The Other End of Sunset

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A true thanks giving

Well, here we are again, snug as bugs in a rug, on the eve of Thanksgiving. For those of you following along from outside the United States, Thanksgiving is a fake holiday, commemorating a dinner that didn’t happen, between some settlers (largely of English descent) and a set of Native Americans. Well, the dinner didn’t happen, the settlers weren’t that friendly with the Natives, and the holiday was created (in its current form) in the 1850’s (about two centuries after the hypothetical meal).

And the main “friendship” we had with the Natives was to kill them, in droves. We killed them with guns and bullets, we killed them with diseases, we killed them by moving them to largely arid lands. Generally, I don’t believe we had them for dinner – either as guests or the main course, I should point out.

However these facts aren’t really relevant. We celebrate our good fortune on the last Thursday in November, and tell fairy stories about being friendly with the natives. I mean, really, we are Americans, we don’t mind our history being more fiction than fact.

We have gone to war on far flimsier stories than the Thanksgiving fable. Nope, not just Iraq, but also the Gulf of Tonkin, and lots of deceptions related to the starts of the World Wars.

But who is counting, we are not here to talk about history, really.

But maybe we are.
Hey what else can we do now?
Except roll down the window
And let the wind blow
Back your hair
--Bruce Springsteen
I was at the gym today, and I ran into Father Rusty. Father Rusty was the priest who counseled JR at the end of her illness, and gave her last rites the day before she died. I called him when she died, and he didn’t call me back. I said hello to him today, and he remembered me after a moment. He had nothing to say to me, not even to ask how I was. I wonder why not.

I find myself thinking a lot about my life, and my stories, and how I got here. Do you ever wonder if you are the person you were supposed to be? What if you messed up some crucial choice, didn’t take some opportunity you were supposed to because you were busy that day, you had a date, or wanted to find a way to create deflation in Second Life, or had a headache? And as a result, you are only a shade of that which you were planned to be?

In other words, no matter how successful you are, you are a failure. You didn’t meet the plan. When you die, will you get a moment to see the plan, the weave you were supposed to make, and to judge yourself against the foreordained outcomes? Perhaps, if so, there is hope that you can judge yourself a success, although not the success that was expected.

I grew up in Conway, Arkansas. In a white house, with black shutters, and some big oak trees in the yard. Here’s the house, if you want to go see it.

I walked to school. To the little private school where I went to grade school, Cadron. It was a self-paced school, where we did projects and stuff. I did a project on Egyptian history that involved me making a mask of Tutankhamen and telling stories. Yup, that’s it – very hippy education. I imagine the teachers wore sandals and socks.

Later, I walked to the middle school and the junior high. It was a long walk to the high school, so I think I rode my bike or got a ride. I can’t really remember.
I hated high school.
I prayed it would end
--Mary Gauthier
She speaks for me. I HATED it there. Well, honestly, I hated Conway. The closed minds. The small town views of the world. The racism. The fact that I never fit in.

I wasn’t on the Island of Misfit Toys, I was desperately hunting for it.
Now main street’s whitewashed windows and vacant stores
Seems like there ain’t nobody wants to come down here no more
--Bruce Springsteen
But I learned a lot there. I was free in ways that many kids aren’t. I could do whatever I wanted, as long as I stayed away from the other kids. It was safe, in a suffocating way. If I could just have figured out how to fit in, how to be like the others, how to think less of someone for the God they worship, or their skin color. But I couldn’t.

But you know what’s odd?
I’m thirty-five we got a boy of our own now
Last night I sat him up behind the wheel and said
“Son, take a good look around.
This is your hometown.”
--Bruce Springsteen
I find myself missing it. Missing the accent. Missing the way that honeysuckle smells in the end of the summer, when it has turned from that sweet lovely smell to a darker, more sickly, stronger scent. The scent of a lovely woman who has aged, and isn’t willing to accept it. The scent of change.

I haven’t been back since I went to college two decades ago, more or less. I may have to go back.

Perhaps, after all these years, I have one lesson to learn left.

Perhaps my lesson is to be thankful for what I have, and what I have had, not just what’s in front of me. To be in a moment, not waiting for the next. To wait in a place, in a time, not hunt for another. To recognize that “now” is a gift, and you will never have this chance again, nor shall you pass this way again. Not to wear a watch, or have a schedule, or have to go circulate around the room. Just to be. And be thankful.

I have so much to be thankful for. I was watching some TV show this morning, and they were talking about how important it is to practice saying things you are thankful for.

So I think I’ll give a short list of things for which I give thanks. Not exhaustive, but perhaps illustrative.
  • I’m thankful for SL, and the giggle, and the light.
  • I’m thankful for my carpool pal, who never fails to make me think differently about that which matters, life, love, and Motorhead music.
  • I’m thankful for my best friend, in temporary exile in a foreign land.
  • I’m thankful for my dogs, and my house, and my ridiculous motorcycle habits.
  • I’m thankful for the clarity that comes, in that instant before the hand descends to strike again.
  • I’m thankful for the friends who tell me when I’m wrong, and (sometimes) when I’m right.
  • I’m thankful for the desert, the mountain, and the sea.
  • I’m thankful for the friends, as their faces pass before me while I write this, each making me remember a time or a place. Without a watch.
  • I’m thankful that I had JR, and that I was holding her hand when she passed.
I’ve been very blessed in my life. I’ve had many chances to get it right, and sometimes have managed to do so. Many times I have failed to, and some I shall never get to improve.

It’s true, I think, that you can never go home again. But perhaps you can visit, and remember, and although you have changed and home has changed, perhaps you can have a relationship with it again. I need the opportunity to try again. So often, you don’t get that chance. I am thankful that, in some cases, I have it.

I think I shall go visit Conway. And maybe I’ll run into someone from my past, and have a nice chat with them, and connect, and realize that the Island was always there, inside my head, if I’d just looked a bit farther.

Go my friends, and tell someone what you are thankful for. I’ll be here when you get back.

2 Comments:

  • I am thankful for your blog. It reminds me that there are other people who feel the same way. It makes me feel less lonely. Maybe JR is watching out for you from above; you never know.

    By Anonymous thenakedsingularity@gmail.com, at 8:50 PM  

  • Doug,

    I just found your blog today, in a pique of nostalgia that Michele and I were having: You remember the Wilson twins, on Caldwell Street, just down the way from you.

    The *other* misfit toys, if that helps you recall.

    Michele is now a French teacher in TX, happily married over a decade to a now-retired Science teacher. I've been working in mental health in Little Rock for about 15 years, and blissfully domestically-partnered (is the wink and nod necessary, here?) with the requisitely stereotypical passel of cats and dogs.

    Gosh, this is starting to sound like the "polite smalltalk from the 20-year reunion that none of us gave enough of a shit about to attend." That wasn't my purpose in commenting on this particular entry.

    What I wanted you to know, after having read this far back, is that I am thankful for who you have become. Not for your financial success, your Porsche, motorcycles, boat nor mountainside home; instead, I am thankful that you have loved deeply and well. We all knew you were brilliant, it was the emotional part that strangled you.

    Perhaps that's what still makes coming Home so hard. As far as we have distanced ourselves from who we were, the shadows linger like closet monsters. But you have shown herein a brutal courage in facing the loss of Jeanne, as well as facing who you are becoming without her. I hope you continue to learn the lessons that loving her taught you-- I think I kinda like that guy, and I'm thankful he exists.

    ~Heather
    IntensiFire37@aol.com

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:29 PM  

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