Monday, May 25, 2015

Father Figure - Part 2

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967; dir. Stanley Kramer)

John Prentice (Sidney Poitier), a distinguished African American physician, finally barks back at his father, who's trying to browbeat him out of marrying a white girl.  His father's a retired mailman. He says he's proud of what John has done with his life, but

MR. PRENTICE  But I worked my ass off to get the money to buy you all the chances you had! You know how far I carried that bag in thirty years?  Seventy-five thousand miles.  And mowin’ lawns in the dark so you wouldn’t have to be stokin’ furnaces...  and couId bear down on the books.  And what l mean to say is--

JOHN:  You’ve said what you had to say.
You listen to me. You say you don’t want to tell me how to live my life? What do you think you’ve been doing? You tell me what rights I’ve got or haven’t got... and what I owe to you for what you’ve done for me.  Let me tell you something.
I owe you nothing.
If you carried that bag a million miles, you did what you were supposed to do... because you brought me into this world ... and from that day you owed me... everything you could ever do for me, like I will owe my son... if I ever have another.


Those Winter Sundays
By Robert Hayden (1913 - 1980)

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.
I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,
Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?

Part 1 - Part 2

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Father Figure - Part 1

Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done

--Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Ulysses


Sixteen finds me
Blowing out candles and making wishes
And all around me
Is everyone but the one I'm wishing for
And he sent me flowers
And gift-wrapped excuses
 From a daddy whose daughter
 Wants to see him again

 And I know, I know It's just another birthday
But I guess I thought
This would be the one
When he would call me, see me
Hold me and free me
But it's just another birthday
And I'll be fine
I'll be fine

Nineteen finds me
And I'm wild-eyed and wide open
I gave myself away to love
But backseat promises fade like a mist
I'm screaming at the midnight air
Everyone hears me but I don't care
My heart's clenched just like a fist
'Cause, people, I didn't ask for any of this

I know, I know
It's just another birthday
But I guess I thought
This would be the one
When he would call me, see me
Hold me and free me
But it's just another birthday
And I'm not fine
I'm not fine

In the company of strangers
In a cold and sterile room
All alone with a child inside me
And I don't know what to do
Jesus, can You hear me
Come and heal my brokenness
Put the pieces back together
And be a Father to the fatherless
A father to the fatherless

Twenty-one finds me
Blowing out candles and making wishes
And all around me
My barefoot princess twirls and sings
It's so amazing

Looking back at all God's brought us through
You are my happy birthday
And you were born to break the chains
Now I know, I know
It's not just another birthday
'Cause I'm here, she's here
And look how far we've come
Since you've called me, saw me
Held me and freed me
Thank you, Lord, for another birthday
And we'll be fine
We'll be fine

- Casting Crowns, Come to the Well (2011)

Part 1 - Part 2 -

Monday, May 4, 2015

Mistakes We Never Stop Paying For

That's part of your problem: you haven't seen enough movies. All of life's riddles are answered in the movies.

-- Grand Canyon (1991; dir. Lawrence Kasdan)


Some mistakes I guess we never stop paying for. (beat)  I didn't even know her.

The girl on the train?  You liked her, didn't you?

Yes.  But I didn’t see it coming.

  How could you know she'd hurt you? How could anyone?

I didn't see it coming.

You should've?

Yes. But I didn't. Why didn't I?

You were so young.

Things sure turned out different.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

A Real Cool Hand - Part 2

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 (coming)

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Man Who Wasn't There and the Man Who Was

Hitherto I have resisted writing this entry.  I know that this story of managing the disorder cannot continue without an account of my third divorce--yes, third--and assuredly my final marriage.  But I wasn't certain how to proceed, for two reasons.  First, this entry cannot descend into a case of payback.  Second, there is my daughter Chloe, who is now three years old.  One of the truly damaging experiences of my childhood was listening to my mother assassinate the characters of numerous relatives, including my father.  I cannot let that happen to Chloe.  And so in telling this story I have decided to tell it, as much as possible, from the point of view of Katherine, her mother.

