Yesterday was our youngest son’s 7th birthday. He is an early riser like myself, and from 5:30 am until the rest of the family got up we spent time together talking about his life. I told him stories about things he couldn’t remember, like his baptism at the family church and the time he decided to run away from home in the rain wearing only one shoe, things like that. He likes to hear about his life- I suppose we all do- and so after every story he would ask me to tell him one more.
I love telling stories, always have and I used to write quite a bit but I have given it up except for comments on a blog or two when I have a few minutes. Over the years I have discovered that no matter how measured, how inoffensive one tries to be, there is always someone out there that will find a reason to be upset at what you’ve said. Your pride in family is a rebuke of their choice to remain single. Your observation about the failure of some societal norm is an attack on their lifestyle choice. A funny line or a play on words is an attack on someone’s personhood or orientation. After a while you just give up and keep your stories to yourself, when someone says something you disagree with or that they clearly know nothing about you clench your jaw and grin but you don’t say anything for fear of having them take it the wrong way.
The reason I speak about my own limited experience on a small piece of land in a remote location is because like any other human being I want some form of communion with other like minded souls. I want to tell them stories, like the ones my son wanted me to tell because I know how much I love hearing the things other people have to say when they speak from experience, or the heart, or with love. I have admired the things that Jim has written here because even though his frustration with the bullshit and falsehoods drive him to put these essays down in words, underneath it there is love and truth in what he says. If he didn’t care he’d be like every other money grubbing dick out there and look out for number one, but he doesn’t. He writes things that he knows about and he puts them together in a way that anyone with an IQ on the right hand side of the bell curve can grok at first read. His righteous anger is justified and it turns into something worthwhile and meaningful and I respect that.
I was up early this morning and when I saw what this thread had become I was disappointed- not because it was originally about some comment I wrote, because clearly I am no Steinbeck nor could I ever be- but because it revealed something else that I have tried to avoid for years now. We live in a time where so much is false, so much has been perverted and maligned that its hard to know what the truth is anymore, so people assume nothing is. I enjoy the comments here because I know that every one of the people who have something to say, have a story to tell. They aren’t the labels we give them- racist, drunken Indian, disabled veteran, whatever- they are just like everyone else, just trying to tell their own particular story from their own remote location in their own voice so they can know that they aren’t alone.
After my wife and the rest of the kids woke up and we opened presents and ate breakfast, my oldest son and I headed out to do chores and then to help a neighbor load hay onto the wagons and then into the barn. It was one of those perfect Summer days, cerulean skies with fluffy clouds racing each other to the horizon. There was a breeze that kept the bugs off and even though the hay scratched and chafed with every bale we pitched, it was fun work- old men and young boys in concert, chasing up and down the field behind the baler trying to keep up. At the end of the day we headed back home for the party, my wife having made plates full of homemade french fries, cheeseburger sliders on toasted buns, pesto and wild field greens. There were balloons and one of the neighbors brought fireworks for the kids who spent their time checking out the new litter of kittens under the barn and bouncing on the trampoline. One of the fathers asked me to show him how to use the scythe in the orchard and he picked it up in no time. The phone kept ringing with birthday wishes from family and friends and we all had a few drinks to celebrate while the kids ate cake. The whole day was built around what we all had in common, what we all liked about each other, or enjoyed doing together and by the time we said our farewells and put the kids to bed and stood together in the kitchen holding each other up as much as hugging one another, my wife and I realized what a wonderful world it really was and how lucky we were to be in it.
I don’t write a lot about the things I don’t have, or the way I wish it could be if the world were different because that’s just the way things are. My life isn’t close to perfect, I ache sometimes so bad I can hardly move, but moving is what I have to do and so I get on with it and count the blessings to dull the pain and it works for me. I don’t imagine that things are going to get much better or that the world I grew up in will ever come back, but that’s just the way things are and you can only do so much, but what you can, you do.
After reading the thread this morning I thought that if we could have had all of you here for the day, everyone would have got along just fine. There would have been joking and teasing, but it would have been tempered by what we had in common, not what makes us different and I bet that as the light fell at the latest hour of the year, we all would have enjoyed hearing each others stories.