Monday, July 13, 2009

Sunday Scribbling #171: Indulgence


(A self-indulgence: This morning at the 10:30 service, six members of the Episcopal Church of Reconciliation here in Tres Leches were invited to tell stories of reconciliation in our lives. This was the one I read.)

The Art of Reconciliation

I did not know my father beyond the age of 5, exiled after a messy divorce. It’s foolishness to think that children forget banished parents: they live on in our imaginations, in the looks we give strangers, wondering just maybe. After a brief self-initiated meeting with him again when I was 21, I thought to myself, you’re the father here, you make the call next time. He never did.

You still don’t stop aching for lost fathers, though. At the age of forty-one, I wrote a novel entitled Scarred Angels. It was a scandalous literary potboiler, but it was also, in its way, an imagined life of my father. After I finished the novel, I found that I no longer ached for him: in my way, I had found him, and set him free. And he me.

Art—writing—reconciled me to my father, let him live more fully in my heart. Becoming a father has done the same. What I give to my son Walden are the so many things never given to me, and yet in that beautiful crossroads of Walden and me, the spirit of my father also gives and receives.

Here is a poem I wrote, that my father also inhabits:

[stray door]

How many fathers do you father
at 14 on a Detroit horse track,
lost in the downtown rivers,
the look he throws you across
the ground at play, seventeen winters
or past the time of worry,
a time of sensible wear.

Go to the saint anthony hotel,
walk the gloom of travis park,
invent a snow day in march,
all your hearts melting in
blue noon, orange flame—
playland in feral bloom
calliope seated in her white chapel
her marble knees.

Picture instead grey corridor,
cedar mounting, his eyes stray
door to door, the gloom of west
commerce infecting, dreaming his
dreams for him, beyond the greengrey
hills, beyond all west texas
onto the sands of india’s
gandhi salt, not his taking—

Death by drowning, she says:
he lay in wait, an act of mercy,
stone cold on the floor,
flurry of grease in the air—
no more waiting—
in a field of white teeth,
no songs, but a different chatter,
ankle deep.

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17 Comments:

Anonymous gautami tripathy said...

Acceptance comes with letting go. It frees us.

I am really touched by this post.

everything distils into reading

7:55 AM  
Blogger jsd said...

I still don't understand or even know my father and we lived in the same house until I left for the Army. Now he's a mystery who has become safer and less painful to think about, but the distance still remains. We're more like pleasant strangers who remember once in awhile to say hello.

8:20 AM  
Blogger Teresa said...

Poignant post, Murat. I assume that's Walden in the lower picture? I think that sometimes even when fathers are around, they're disengaged or squeezed out and still have to be invented in the minds of kids. Fatherhood is an art that I think we've lost to some extent, although some are regaining it, slowly maybe.

9:13 AM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Good to see you again, GT. I think another piece is that acceptance may not always be intentional. Like grace, it may simply fall.

11:16 AM  
Blogger murat11 said...

I hear you, jsd. The mess that my father was through most of his adult life, I've come to a sense that his absence was itself a gift.

11:18 AM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Teresa: Walden is indeed the sentient being on the left, about ten years ago. Interesting the notion of invention: whether near or far, I suppose we are all inventing, disinventing, and reinventing our parents - fathers and mothers. I'm happy that the pain or weight that went with all that inventing has moved on.

11:24 AM  
Blogger anno said...

Not self-indulgent at all, but tender and sweet. I love that second picture of you & Walden (like Teresa, I'm assuming); you always seem like someone who thinks from his own first principles rather than acting strictly on habit, and I suspect that you and Walden (and Tina, too!) get to have a lot more fun as a result.

And, yeah, it is amazing how writing yields the kind of understanding that allows for release and reconciliation; a great liberation.

11:32 AM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Amen, Sister Anno: to the great liberation and to your sizing up the writer's walkabout approach to life. For better and for less better.

11:36 AM  
Blogger Dee Martin said...

Nothing I can say here can be right. Relationships never go the way we think they should. We say one thing, another is heard. We feel one thing, another is assumed. I was grown before I could forgive my father for being who he was and he was gone by the time I was grown enough to ask him for forgiveness for being who I was. I pray I inflict less damage on my own children and that somewhere down the karmic line all will be well. All our little inner children need hugs and all of us parents need permission not to be perfect.

12:44 PM  
Blogger present said...

Maybe the ache for lost fathers actually lessens over time but loss contiunes to inhabit, permeate and motivate.
The photos are great together. It blurs the lines.

7:57 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Dee: Back in my daze as a therapist, an old family therapist named Carl Whitaker used to say that parents need to decide how they are going to fail as parents, not if. Now, that's permission.

present: So good to hear from you again. I like your trinity of infinitives. Loss as aquifer.

11:11 PM  
Blogger MichaelO said...

Your father's absence as a gift. Interesting manner of putting it. And for every father's absence (and there are many such holes in the world) there is, at least, a thing. For some, it is a thing forgotten, placed in an old closet, lights out, doors shut. But the thing will always manifest. It may become a tumor for some, or perhaps just an ugly wart. But for the lucky ones the thing becomes something to behold. To hold into the light studying its many facets. For in each facet, there is a ray that shines upon you. And depending on how you hold it will either cast a pallor or a glow.

Paschal, your gift is truly luminous.

Peace, bro.

1:38 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Beautifully rendered Michael, and I know we share, with different timings, these absent (and absenting) fathers. It certainly helped that I have had spiritual fathers along the way - and helped that they could wend their way through my protean defenses. My therapy mentor in grad school was as much a loving father as I could have asked for. My current stepfather has hung on in his own loving (and loyal) way, through the rocky ride I have given him and me through the years.

In the spring of 1985, I found a home to buy in New Orleans that I fell in love with; I had no down payment. My father, as it happened, had just died in March. Interestingly, he left his small life insurance settlement to his brother, my uncle. His brother wanted no part of it; he tracked down my sister and me and split it between us. The timing was quite fortuitous; that was the down payment on the house.

2:45 PM  
Anonymous missalister said...

I’ve pondered this poignant piece off and on all day, thought about what on earth would I write here, and I gave up. Not because I’m a yellow-assed lion on the way to see the Wizard of SA, but because there’s no answer. My dad and I were opposites. He was Mr. Discipline-and-reality and I was Miss Leave-me-alone-I’m-dreaming. We were at each other’s throats when I hit my badass teen years. And there were many times I wished he would leave us. It’s all just the way it is—with you, with me, with everyone. And it’s far worse than I thought, for I see the man behind the curtain is double dangerous, has brains and beauty ; )

11:26 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Ms A: As one of the other mentors, Van the Man heself, intoned: It ain't why why why why why - it just is. And that's the truth, ain't it? It just is. The weight that completely disappeared when the novel was finished was quite something, as was the day that it hit me like sweet lightning that my father's absence was, in his own odd way, quite a gift, too. Besides, he's definitely still around: plenty of him right here in this chair where I sit: I know it, I can feel it, in lots of little things in the wind and in my gut. Not as thunderdoming as those days when I feel my colossal asshole of a maternal grandfather coming through my bones. Those are days to run behind the curtain. But, even there, what dies - what is lifted - is the veil over seeing them as rounded individuals and not simply absent, not simply assholes. Their stories get folded into the yous and mes, just as we get folded into theirs.

12:12 AM  
Blogger L D Leach said...

I like reading the comments and discussion as much as the piece.

Big Hug.
LDL

3:51 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Sister Laura (this is familial, as well as tribal, sister Laura, folks): Glad you joined the campfire here. Love back.

4:10 PM  

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