A couple of months into the divorce process (which from start to finish took seventeen months), I took a notebook, sat down with Katherine, asked her to explain her reasons for wanting to leave the marriage, and wrote down her response.  I didn't argue back.  I just needed to understand. Reduced to essentials, the story was simple:

Yesterday upon the stair, I met a man who wasn't there.
He wasn't there again today.
I wish, I wish he'd go away.

That may sound harsh.  But imagine yourself being perfectly miserable, and moreover having an infant and being convinced that the other parent was incompetent and therefore that the infant was in danger.  If I myself believed my daughter were in danger, and the occasion demanded it, I would stop at nothing to protect her.  Just so with Katherine.  And over the months I have come to take comfort in the knowledge that Chloe's mother would indeed stop at nothing. Not all parents are like that, and it is possibly the worst failing a parent can have.

Katherine and I have since become allies of a kind, by which I mean that although our life objectives have now diverged, we have a common commitment to Chloe. She and I communicate almost daily about Chloe's welfare and we trade stories of her amazing development as a person.  Once a month we meet at a coffee house and spend about two hours discussing Chloe's welfare at length.  On one occasion our relationship was so tense that I figured the meeting would be little more than a two-hour tirade.  Instead it was one of the most productive we have had, and it was and is remarkable to see Katherine's laser-like focus on our daughter.

We trade agenda items prior to each meeting and the tone is businesslike  (Even in the throes of the divorce, we let our lawyers do all the hooking and jabbing and almost never spoke to one another about the divorce.)  A couple of months ago one agenda item was my intention to return to this blog and my recognition that, in order for this account to be of any real use, honesty required a discussion of the relationship between the divorce and my bipolar disorder.  Katherine did not object; she simply observed that the divorce was essentially a private matter.  I replied that our affidavits are now a matter of public record.  Any interested party has the right to request them and read them.  She acknowledged that this was the case.  So I will try to confine this entry to a discussion of the affidavits. (Even the quote above about "the man who wasn't there" simply puts in different words a statement that appeared in Katherine's affidavit.)

Sunday, March 15, 2015

A Real Cool Hand - Part 1

It is Saturday night in the barracks of a small Forida prison where a gang of prisoners assigned to daily road work is watching KOKO and LUKE play poker.  Every other player has already folded.  DRAGLINE keeps offering advice to KOKO. GAMBLER also chimes in.

Earlier in the day DRAGLINE, who dislikes LUKE, called him out, taking advantage of the WARDEN's policy of allowing prisoners who have a grudge with one another to box out in the yard.  DRAGLINE is bigger and stronger than LUKE, who barely landed a blow on DRAGLINE and kept getting knocked to the ground.  The prisoners who circled around the two fighters egged DRAGLINE on.  But as a bloody, exhausted LUKE repeatedly got up after each blow, the attitude of the prisoners changed. They began to urge LUKE to stay down. But LUKE continued to stagger to his feet, again and again, until DRAGLINE, puzzled, finally quit the fight. He could not bring himself to hit LUKE again, and thus LUKE won an odd kind of victory.

The fight continues to resonate during the evening poker game.  LUKE holds two hole cards, one of them a king.  DRAGLINE keeps urging KOKO to stay in.  LUKE repeatedly raises the stakes with the casual statement, "Kick a buck," hardly bothering to glance at each dollar.  By prison standards a dollar is a lot of money.  DRAGLINE repeatedly urges KOKO on.  But LUKE's casual, automatic "Kick a buck" starts to become unnerving.  Finally this exchange occurs: 


Sure he's got kings but you still gotta call him.

KOKO looks back to DRAGLINE.


Man's got a pair o' kings, get your tail out.

KOKO folds. LUKE reaches for the pot at the same time that DRAGLINE reaches for Luke's cards.


Nothin'! A handful of nothin'!

(cuffs KOKO)

You stupid mullet-head. He beat you with nothin'! Just like today when he kept coming back at me - with nothin'.

LUKE (smiling)

Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.

Cool Hand Luke (1967; dir. Stuart Rosenberg)
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.