The next big life-changing event was the arrival of my son. Where I'd been the one to know that a little girl would soon be on her way for us, and that we'd better start getting ready, this time it was Lynne who knew that Brian was on his way. At first I was hesitant, feeling that things were good, why mess with them? But a feeling like that can't be denied, and besides, Gwen thought getting a little brother would be fun, too. Eventually she would change this opinion.
The procedure was basically the same, only easier because we knew what to expect. As you'd imagine, the only fly in the ointment was the INS. If anything they'd grown even surlier and more condescending during the intervening 5 years. I went there personally, which is the only way to actually obtain the answer to a question. My cousin came with me. Ahead of us in line were a number of Spanish speaking people. and the INS had no one who spoke anything other than English. She was fluent in Spanish from the Peace Corps, and translated for the whole line of desperate people while the INS man looked on in genuine disdain. Eventually the INS workers' reputations had spread so far, that they had grown so proficient at saying, "No!" and "You need another form," that when Reaganomics ushered in the era of HMOs, the health service providers knew right where to go to recruit their managed care administrators.
Brian arrived in Philadelphia instead of New York, which is why he says, "Hey yo!" more than his sister. As soon as the woman laid him in Lynne's arms, I knew he was special. He puked.
This seems like as good a place as any to throw in my 2 cents on the nature VS nurture debate and so I will. All I know is that I have two children who have not a gene in common with me, but who share so many traits with Lynne and myself, that I've begun to seriously question the whole genetic determination theory. Maybe it works for inheritable diseases, but that's about it.
Brian was always special, though. I remember the Christmas after his second birthday: It was Christmas Eve, actually. Lynne's family celebrates on Christmas Eve, and my family celebrates on Christmas Day, which always works out well. It was late and everyone had left except for Big Brian, Lynne's cousin who our Bri had been named for.
The room was dark, lit only by the colored lights on the tree. I was picking up glasses and plates, which were sitting all over and carrying them into the kitchen where Lynne washed them. Our Bri was sitting on his cousin's chest and they were talking. As I carried another load into the kitchen, I realized that this tiny two and a half year old was having an actual conversation with his 6' 4" 20 year old cousin. I paused, fascinated to listen. Big Brian asked my son if he liked the beach.
I nearly dropped the plates I was holding. Instinctively hoping for conformation, I glanced towards the kitchen doorway and saw my wife's head sticking out with a look of astonishment on her face. We continued to listen as the Brians discussed the barn, which was red, and the beach. I think I tried to interject a question, which broke the mood and sent the conversation on to other places. To this day I can still hear that matter of fact little voice say, "Oh, it was when I was very old, before I died and came here."
I get a chill every time I think about it. Bri has always asked amazing questions. It was his primary way of keeping me from turning out the light and leaving the room at bedtime. He knows I'm a sucker for questions that allow me to pontificate. One question I remember from; I think, when he was 5, was, "If Victor Frankenstein made the monster, and not God, then does that mean the monster doesn't have a soul?"
Needless to say he got a lot of extra time out of that one. (If you're curious, I told him that I didn't think Victor could actually bring the monster life without God's help, so that the monster undoubtedly had a soul. I don't know if Mary Shelley would've approved, but it was spur of the moment)
Bri had seen the James Whale/Boris Karloff version of the movie, (probably against his mother's better judgment), and like me, he had developed a real fondness for Ole Flat Top. We talked a lot about that monster, and on the basis of his question, I made up a months-long story, with an episode every night, about how Bri stopped the evil hunchback Fritz from terrorizing the monster, (Who's name was Adam, by the way, according to both me and Mary Shelley.) With proper child rearing techniques and love, Adam turns out to be an okay guy and Brian's best friend.
At 6 or 7, Bri, all on his own, also discovered, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I found this out when phrases like, "She turned me into a newt!" began cropping up in his conversation. I had been going to introduce him to the Pythons at age 10, but who knew. He went out as Mr. Gumby one Halloween and bellowed, "My brain hurts!" at every door.
