January 23, 2006
The Cats in the Cradle
The Verdant Shore, Near Hilo HawaiiMy child arrived just the other day,
He came to the world in the usual way.
But there were planes to catch, and bills to pay.
He learned to walk while I was away.
And he was talking 'fore I knew it, and as he grew,
He'd say, "I'm gonna be like you, dad.
You know I'm gonna be like you."
My son turned ten just the other day.
He said, "Thanks for the ball, dad, come on let's play.
Can you teach me to throw?" I said, "Not today,
I got a lot to do." He said, "That's ok."
And he walked away, but his smile never dimmed,
Said, "I'm gonna be like him, yeah.
You know I'm gonna be like him."
Well, he came from college just the other day,
So much like a man I just had to say,
"Son, I'm proud of you. Can you sit for a while?"
He shook his head, and he said with a smile,
"What I'd really like, dad, is to borrow the car keys.
See you later. Can I have them please?"
I've long since retired and my son's moved away.
I called him up just the other day.
I said, "I'd like to see you if you don't mind."
He said, "I'd love to, dad, if I could find the time.
You see, my new job's a hassle, and the kid's got the flu,
But it's sure nice talking to you, dad.
It's been sure nice talking to you."
And as I hung up the phone, it occurred to me,
He'd grown up just like me.
My boy was just like me.
And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon,
Little boy blue and the man in the moon.
"When you coming home, son?" "I don't know when,
But we'll get together then, dad.
We're gonna have a good time then.
We all know the words... It was an anthem for our coming of age in the 70's. For many of us we listened to the song and looked at ourselves in the mirror and said " No Way, No me, I will not become what they are..."
But as a friend once said to me, he found that it is inevitable. He was sitting in a restaurant in Los Angeles, suit and tie, meeting a client, and realized that he had become everything that he despised as a former counter culturalist.
I look in the mirror and see myself physically and perhaps in every other way, becoming my mother and I am enraged by it, because so many of the circumstances are out of my control.
I grew up in a home where my parents lived in a sexless, loveless relationship "for the sake of the children." My father had a massive nervous breakdown at age 42 and found that he could not hold down a job once he was released from the institutions that helped him rebuild his sanity. He had a pension and SSA Disability payments, which provided a modest income, but to really make ends meet my mother had to work. She did. Did she enjoy working? I don't know... I never asked and now I cant. I just know that she worked and worked and if she had any dreams I doubt that she realized them. I know that her domestic life was a disaster.
I am the fruit of that. I saw it and said " No...I wanted the 2.5 kids and the house with the white picket fence. I married twice with those expectations, the first time with that implied, the second time with that stipulated. The Engineer was not ready to be a parent... I look back and understand that given our youth, but Woody promised and it was a lie just to get me to marry him. It has been our dirty little secret how this arrangement has been enforced...Once a family was out of the realm of possibility for me, and he admitted this and asked me for forgiveness,I was able to forgive him and somewhat accept it or so I thought. The pain of seeing young parents at this job is like salt being rubbed into the wound.
For a very long time I have been filled with rage. I am like a bomb waiting to go off. I tend to go off at the least thing. I am so angry, inexplicably, that it frightens me at times other times I revel in it for even though anger is such a negative emotion, by feeling it, and accepting the reality of it, I feel alive, I am in touch with my true self.
But for as much as I have identified some of the causes, it has never really explained it to my satisfaction. Woody isn't the only reason, poor health, menopause, Hawaii and that whole situation,... I know in my heart there was more....
I spent 5 years in extensive counseling at BIOLA University, sitting with some of the great minds in Christian psychology, and their students. One of the goals of good therapy is to teach you 1. To know when your whipped and you need to get back into counseling, and 2. To "self counsel" to lean to critically analyze what is going on in your life and choose to make the changes or acknowledge those things that you cant change and have to deal with. Many people never get to the point where they truly can do this. If your issues are due to organic problems, its not always possible. For example, those that are bi-polar, or have other chemical imbalances, or brain damage. Their realities are altered by their physical difficulties. My issues are nearly all eviromentally driven, with consideration given to things like hormones, general health, and my spiritual condition.
