Tag Archives: Jose

Parents

Growing up is absorbing work.  One minute your only concern is to convince your parents to give you dessert whether or not you have eaten your assigned allotment of brussel sprouts, and the next you have to fashion a self that will stand the time honored tests of middle school, puberty, young adulthood.

As we diligently construct ourselves, what we might miss is our parents growing up too.  They transform from the parents of giggling (or scowling) little babies into the parents of adults.  Fellow grown-ups who hold jobs and create families.  Who know things and think things as peers.  But who are still their children.

It can’t be easy.  Remaking yourself is a Herculean task in and of itself, but to do so out of such necessity and following the schedule of the tiny creature that was once your baby…

I’ve seen the pictures.  I know my parents were my age once.  I’ve finally looked at those photos and discovered, “my god they were younger than me.”  They were two young and loving kids who wanted armfuls of babies (well, Linda wanted, but José was game).  They are now older, loving grown-ups with a small army of adult friends who happen to be their progeny.

My parents have with dealt this involuntary transition with remarkable aplomb.  I think there were some rough patches, but Linda and José have what I can only describe as grace.  Their children have aged and demanded to be taken seriously, and whatever else they may have had going on, whatever ideas about themselves they had fashioned over two decades or so of parenting little kids, they have indulged us.  They have accepted our adulthood.  We can all be adults together now.

We can all be open and honest like peers.  They still hide things from us to protect us (or some similar instinct) because they still want to shelter us from what they can.  It isn’t hard to do.  We have learned to take them absolutely at their word (for the most part).  We don’t pry or wonder.  Maybe this is because we are selfish and self-centered, but I’d like to believe that, just as they accept us as the personalities we are, we accept them as the parents they want to be.  We are keen to let them be the magical wonder-adults they were when we were little.

We love that they are our friends, colleagues in the work of life.  But equally we still love that they are our parents, who can say the right thing and fix what is wrong with ease.  From moment to moment they may not know if they will need to dispense fraternal commiseration or coddling and reassurances.  What hard guess work!  They are our parents, and they do it remarkably well.

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Shame

It started with Mary Poppins.  After his children inadvertently cause a riot at the bank where he works, Mr. Banks is fired.  More than that, he is shamed.  The glowering old men he works for have his umbrella turned inside out, his hat punched through.

I hated this scene.  I knew it was just a hat and an umbrella, and I knew that Mr. Banks would suffer briefly only to rediscover the joy of spending time with the loving family his job had kept him too busy for.  I knew this, but I couldn’t stand to watch.  Because I also knew it was more than just a hat and an umbrella.  Mr. Banks lost the material icons of “success” as he understood them.  The twinge in my stomach was from a deep understanding that those horrid men were not just mussing his accessories, they were clawing at his sense of self.  They, the sneering and unsympathetic powers-that-be, were blind to his humanity, indifferent to the wretchedness of the culture they presided over, in which Mr. Banks could only feel like a proper husband, father, and man with a certain kind of hat and a certain kind of job.

Maybe I read too much into that scene, but as a pretty young child my reaction to it had a dramatic and visceral quality that made my stomach ache.

I still hate these sorts of scenes in movies, when a character (even a relatively unsympathetic one) loses some silly treasure that they took pride in.

I’m not much into material objects myself.  I have my own little treasures, of course, but I’ve trained myself very well to always imagine their imminent disappearance and my subsequent calm reaction to their absence.  I left a favorite teddy bear on a school bus in 1st or 2nd grade.  The next day the bus driver held it up and asked who it belonged to.  I was shy and sitting towards the back and said nothing.  I passed the little bear on my way off the bus, but there were kids in front and behind me moving at a steady pace.  The bus driver didn’t look at me as I approached and so I kept moving, silent.  The bear made no more appearances on the bus, and my mom assured me that he had probably found a safe and happy home with the bus driver’s own children.

I thought about that bear a lot.  I had personified a very sad, abandoned stuffed animal, and I regretted my own absurd inability to get him back.  I resolved that it was important to be at peace with the absence of objects.   Even if Mr. Banks was proud of his hat and umbrella he ought to be comfortable with their impermanence.  If he and I could just let those items go we could save ourselves some pain.

Still, we all cling to items for comfort.   I can’t take the sad fact that little items of delight get taken away by brutal fate.  Very early on I accepted impermanence as a condition of the material things in my life, but I can’t demand the same decades of trained indifference from others.  Their suffering hurts.  I wish they could keep their treasures.

We cling to items, to titles, to things we cannot control.  We allow them to define us.  And then they are taken away, with or without malice, by the churning of time and the hands of others.  We forget how to find wholeness without those external things.  We are ashamed to find ourselves so stripped.

In the wake of the spectacular WorldCom cluster-f#*% my father lost his job with the company where he had worked for over twenty years.  My parents, in their mid-40s, lost their entire retirement savings.  My father shrugged.  Too bad, he said, but he had his family and that’s what mattered.  I’m sure he was hurt by the whole mess, but to my father the hat was just a hat, the umbrella just an umbrella.

There is no shame in losing mere objects.