Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Penmanship


"Once upon a time
I thought I had it all
Then life just fell apart
Thought I was all alone
I've never been so scared
Than when I danced with fear
But then you took my hand
And it disappeared"
(My True Love, Plumb 2015)




            It is cliché to claim one's parents as a gift from God. The real gift isn't having a mother or a father or both for that matter. The true blessing is having a parent (or both) that actually gives a damn about being a good parent. In this modern age, having children can seem more of an inconvenience to someone's existence than a joy to behold. Responsibility and setting a good example have been replaced with television sets, smartphones and celebrity. Social networking and the internet have taken over the reigns both as an educator and a moral compass. Kids have become property, like our car or the house in which we live. We might treat our pets better than our own offspring. Just living can seem futile for the newest generation when you consider the divorce rates, a continuing plague of abuse/neglect and the increase in homeless youth. Every year in Canada, "suicide is the second highest cause of death for youth aged 10-24." While I do not suggest that bad parenting alone contributes to these realities, I believe that the strong role models that one is exposed to, in particular from their parent(s), conditions a child for the rest of their life. Whether a good or a bad example, that which trains us teaches us, and can shape us even through our adulthood. Having structure and guidance, coupled with a sense of self and others, cannot help but leave a firm foundation. It is what we choose to do with that instruction that will help determine our success or our failure. Children grow up and make their own decisions but those decisions are filtered usually by what someone else might have said or done. The past repeats and so do our mistakes.    
            Not having any children has nothing to do with my sexual preference. It is my nature to see them as amusement, an attention that passes quickly. I have never really enjoyed long-term contact with anyone under 12 years of age. I am not comfortable in the medium. It's not that I hate children or anything even remote to that feeling. I simply prefer to view them from a distance. When I babysat in the past, I hated it. When I worked a summer as an Early Childhood caregiver, I hated it. This disdain has never been a visible phenomenon. Of all the young people who have met me as an adult, not one would have recognized my lack of genuine interest. Children seem to like me just fine. I just don't like most of them for some reason. Perhaps my tenure as a child has something to do with it. I preferred my time to myself. I never understood anything that anyone my own age had to say. I loved adventure and to play, I simply preferred to do it alone. I would hide in my mind's eye. I loved my friends and our gang from the old Toronto neighbourhood. I still miss those more gentler moments. My youth held me free to just be me rather than bearing all the walls and masks that came with experience and exposure. I just didn't like many other kids when I was a kid. Little has changed. Their noisy ranting and senseless agendas disturbed me even back then. Most of them I would rather avoid than spend time with. While a few tykes along the way have met my favour, most have not. All I can really say about my position is that being gay finally has paid off, at least regarding this delicate matter. Always an uncle I am bound to be, but that's just fine with me. I realized long ago I would not be a good parent.
            It was always my parents who had the most direct influence on me. I adored my Mother, and respected my Father, a cause which I still stand for. Growing up may have led me into dark places, but it was the lessons my parents taught me which, over and over again, saved my sorry ass. I see both of them within me. I see bits of them in the mirror each day. It is by their hands that I survived thus far. They were always survivors. No matter defeat, no matter the tragedy, they rose above and fought the good fight. It is this example I have always carried with me. Their strength and resolve I have gladly inherited. Without who they were I would not be who I am. I consider all other parents based entirely on how my Mother and Father have always been to my life. It is this standard which has laid the greatest foundation. They may not have been perfect, but I already know that. They were as flawed as any other human being, although this has been difficult for me to remember.  It was their commitment to their children, however, that I will never forget.  

