cake was delicious. The night was perfect. Then it happened. I had little to say to Lee. It then dawned on my scattered mind I did not know him. This person who sported a thick black beard thick arms with a stomach that was not much smaller than mine that I help create with a seed from my body was somebody I did not know. The whole time Lee sat on the couch while I took up residence by the computer. I could not bring myself to sit next to him on the couch. How is it possible that he and I could speak on the phone for a couple of hours joking, talking, laughing yet in person I did not know him? What is wrong with me?
Friday morning the day of his birthday was here. With some semblance of consciousness, I located the sock that had fallen off my foot during the night and proceeded to open the bedroom door walked out dressed for sleep (why was I embarrassed to be seen in a thermal undershirt and flannel pajama bottoms) into the kitchen. The words happy birthday never fell from my lips. Lee was reluctantly leaving that morning. Before I started to make my way to the front door to catch a train to the Boro Park section of Brooklyn where we do virtually all of our shopping (Kosher food is not found in Bensonhurst) I slapped him on his arm while enthusiastically telling him how proud of him I was and how great he was doing. Our eyes met one last time as I implored him to visit again soon. When I returned home he was gone. He was sent home with cake, baked ziti and whatever else mom could stuff into his bag. He looked happy. Once he arrived home he sent us a text message.
Saturday evening on Facebook Lee posted a thank you message to all of his friends and his siblings for the birthday wishes. He gave prominent thanks to his parents. That is the Lee we know. When my wife went into bed for the night I sat on the couch in the darkened living room. Soon thereafter I broke down into tears. Juice did her best (she is an amazing cat) to console me but it was no use. The truth in my mind was that was no truth at all was as a father I failed. All I could feel was a hole in my life that I helped create.
My final thoughts from last weekend were that I felt anger or remorse towards my son since I did not believe he felt ill on Wednesday and thusly would not be coming to visit.
We are who we are for a reason. Who we are, who we were, where we came from, and how we got to here is of tantamount importance.
If you don’t know who you are how can you claim to know somebody else. You can bury yourself in a someplace hoping you do not have to be you in front of a world who knows who and what you are even if you don’t but in the end, you are who you are and that is who you will be.
“Now the years are rolling by me / They are rocking evenly / I am older than I once was / And younger than I’ll be / But that’s not unusual / No, it isn’t strange / After changes upon changes / We are more or less the same / After changes we are / More or less the same.”
–The Boxer by Paul Simon.
“But it’s all right, it’s all right
You can’t be forever blessed
Still, tomorrow’s going to be another working day
And I’m trying to get some rest
That’s all I’m trying to get some rest.”
–American Tune by Paul Simon