To do this sort of self treatment, you have to be ruthless with yourself and be prepared to deal with the situation. Like the alcoholic that has come to the understanding of the First Step of understanding their powerlessness over alcohol, the depressed and mentally ill that understand their issues, must deal with them, it can mean life or death...
My epiphany came at church. Pastor David was teaching on 1 Corinthians 13. The "Love" Chapter. As usual, he takes us on a tangent very different than the usual. For example last week as we dealt with the "Good Samaritan" he didn't talk much about the man that rescued the victim but the innkeeper that took the risk and continued to care for the victim when he might not be repaid. This week, instead of talking about how we should love others, Pastor applied this chapter to ourselves and how if we fail in loving ourselves, we defeat the purposes that God has for us. I sat and looked at the mental mirror and realized that by not acknowledging my feelings regarding my life, by allowing things to continue in the direction that they are with my job and my homelife that I was engaged in a major pattern of self hate. I went to the altar and prayed for the strength to do what needs to be done.
Woody and I didn't talk much as we went home changed into working clothes and took off for lunch and then off to the Mall to load our case with jewelry that we had ready. Once we got seated and ordered our food I looked Woody square in the eye and said. "Woody, I know why I feel the way I do, I am angry that my life has turned out exactly the way my Mother's did."
Woody, who never misses an opportunity to put my parents down retorted " No way, Hoku, You are light years ahead of your mother. You own your home, have money in the bank, have owned a business and realized many of your dreams. You have a great job and make more than your mom ever did and you aren't saddled with a drunk and debt..."
"She had children,I said quietly"
Woody snorked "Yeah, and look what that got her... Where are they now? Kids are so over rated. You know that you were never cut out to be a mother, you cant put up with the cats, let along a child..."
I replied "My mothers problem was that she favored the wrong child and she married a man that failed to keep his word to her, that he would be the leader and head of his home, he renounced that role when he gave up on life. Sort of like what you have done. Life got tough in Hawaii and you had to sweat it out, but when you got the cash from your sister, and you wanted to come back to the mainland, and you got the cash out of the business and the house, you gave up and have rested on the laurels of your bank account. You gave up. You are content to let your wife support you, let me work 7 days a week (several people at church commented on my working two jobs 7 days a week negatively)....
"Hoku, I haven't taken a dime of your paychecks, and I want you to save as much as you can and only pay your expenses and for the health insurances"
"But,Woody, the money is running out. You have borrowed the limit on your retirement funds, when that runs out, then you will want all that I am earning to maintain your standard of living. Like my father who only cared if there was food and alcohol in the house, so you will be. I see it coming and it enrages me. I cant believe I am in this position. You want me to work every moment of my day and night and I am telling you that I wont do it. I also wont allow you to say one more word about my parents since we are just like them.
there was a long silence. Woody finally looked at me and said that we did look like them relationally. And it was wrong. He cant change a lot of things and is sorry that I am so sad. He asked if I would be happy staying home and running the store. His mother hated her life as a housewife, was I sure I liked that life...Im not good at it...He asked me if I would be willing to wait for him to job hunt after we get the store stocked as this is taking a lot of time, and would I not quit until I get my health issues taken care of. I agreed to this but was amazed with the next words out of his mouth.
"You aren't going to demand that we go to counseling again. I hate it, I don't get it and its so embarrassing. You aren't going to go to Pastor David and embarrass me like you did before. You did that at Life Center and ruined everything for me. The men wouldn't talk to me, treated me like a freak."
So I don't think that a change is coming. It must all be kept a big secret. I only know that each time I expose the truth, it makes me stronger.
And I still look in the mirror, I think I know the truth now, and knowing this I can change my reality. This might mean a future without Woody. We are heading in that direction. That was the silent thing that was on the table yesterday. Its on there. I stand to lose a lot if that happens and so does he. It would be better if we could work this out forgive and move on, but when only one party want this sort of thing you end up growing apart, falling apart. My father's death freed my mother, perhaps that is how I will be freed from this double life...