Friday, November 24, 2006

The Two-Fer

Two years young, baby. That's what the Son is today. I can't believe that I've written 24 months of more or less continual blogposts. As I've said, I had to be pushed into doing this gig, which I saw as a complete waste of time. Well, Sonsters -- I was wrong. So very very wrong. Writing the Son has been, especially over the past 10 months, the most rewarding creative work I've ever done. And that I've built a solid, responsive, global audience floors me everytime I think about it. Unlike my daughter's generation, I still view this Web thang as a human miracle of communication. But that's because I'm nearing 50 and grew up with records you cut out of the back of an Alpha Bits box. When I look at the teen or watch any of the music videos/ads aimed at her demographic, instant global connection and expression is no different than a breakfast burrito. It just is. I wonder what it'll take to knock the teen's socks off when she hits middle age . . .

How much longer I'll keep the Son running I really can't say. Thanks to this little soapbox, I'm starting to get feelers from some serious folk to do bigger things, both written and non. I can't divulge what these are, since for all I know, they could collapse later today. But it feels nice to edge back to The Show. Still, I can't see abandoning the Son any time soon. I've made too many new friends, restored old friendships, drained poisonous relationships. Plus, there's so much insanity to attack and misery to address, while finding time to laugh in the middle of it all. Though I must say, honest laughter is tougher to come by, which makes it even more imperative to enjoy.

While I feel a sense of joy when I contemplate the past two years, I feel a certain sadness this morning. Yesterday, while the wife and my mother (who is visiting with my stepfather), worked in the kitchen (and yes, the men helped), the teen was flat on the couch, suffering a nasty cold, and the boy was in the basement, watching a "Simpsons" tape. Suddenly, I heard the boy yell for me. I went downstairs to find his red face covered in tears. He was holding his left hand, which was bleeding. Seems he got his fingers caught in the VCR as he tried to retrieve the tape, became frightened, panicked, and yanked his hand out, ripping some skin away in the process.

I took him upstairs where his grandmother consoled him and took care of the cut, which thankfully wasn't stitch worthy. But this did nothing to soothe him. He kept crying and sobbing, went to our bedroom, fell on the bed and cried some more. On and on it went. After about 20 minutes, I went back to talk to him. Did it hurt that badly? I asked. He wouldn't answer. I tried to look him in the eye, and he buried his face in the pillow. Frustrated, I said that his cut wasn't that deep, and that this was now an official overreaction. I told him to stand up, come into the bathroom with me to clean up and return to the family gathering. He refused. Further frustrated, I grabbed him by the arms and lifted him off the bed -- no easy feat, as he's nearly 5'4" at 10-years-old. I stood him up, but he went limp, fell on the carpet and cried some more. I told him I was disappointed and left him there to cry for however long he desired.

I went into the kitchen, popped a beer and leaned against the counter, shaking my head. I know my son is sensitive, but Christ, this was fucking ridiculous. The teen soon joined me, sat down and said that the boy wasn't crying about his finger. In her view, he was releasing weeks of repressed anger, hurt and anxiety caused by some of his classmates.

"He tells me everything is fine."

"He won't tell you the truth," she replied. "He's afraid that either you'll get mad and go to his teacher, which would embarrass him, or that he'll disappoint you in some way."

"How would he disappoint me if it's him getting picked on and made fun of?"

"That's just how he is. But he tells me pretty much everything. All that teasing from the jocks, telling him that he's a girl and a loser and that he sucks really hurts his feelings. But with you, he'll deny it."


"Like I said, he looks up to you and doesn't want to let you down."

"But I went through the same thing!"


Sometimes I forget that she's 15. Or are today's 15-year-olds this perceptive?

Needless to say, I now felt truly awful. The poor kid. And with me tugging at his arms, telling him to shake it off. Fucking hell.

By this time, the wife had calmed him and had him take a bath and wash his hair, which he did without protest. I was sitting in the living room, drinking an Absolut on the rocks, watching the Lions get hammered by the Dolphins, while hammering myself in my head. It's not that I felt guilty about my initial response to his anguish, though I did to a degree; but that he's enduring such soul-crushing emotions at his young age, and feels he can't tell his Dad about it -- his Dad, who knows better than most what it's like to be bullied and verbally attacked at that very age.

The boy returned to the living room, hair wet, fresh clean shirt, and smiled.

"Sorry, everybody, for all that crying. I get that way sometimes."

He plopped down next to me, pushed his damp head against my chest, and whispered, "Sorry, Dad."

I choked up, held him and kissed his head.

"I love you, son. I love you so much."

"I love you too, Dad."

Then he got up and went to play "Operation" (which they still make, to my surprise) with his sister.

I went into the kitchen, dumped the ice into the sink, looked at my mother who was chopping celery, and began to cry. She held me as I had held my son, and told me that the boy would be fine, that this was a rough patch. Part of life.

I sincerely hope this is so. He has a lot to fight through -- not just his physical awkwardness, but his dyslexia, which he inherited from me, and his surging, creative personality which he's still trying to control and channel, with varied success. For the rest of the day I watched him closely, studied his expressions when he wasn't looking my way, trying to pick up some kind of clue. An absurd tactic, admittedly, but I did notice his sincere desire to be taken seriously, even if he wasn't completely sure what he was attempting to express. The kid's carrying a lot of excess weight, and how we help him unload it is going to be the chief task ahead. Yet under all that anxiety and pain exists an incredibly bright and optimistic young man. And just before we sat down to eat, he prayed for the poor, the starving and the forgotten, and pleaded for the war to end. For me, that was the highlight of the day, something truly to be thankful for.

SEE: This great and revealing segment from Danny Hoch's film, "Jails, Hospitals & Hip-Hop", brought to my attention by Doug Henwood. Provides the proper bookend to the Michael Richards outburst.