Bri is 13 now and an excellent writer. (I used to make both he and Gwen earn extra money by writing stories. At first they got a quarter a page, but once they learned to type I upped it to a dollar.) Rather than embarrass him by telling things my way, (he cringed when I told him the two anecdotes I would use), I invited him to write whatever he wanted and told him I would publish it here with no censorship. You can decide for yourself whether I'm brave or an idiot. But first, before I might become prejudiced, I should say that Brian is a handsome boy with a wonderful sense of humor, personal charm and intelligence, and that he's the best son any father could ever hope for. His mind is so incredibly quick that sometimes I stand in awe.
The time is 2:48 am right now, and I had hoped to get to sleep some three hours ago. From about eleven to one I had been talking with dad, and for the last hour and forty five minutes I'd been lying in bed brooding. Since dad's been pestering me for a few months to get this piece finished, I figured I might as well do it now, and express my feelings through writing.
I stumbled across the idea of writing at times like these a few months ago after a rather heated argument with my mom and dad, though more than one person has been encouraging me to keep a diary for quite some time. My thoughts on this were, "Hell, how could my problems disappear by magic by just scribbling down how I felt?" It hadn't been until that particular spat that I realized I had been coming from the wrong perspective.
Writing doesn't solve your problems, but it helps you deal with them, don't ask me how, it just does for some reason. It calms you down, and helps you think a bit more rationally. After the argument, I had been left with that cold, raw, angry feeling you usually get when losing a fight you never could have possibly won. I realized that was an excellent time to write the piece for Dad's site. It wasn't a good time for just that, but it was an ideal moment to relieve some tension by writing, which I realized later. I threw away the piece, but it was an interesting experience for me when I wrote it.
Now, back onto the subject, whatever that happens to be. Ah yes, of course, my feelings. Well, I don't exactly think 'feelings' is a very good word for this matter. 'My thoughts' would be a better expression for this particular subject. The reason for this is simple; I don't really have feelings on this. I have thoughts and opinions, but not really feelings. I'll help you try to understand, when I was told by my mom that the ol' man was diagnosed with ALS, I simply shrugged my shoulders and replied 'ah' in an indifferent tone of voice. That wasn't a facade either, I was totally unconcerned by this. My insides didn't start tearing themselves apart over this, I just turned back to watch the ending of my TV show. I don't clearly remember what it was, but I believe it was Dragonball Z.
I think indifference, at my age and in my situation at least, is the safest stance you can take on most issues in life. For me, it's not as much of a defense mechanism, as much as it is an option I tend to choose in life. Now, you may have gotten the idea from the site that I'm a sensitive and caring person. Or, maybe, an asshole, who thinks only of himself. I'm not sure; I haven't read all of the chapters. True, I do try, and am inclined, to be caring and sympathetic, but I'm anything but sensitive, in my own personal opinion. Also true, I am relatively self-centered, and, for example, any plans that I make for another person's benefit usually help me in some way or form. That's not a boast, or a complaint; it's simply an observation.
Now, I've digressed completely. As is probably obvious, I enjoy delivering rants lacking any point whatsoever. But back to the subject, let's talk about how this whole incident has affected me. They say a boy takes after his father, right? I can't really argue about that, for, as much as I hate to say it, I really am a lot like the guy. We have the same taste in movies, many foods, similar political opinions, and his disturbing sense of humor has done a good job of rubbing off onto me. Now, before the paint accident, my mother and I were very close, as I remember, and I belied this is typical for young children. But afterwards, we drifted apart, so to speak, as many adolescent males do. I found myself becoming increasingly frustrated with her behavior for no apparent reason, as I still do now. So, because of this, I bonded closely with my father. We would, and still do, have lengthy conversations covering subjects like politics, history, religion, and our own beliefs on most everything. Sometimes we have debates, which I would gaily initiate, only to be totally outwitted, often to an embarrassing extent.
