I have not written in over a year. Have not written anything meaningful in far longer than that. Not sure if I can manage to do so ever again. But I’m gonna try.
Men learn life lessons by hearing the stories of other men. Lessons about protecting women from ogres and why men are to blame for the plight of single mothers and lessons about yielding a seat to a damsel that wanders past needing to “get off these heels”. And lessons about how to cherish daughters to the point of having some weird ceremony with a ring.
And so on.
Good gravy, how we wallow in those things. Its like someone dumped bags of smooth stones under our mattress covers but we keep squirming and squirming to find what we know must be a comfortable spot in a bed made up of all these preconceived notions. I mean, it feels good to hear these proclamations, to nod and mentally flex against the injustices against women that they claim are present. Women usually react favorably. Hence the allure of “The Lift”.
I first confronted bags of bull rock under my mattress cover back in 2004. In hind sight I recognize that I’d witnessed repeated instances of the events that describe the average suburban family crumbling, so I thought. Even as mine was being pulverized like boulders in a hammer mill I still saw the hammer mill as men. Or worse, as a sentient thing unleashed upon families like how divorce is rampant in the church.
Obsession born of pain brings clarity (for a few), and clarity brings frustration (for an even smaller few). Full stop. That’s where we get to and where we stay. So we write and read and discuss with the few men we know whose eyes do not glaze over when the topic is broached.
I never moved fully from the frustration phase. It went into a kind of remission. I had settled into a passive posture. Because life was happening and there was home and kids and college and my job with promotions and the travel and busyness. And there was joy and drama and mostly joy for long enough to be convinced the most recent decade would inform my remaining decades.
For reasons I’ve no need to detail, I found myself again living alone. In a heartbreaking side story, the same dog that stayed with me in 2004 stayed with me again in 2019, defeating loneliness again as a dog uniquely can. The biggest heart break I’ve had in a very long time was the passing of my beloved best friend Dede at the age of 16 years and 3 months. May 18, 2019 I said goodbye to her and I carry a void that even nature and her vehement abhorrence of a vacuum cannot rush in to fill.
One or two of you may recall an occasion when I was driving hours from home for a bird hunting trip in West Texas. We had a meet up for lunch somewhere along the route. My dog fell ill and I turned around and drove seven hours back home to be with her. I’d do it a million times over. I miss her profoundly.
Some things I learned.
Family law sucks everywhere but I think as one moves from west to east it sucks way more. I encountered the possibility that one day soon when I may choose to retire, if I was divorced and under one of the many forms of alimony, I may have had to seek family law approval in order to even retire! Indentured indeed. No one seemed to find that astonishing but me. Ya gotta be in it to, er, win it? Or something.
Women would initially gasp at the fact that some man they know was about to be subjected to such a thing. Those are women who have not perfected the art of simply denying the existence of things they find unpalatable. The gasp is once and done. Delete. When handed that kind of weaponry, however, its a bit more palatable to them. It is another of those things that cannot be named or acknowledged aloud because even they know that such unfettered ability to burden a man is evil. But hey, its available like a social service that people avail themselves to without regard for actual need. Hush now.
I’m better now. Or not. Daily I feel like I am walking around in a neighborhood where I’d been assaulted in the past but now it appears to have turned the corner. The gentrification sure does make it feel safer. You cannot help but ask yourself, however, if some of the same people live behind the new facades.
Closing with a bitter sweet note, in the photo below taken a few months before she died, Dede expresses with her face the wry attitude I now try to maintain day to day. That is one of the things she taught me. Along with fierce loyalty, commitment, unabashed expressions of joy, a violent courage in the face of a threat to me or a family member. At four to six pounds over the years she was known to have jumped up and bitten the throat of our 138 pound giant schnauzer. Unbelievable.
Rest in peace my precious girl.