Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Thanksgiving Tale

This morning I'm sitting reading the Globe on-line. A story caught my eye about a mob hit from back in 1982. The son of the one of the people hit, his father an innocent man gunned down in the street when the boy was 8, said at the end of the story that he'd have given anything to have his father back. I started crying as I finished the story. I'd have given anything, too, to have had my father with me while growing up.

My father died when I was 7. He wasn't there for all my rites of passage, for all my angst growing up. No male figure to help me figure out how to be a male. I grew up to become a man in a household of women. To be sure, there were men around in my life, not in my home, but in my life. An uncle here and there, male friends of my mother, guy friends of my older sisters.

It wasn't until I was much older that I came to realize how much I looked up to older, male authority figures and how conflicting that was in my head. I didn't get it sorted out until I became a father myself and realized I'd become to my children what my father was supposed to have been to me. That my marriage didn't work out, that I became estranged from my family, that I stayed as close as I could to my children, all served to further cause me internal conflict regarding my need to fulfill my role as a father figure and as a male role model.

It's tough to be a father when you didn't have a father from which to draw any reference. Like any parent raising kids, I did the best I could with what I had where I was under the circumstances. And, I have lots of regrets and wishes that it all could have been different from what the reality was. But, I can't change any of that and living in guilt doesn't solve anything, either.

I am, however, grateful that I had the chance to become a father, to have had the experience in this life. I am thankful for being able to be available to my children, however it is and however often it is that we communicate. I'm grateful for every time I hear their voice.

Maybe thanksgiving for me this year is being grateful to be able to tell my children that I love them, now and forever. Even though I sit here, 396 miles away, I'm grateful for them being in my life, however remote it may be.

Later on today I'll sit at a table with people who at one time I was related to via my oldest sister's marriage. I only see them once a year, at thanksgiving. I know I should see them more often than that but our lives just don't intertwine sufficiently, I guess, for me to drive the hour or so to visit.

Nevertheless, I'm grateful to be able to sit at the table with them and am thankful they continue to accept this once a year person into their home.

Today, right now, thanksgiving is for me a day, at least a morning, of reflection for the thanks I feel for the opportunity to be with others, however briefly. I'll eat, talk, visit, and then drive back to my own place, where I'll give my dog, the only constant companion in my life, a hug. We'll go for a walk and then I'll feed her, adding some leftovers from my thanksgiving meal.

Maybe my true thanks today is to myself. I am thankful to be alive. I am thankful to be healthy. I am thankful I have a good job, a nice place to live, people with whom I can contact to share my thoughts and feelings.

I am thankful for the Spirit that in-dwells me. And, to honor that, I write here what I say daily:

Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sunday afternoon

Last weekend I went down to Baltimore to visit family and friends. About two hours into the seven hour drive I started thinking - man, this is a long drive. I travel thru six states (Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland) to get there. It's a long 395 miles. However, once there I'm glad I made the trip.

I spent a day and half of another with my kids and granddaughter. Went to the Friday night swing dance; to dinner with the men's groups guys; hiking with my sister and brother-in-law; even got in a two hour karate workout with a fellow martial artist; got to hang out at my old workplace. I even had a session with a psychic. In addition, for the first time ever, I got a flu and pneumonia shot. It was a good journey. Rained like crazy on Friday and Saturday was nasty but the weather cleared and the sun came out.

Now, a week later, I'm back in the routine. Thanksgiving is next week. I'm going to share it with the family of my sister's ex. They're good folks and I enjoy being in their company. I guess it'll be around a dozen or so people sitting around a table in a room to small to accommodate everyone but, hey, the intimacy is part of the sharing.

Life goes on.

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Latest from Waltham

Waltham is an interesting place to live. Actually it isn't but since I live there I want to think that it is. Over the past year it's declared itself the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution. In light of global warming that traces its roots right to the rise of industry, Waltham gives itself a dubious distinction in history. This is where the destruction of the environment began in earnest. I don't find that something to be particularly proud of. Yet, I live here, in the aftermath of Waltham's rise and subsequent decline. The town is now a bedroom community of Boston, overpriced, old and gritty, like some of the other towns inside the Route 128 corridor. Unlike several of the surrounding towns it hasn't re-invented itself, at least not yet. There's Moody Street with its restaurants, the museum of industry and the Charles River running through town. Even with Brandeis and Bentley colleges inside the city limits, Waltham is pretty much a blue-collar place.

My own life has taken a new twist. I'm back to being on my own. An interesting proposition it is to share meals, thoughts and observations about the day with myself or to Dixie, the Airedale dog. Dixie will look at me with interest when I start to talk, seemingly absorbed with everything I have to say, but it's still a one sided conversation. At some point she'll put her head down, as if she's heard enough, shift into a more comfortable position on her bed and, with a snort or a sigh, take a nap. I can't argue with her on that, I get tired of hearing myself, too. It's even tougher trying to listen to what I'm saying to myself.

I've started a new project. I've decided to write a book on self-defense. I'm going to try to put into writing my eighteen years in martial arts. I studied and taught karate and self-defense for most of the 1990's and, with all this information rolling around in my head I decided to get it out and down on paper. Since I now have a lot of time on my hands I can pursue this project with ambition and without conflict. It's an intellectual pursuit and it also fills up the empty space in my life and in my heart.