Thursday, November 29, 2007

Disappearing


Last night while driving to my writing group a light snow fell. The flakes melted upon hitting the windshield, but I enjoyed them for the fleeting seconds they appeared. This California guy still regresses when snow falls. I guess I can count the times I've experienced fresh snow on two hands. That's one reason I take the time to marvel at how beautiful a snow flake can be. It's my favorite geometry.
When I got to the group meeting place, I had to sit in the car and just watch the flakes melt for another few minutes. I was reminded of a transitional time in my life when I stood on the El platform in Chicago, December, 1969. A friend snapped a photo of me holding a harmonica as light snow fell. Bending a few notes is a good way to keep warm in 14 degree weather, and it makes the time between trains pass faster. Been thinking about that winter as I negotiate the current one in Portland. Oddly enough, I think I come alive in very cold weather. Once inside, after time spent in a harsh environment, new warmth provides opportunities to appreciate small things.
In writing my memoir of 1969, I'm confronted with the portrayal of people that entered and exited my life all too quickly. At the group last night we had a productive conversation about how memoirs can trigger very different perceptions of people and events. We agreed that we can only tell our version of the truth; our perception of how things went down. If anybody who reads my work ever reads this I hope you'll realize this and know my intent is only to share my perceptions. Fallout happens.
It's like something that has happened to me a couple of times lately. Ever briefly driven down a one way street the wrong way? You swore it was a two-way. Being unfamiliar with many of the freeway off-ramps and the unpredictable occurrence of one-way streets in Portland, I have found myself on shaky ground a few times, if only for a few seconds. It's like those friendships and relationships we sometimes recall. You're certain they are two-way, but alas, were only one-way. Don't turn down those roads.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Living The Dream

Mr. Ed

My 83 year old mother-in-law, as previously noted is dating an 86 year old. They have both lost their life partners within the last three years and seem to be having the time of their lives (what's left of them, with all due respect) What is so incredible is how other family members are responding. How do you tell someone who has lived eight decades not to do anything rash? Slow down for what? Yet Katie and I hear only concern from her sisters; they do not see what we see. The real issue here is that each of us has to make peace with our parents while we can. What these two are holding on to is their alienation from who their mother really is and who she has become. They are holding on to all that went wrong with their maternal relationships to date and don't seem to be able to let it go. As we age, we have an unusual opportunity to relate to our parents as completely different people. The brief time I spent with my own parents as adult to adult helps me to know who they really were. The time for them to be the vulnerable, indecisive, impatient one can be very powerful if not revealing. My sisters-in-law cannot seem to get their heads around the fact that their mom is not the person they knew any longer. Sure she is as controlling, as unpredictable, as manipulative as ever, but she is also a woman who has a final chance to live a new adventure. Fascinating how they project their own shortcomings onto her. They cling to their ancient perceptions of her weaknesses, never mindful that before too long, in other ways, they too will exhibit similar traits. If the term dysfunctional family is an oxymoron, when will they realize she's the only mom they've got?
So I call him Mr. Ed, because It's endearing, it connotes a horse, (I adore horses) it's his name, and he's been around awhile. I hope at 86 I will be as quick witted, as physically fit, (he plays tennis daily) as open -minded, a financially independent, and as eager, should the necessity arise, to spend time with a new woman.

Thanks for Giving Me the Blues

I'm in a perfect position to observe family dynamics this holiday season because I have very little family. Except for a sister in Seattle and a cousin in New York, that's it. Of course they have husbands and a few kids and grandkids of their own, but I've never met most of them. Most of what passes for my family experience these days is through my wife's family. And what a family! We ventured down to Berkeley to meet my 83 year old mother-in-law's new 86 year old boy friend. After hearing that he resembled everything from Mr. McGoo to a stereotypical "fuddy duddy," my wife and I found him to be quite the opposite.
Sure he's got major contradictions, but what unraveled was a string of projections from my sisters-in-law, my nephew, and a host of other marginal characters in this drama. The recent hook-up of these two very senior citizens is bringing out all kinds of unpredictable family shenanigans that will be breaking news in the weeks ahead. Stay tuned.

They call it Stormy Monday,
But Tuesday's just as bad,
Wednesday ain't no better,
And Thursday's oh so sad...