"I get up, I fall down
Sometimes I feel like I am always on the ground
You pick me up and brush me off
And tell me that I'm good enough
You are faithful to me
You are faithful to me
I am not afraid no matter where I go
You will never leave me
In you I am home
Cause you are faithful to me"
(Faithful, Plumb 2015)

            Both my parents endured a less than favourable upbringing. My Father's father was stoic, very conservative and rigid. My Dad was forced to work at a young age rather than pursuing an education. His mother was a silent support, ever diligent in her quiet love. He had it easy. My Mother's parents were a different breed. I suppose that back in the day it was acceptable to abuse your children, but that does not negate the fact that it was still abuse. I never really liked either of them, I just didn't know why. There was always something about the relationship they had with each other that gave me great pause. Even as a little boy I could smell the rat. Learning about how they treated my Mother, and watching them attempt, on occasion, to do so again, really cemented in my mind the reasons that my Mom was the way that she was. Comparing the two sets (paternal vs. maternal) certainly clarifies, for me at any rate, why my folks' parenting style was so corrective considering those who raised them. Being extremely close with both my Mom and Dad has granted me access to pieces of the puzzle I had no idea about as a child. I can now understand any consequence by viewing the forces that shaped who they both turned out to be. It is not often that we are offered a glimpse inside someone, let alone the secrets and lies of our very own nurturers. I have come to gently understand who they both were and why they made such a striking difference to me.  
            I have always been an observer. This in no way disregards my propensity for anger in the face of injustice or suffering. I will gladly stick my nose in where it doesn't belong, if the situation requires it. For the most part, I sit and simply watch. Even during a conversation, I may be talking but I am really just reacting to you. I try to absorb it all, everything around me. If only I had used this talent on myself when originally trying to survive the life I have led. I have come to realize just how significant my parents' example has been on that life. I never grasped why my Mother held such fury towards those who would threaten her children. I did not comprehend the silent ways of my Father in the face of those same factors. Each one had a unique and separate way of dealing with their kids but they managed to work together to raise five nonetheless. Each of us seems quite able to face the challenges of life. Although we differ in our approach, we survive, a balance, a moderation of both my Mother's gumption and the quiet love that propelled my Dad to sacrifice and function in the face of all the struggles that have greeted him along the way. His parents influenced him just as her parents did. Just as they carry this conditioning with them, in the same manner so too do their children. Although not all of us have become successful people, each of us seems able to continue on in spite of everything that has met our lives. This amalgam does not negate the negative traits that some of them continue to possess, but should they choose to rise above their flaws, you would find each holds both a furious and quiet love. We all do, well knowing that any manifesting of such depends entirely on our comfort zone.

"You are strong
In the broken places
I'm carried in your arms
You are strong
In the broken places
There's healing in these scars"
(Broken Places, Plumb 2015)

            Quite often, people think that life has buried them when in fact they have simply been planted somewhere else. Sometimes you have to wither to grow. I was starting to wither. I had not eaten anything in over a week and had lasted two days without liquid. I just laid in my bed, waiting for death. I don't recall what was going through my head during this period. I know that I wanted to escape and was willing to suffer so that I finally could. The weaker I got, the greater my resolve. I just wanted it to all stop. It was to this end that I had thrown myself down in a cemetery just weeks before. The thirst for that which had been denied to me there had lasted and seemed to take deep root. My parents would hear nothing of it. Like a shadow he came into the room and lifted me into his arms. He placed me across from her, then stood a foot behind me. This intervention would be short on people and long on something I had never seen before. 
            My Father stood silently, only whispering when he whispered at all. When he did speak it was certain that he meant what he said. He loved me and wanted me to stay. Mom was a force to be reckoned with. She pleaded. She yelled. Her love was clear but not so quiet. Together they convinced me. Twenty years later and I continue to rage on. In asking for me to live for them, it allowed enough time for me to start living for me. I would be dust right now had they not used their own unique approach in reaching me. I owe them my life and all that has come with it. I hope each knows how thankful I am that they were my parents. They saved me from myself. I pray they realize that even though they may have made some mistakes along the way that they succeeded in their efforts. I am a sign of good penmanship.
  
"All the fear
All the bitter
Has disappeared
It's just a vapour now
All the shame
All the broken
That should be here
Has all left me now
I have been made whole"

            You need a license to own a dog but any fool can have children. I think that we do not all recognize our limitations. Some of us should not reproduce. We should have to read the contract before we sign on the dotted line.

"My heart is so full
My cup overflows
What once was so fractured has been
Restored
And you overcome
All I cannot
No matter how fractured
No matter what"
(Restored, Plumb 2015)
  







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