Tuesday, May 24, 2016


One time not too long before he died, Mary's father George Sr. and I were sitting on the front porch of their home in Larchmont on a summer afternoon. From over the small hill just to the East we could hear the voices of kids laughing, playing, and splashing over at Manor Beach (yes, that is its actual name). So George says to me: "You know, I remember times when I would be sitting up at my desk working on a draft of some letter or something, and I would hear those sounds of people having fun, and I resented it."

This was a very rare moment of pulling back the veil for George Sr. He was a generally chipper, if occasionally sardonic guy (God are those some WASPy adjectives, but I'm sticking with em). I loved the guy.

But the fact is, this resentment theme is huge for many of us in the breadwinning role, and for our spouses too. Life is all too often a series of compromises and decisions made on incomplete information -- albeit the best available to us at any given moment -- and then we roll forward and make what we can of the decisions. But it ain't always easy.

The breadwinner often feels (s)he gives up more, sacrificing dreams, but the primary caregiver does too. And when shit gets dicey, we often blame our spouses, time and again, though we know it's not their fault.

It is the oldest story in the book, and it eats marriages and all sorts of other relationships alive, even though we know what is going on down below the surface, and we can even talk about it. Many times.

Incidentally, this memory wasn't spurred by anything specific with Mary today. It was the noise of a bunch of high school kids, presumably ECHHS seniors, out in the park by the lake behind our house. Making noise, having fun.  I suppose that, in the grogginess following general anesthesia from my colonoscopy. the firmly punctuated 50-year old in me resented their youthful carefreeness.

Even though I am, at this moment, at the point in Book 4 of Knausgaard where Karl Ove, a high school senior, works through the challenges of his parents' divorce -- the growing acuteness of his father's alcoholism and his own slide into near constant drinking, hash smoking, and truancy. Or perhaps it's better to say that he isn't working through anything, he is just drifting on a wave of trauma-induced instability, one that is all too familiar to me. And his mom, like my mom, expresses her concern for him and he is just like "FU mom," though he knows that she is the one firm point in the constellation of his life.

And it is just where I was when I was the same age as those noisy boys out back: partying, making noise, fronting, getting ready to burst forth into life elsewhere.

No comments: