November 12, 2009

by DRM

Fifty years ago, my mom was at the beginning, my dad was at the beginning, I was about to start. We were all in Worcester, in the little apartment. Nine months was coming to an end: the marriage was 11 months old. What voices ran through their minds? It was a starting out. They were young. When the next morning dawned, the two of them would have a son.

We were three for 15 months or so; we were three unencumbered for six. My mother’s tenderness, her enthusiasm and curiosity, her energy, her uncertainty were directed to her new son. Her parents visited from New York. She got gifts. My father felt pride, a flush of vain heights. They had begun their family. Their son was born.

Fifty years ago. It is a long time with many changes. The world is richer with people; more lives intersect every day; each action creates a reaction and as the network of souls binds and rebinds, there is more complexity, more that is unexpected in its events, but more utterly human. The weight of humanness, of the articulated consciousness that is born from cognition and re-cognition, grows infinitely with every day.

That’s the world we’ve lived in for the past 50 years. The volume of humanness has grown multifold.

At the last day of the first 50 years, I sat in first class on a plane to San Diego. I took stock. I am accountable. I try to stay in the present with my family. I try to moderate my pride and curb my excitement. I think that most people would call me a reasonable man.

fool-tarot-card.jpgThat is the balance that the weight of humanness, the awareness of it, the acceptance of it, has led me to yearn for.

When I found my life with my wife, I was able to close the last chapter of the first half of my life. The restless search for an identity came to an end. I had found the thing in myself that I needed so that I could have the confidence, the security, to range wide in my imagination, in my experience of the people around me.

That was missing from the first half of my life, as rich as it was in experience, in intensity, in joy, in action. I think back — imagine back — to those first months with the three of us, my mother, my father and me, their infant son. An infant: wholly aware of the experience of beginning life, waiting, watching, sensing in no articulate way. The chemistry is well documented. The sensory system processes stimuli through the myriad synapses of the brain, sparking brand new paths, creating connections and relationships that will be seared for life. Those moments aren’t about becoming aware of life, they are about discerning and discriminating between the intensities of the stimuli you experience without embracing beat of your mother’s heart. Those first months the winter settled in with its bleak New England regularity. Crisis hit. My father lost his job. My mother developed intense pain during the next quick pregnancy. Eventually they operated. But we had quiet moments: still evenings in the little apartment, the fragrance of cooking in the air, the clatter of dishes against the porcelain sink, the rustle of papers, a passage read out loud, the quiet intensity of learning, the thin sound of music from somewhere below, a smiling face, a rattle.

And in those quiet evenings, I was looking for something to ground myself in, something to brace against as a foundation point, a place to know that everything started from. I guess, given the search of the next 50 years, I didn’t find it then. It’s probably the confidence of love, the security of purpose, the acceptance of the world, the focus outwards.

I did find it later and now can close the last chapter of the first half with gratitude and great joy.