part is here. I was going to post a discussion today on an issue which will probably cause some negative words and I'm just not in the right mood for it (read: I'm feeling defensive and vulnerable, as I often am when I reveal bits of myself online as I'm about to do.) I'll save the discussion for tomorrow
Ok, where was I? Oh, right, so I get on the plane in California Monday morning and send, to a few friends, this text message: "I'm leaving.. on a jet plane…." and I'm delighted when one gets the song reference and corrects me, noting that – unless I just jinxed myself – I DO know when I'll be back again.
So I smiled at that. But I sit near couples on the plane and feel alone. And there's a baby a row back from me crying and then, exhausted, falling asleep, and I'm reminded of my nieces crying while falling victim to a stomach flu that ran through the Butki house during the holidays.
And I miss them.
This always happens, I think. This happened after the Wisconsin wedding (slideshow here) where they were flower girls and it's happening now: When I go from a setting filled with relatives and activities back to my more solitary life as a bachelor I crash emotionally.
This time is going to be different, though. For one thing, I'm writing about it. And it's like when I used to speak of fears that I'd be as unemotional and uncaring as I thought my father was and someone would note that merely by considering this possibility I was reducing the odds that I WOULD be like that.
And it's the same here, in a way – if one knows they are going to become lonely and depressed and can then take steps to try to pull oneself out of that nosedive then ones odds increase, right? That was part of my logic in writing this.
Another reason is that writing is, for me, cathartic. By writing I get to know myself better. And I realize things that I may not have picked up on before. Like that it's not just the living I'm missing but also the dead, or, more specifically, my dad. When we went to his gravesite and my sister was trying to explain the concepts of death and cancer to my nieces I realized I couldn't think of what I wanted to say to dad.
Does anyone else ever have this problem? It's a bit like when you go to give a toast and then you realize you don't have anything intelligent to say. Well, it's sort of like that. I see people go to gravesides and they mumble something and I, curious by nature, wonder what they are saying.
Perhaps they are just commenting on the landscaping but I tend to think they are thinking and saying something intelligent while I'm struck speechless (yes, this happens to me off-line more than online) and thinking, "Hmm. Um, hi, dad?" and having mixed feelings that I'd forgotten the exact date – hell, even the exact month - of his death.
I flashed back to my first confession when I realized to my horror I had nothing juicy to confess. I thought about making up a crime or a "good" sin but all I came up with was "I didn't take the trash out when I was supposed to." I never was that good of a liar.
So, maybe, in a way this two-part letter, dad, is my communication to you. I never was much of a talker – I was always more of a writer. When I got a bad report card I'd cushion the potential punishment by writing (then typing since my handwriting was/is atrocious) a letter explaining that I screwed up, that I'd sent myself to my room (where they can find me when they were ready to yell at me ) and that I was a harder critic on myself than they could ever be." I guess it was a pre-emptive defensive strike.
I'm guessing that's not how most people deal with bad report cards. And when I had something I wanted to say to my parents I'd leave a heart-felt note on the kitchen table. I'd often go to bed (this was in high school) at about 4 a.m. on weekends and dad would be getting up around then. Sometimes we'd even pass on the stairs. "Good morning!" "Good night."
Yes, dad, I'm babbling. There's a reason I named my college newspaper column "Butki's Babbles" and it was only partly because I'd found self-deprecation a good defense against a strong offense.
Anyway, what I want to say to you, dad, and to others reading, is that, generally, I'm happy. I may not look it all the time but that could just be because I'm lost in thought.
But I'm generally happy with my life. I know one day I'll find the perfect woman – ok, an imperfect woman who will accept me, essentially, as the weirdo I am – and have kids and I KNOW I'll be a kick-ass dad myself because I've been worrying about how good a dad I'll be ever since I realized how imperfect you were. Oops. That came out a bit harsh but you know what I mean and there's little point in providing nuance.
Did you know that when I work in education, or in the church nursery, it's not just the kids but also the adults who think I'm already a parent because of how good I am with kids? I take that as a compliment.
I'm not sure how to end this so I'll end it with two anecdotes about kids because while your attitude was often that you didn't really have much use for someone who didn't read the newspaper and couldn't debate current events with you – something we did quite often – I know the truth. I've seen photos of you with me and you look to be smiling. And in later years photos you didn't seem quite as happy. I really wish you would have told me – or anyone – why you seemed to take less joy in life after that. But I'm digressing, as I'm wont to do.
The important thing is I saw that you were happy around kids, and not just any kids, but your kids.
So anyway, I'm subbing one day and working with a kindergarten class when one asks me how old my son is.
I don't have a son, I tell him.
Well, then, how old is your daughter, he asks.
I don't have a daughter either, I said.
He looks at me like I'd just told him there is no Santa Claus. Pure blasphemy.
"But you have to have kids," he said.
"But I don't," I told him, feeling suddenly guilty about that.
The boy turned to the boy seated next to him, looking for help here. 'You can't be a teacher unless you have children, right?"
"Sure you can," I told him. I was hoping he wasn't going to point out that I was just a sub so what did I know, but fortunately he went in another direction: "So you live with your parents?"
I laughed. No, I told him, I don't live with my parents.
Now he looked alarmed. "If you don't live with your parents and you don't have kids then where do you live? Do you…" he looked around wildly… "live on the street?"
Another boy turned to him and said, "It's ok. There are some people, like" and he did a little head gesture to indicate me "that don't have kids or a family and, no, they are not homeless."
"Oh," the first boy said, like that explained everything.
So that's me – I don't fit in the typical child's idea of what someone my age is like – I'm not married (yet), I don't have kids (yet) but, no, I'm not homeless either. And I'm happy.
So where do I live? I live on the second floor of a house. The fact I live up a separate set of stairs – through a separate door – from the family on the first floor seemed a fine arrangement for all concerned but it did spark one bit of confusion.
One day as I went out to my car in our shared driveway the mother of the kids downstairs gave me an odd look and I asked her about it and she said something like, "My daughter wants to know why we have a man who lives in our attic." And I realized that with her, as with the boy at that school, I was sort of an enigma. And that made me smile too.
So I approached her and put out my hand and said, "Hi, my name is Scott. I live upstairs from you." And I gave her a wink and a smile as if to say that I'm not a monster who lives in the attic but just another nice person. Her fear disappeared and she smiled back and we shook hands.
My work there done, I went to wherever I was going. And with that, dad, I bid you adios, for my work here, with this letter, is also done.