So, having stated how close the two of us were, or are, rather, one might assume that his 'condition' as people tend to call it, was a crushing blow to me, when it really wasn't. Though I miss many of the physical activities we would have together, most of the things we did together required little or no physical participation, since, as a few people have remarked, both of our talents are found within our wit. I suppose one of the things I miss the most was our frequent visits to movie theatres; oh well, I really can't do anything to change that. And that's very frustrating at times, not being able to do anything about it. Actually, it's also very frustrating to be forced to do things about it, like helping him with simple activities, which now consist mostly of getting him a can of soda, or helping him reach a glass of water.
Frustration has been the hardest emotion that I've been faced with to handle, for it can lead to other troublesome and extreme emotions, such as anger, feelings of helplessness, or depression. I've had to deal with this unpleasant factor of life thoroughly once my mom suffered the severe brain damage that she did. Now I have to put up with it thanks to my dad's illness.
So, in closing, I just like to say that I'm pissed off. I'm pissed of at my mom for having brain damage, which she can't control, I'm pissed off at my dad for ALS, which he can't control, and most of all, I'm pissed off at myself for really, deep down, not caring, mainly because I can control that. What burns me up is that I haven't taken the time to find out how to control it, since I don't even know where to start. Here's a shout out to any readers whom I may have the pleasure, or displeasure, of knowing: don't come down with a terminal illness, it'll fuck up both our lives, and it pisses me off. Thank you.
By the way, if you're interested in finding out more about my fucked up life, you can always e-mail me at XvTriezeKhushvX@AOL.com
+ + +
The things I've learned from Gwen and Bri would take as many pages as John Lennon's FBI dossier, (a 12 foot high stack of papers,) and undoubtedly invade their privacy to the same extent that the FBI invaded John's. I probably have another 17-foot stack to learn from them yet.) Instead I'll limit myself to this general comment on being a dad:
"I never ever would've believed the furious battle it was not to channel my Father! "
Yee gods! When I was growing up, I used to content myself during rough times by keeping a running mental tab of which child rearing practices my Dad used that I would NEVER use on MY children. (Particularly the ones using electro-shock, medieval weapons or thumbscrews.) Um... (Dad and I have talked this over at length, and is a very different person now, so it's okay if he reads this.) Needless to say it came as an overwhelming shock when I kept catching myself doing everything on that NEVER list! (Except for the 3 mentioned above. No letters to D.Y.F.S., please.) Those impulses seem to be burned in as deeply as the need to eat, drink or dress in women's clothing. (I am a lumberjack.)
Sometimes I felt like the Linda Blair in "The Exorcist," one minute I was me, and the next I was spewing my Dad's pea soup all over my children!
Naturally Lynne took a dim view of this, (her parenting skills were 94% above reproach,) and she did her best to help me stop. (She, however, did use the 3 techniques mentioned above.)
Now I have it pared down to repeating my Dad's stale jokes or singing snatches of songs he learned at Boy Scout camp in the early 1930's.
The process of learning to place mental triggers on specific behaviors so that an internal voice would shout, "Hey peckerhead! You don't want to do this!" has proved invaluable. And not only with the kids, but also with other behaviors which family and friends have kindly pointed out as being vile, demeaning, or simply abrasive. (I've managed to retain the one's which were only childish, stupid, or embarrassing to others. You can take any good idea too far.)
So, that's it on parenting skills except for this:
PARENTING TIP: If you have trouble with a young child climbing into your bed late at night, try this: Put a crib mattress under your bed, and after you console them, pull out the mattress and let them sleep on the floor next to your bed. Eventually, when they need your security, they'll just come into the room, pull out the mattress themselves and go back to sleep. You won't even know about it til you wake up the next morning. And after a while, it gets to be too much trouble for them, and they stay in their own beds, but as long as that mattress is under yours, they feel secure.
Luther at Luther@lutheroutloud.com.
Tell him what you think, what you know, how you feel, or what made you feel
All images, text, animations,and music © 2000 By Luther C. Conant III (unless where otherwise noted.)