It has been a while since last I sat down at this keyboard and wrote. It has been a while since I have had the mental bandwidth to confront the notion that things have changed and, while they are “good” changes, I have used them as excuses, as if they have taken up the parts of my life that allowed me the time to sit down and spend hours writing, rewriting, reading and rereading what it is that I put out there on this blog. I would think I would be more used to and comfortable with changes as there have been many over the course of these past three years, but each change has its own time to build and understand the new relationship with my not so new way of life.
My youngest son moved out with me, he is 16 and wanted to make changes in his life as well. This is, without question, a positive move. I love having him around, we are both really into movies and music and we spend a lot of time talking about these various things. It has been nice to have someone to come home to, make dinner with, and sometimes just zone out to the TV for a bit. His friends are all still back in Vermont so at night he will be on his Playstation, playing games, laughing, and talking about a variety of items that range from politics to music, sports to social causes and more. Sometimes they just spend hours picking at each other then laughing so loud it fills the small apartment. It makes me smile to hear this and to hopefully know that he doesn’t regret moving out here.
The move out here was because the direction his life had been heading in Vermont wasn’t the way he had hoped it would be. A child (he is 6’3” so not the child I could swaddle, although it would be a funny attempt) that likes to know things and is infinitely curious but in the separation, the moves, and unfortunate drama had lost some of that zeal for life that he used to display. This of course also ties in with the fact that he is 16 and sometimes that just happens anyway. I remember being 16 and my interests included The Doors, pot, and smoking cigarettes. He isn’t one that is into drugs, doesn’t party, he just likes to read, play games and hang out with his dog (another incredible addition to the apartment). In Vermont, I was told, he would come home from school, go straight up into his bedroom to either nap, or play games. He wouldn’t come down to eat dinner and was tough to get up for school. When he did go he put minimal to no effort in, his grades suffered, he seemed to be suffering, although he hid it behind a wall of sarcasm and jokes. While this may be projecting, I feel like I knew that mindset, I could feel exactly what he was feeling as we both took our turns holding up “the finger” to society and just walking away.
He moved out here at the end of June, he had a suitcase, some books, his Playstation, and his trusted sidekick, a little brown mutt that rarely wanders from his side. Since then he has been present, engaged, he helps cook, clean, and even encouraging me as I do to him (he thinks I should write more). While I would love to sit here and say that it has a lot to do with me and the type of father I am, I see it more as he is making decisions in his life, he is grabbing whatever control he can, the type that High School wouldn’t allow, small rural Vermont couldn’t offer (where he lived anyway), and he is running with it. He has asked, for a normally dormant child, to work out with me, we wander Portland together looking for used movies, chopsticks, and little restaurants to try, he started playing the drums again, he is constantly on the search for new music, and together we go see live music.
When he moved out here, or when we started talking about it as a reality I was excited to try these things with him, I want him to find his passion again, that excitement that he always had as a child, that creativity for words and imagination. While that has been slower to come about I can see hints of it when I come home early from work to find him in his room banging on his drums to a song (sorry neighbors, not really…Rock on kid!), or when the first words out of his mouth, when I get home from work, are “Hey Dad, did you know….”, he always loved finding new things and sharing them with everyone. I can see the glimpses of him breaking through the shit he has had to deal with the past few years and it is encouraging to think that maybe we didn’t fuck him up too badly, besides, I really love his company.
Having him here has made me look at my life a bit more, not really in an emotional way, but how I was physically living. I looked at the futon, the uncomfortable recliner, the bare walls and the clutter that comes with not feeling that sense of home. Bare fridges, empty freezers, and closets full of junk just thrown in there to move it from my sight. It wasn’t a home. It wasn’t a place he could be comfortable and it wasn’t that because I wasn’t comfortable enough to say this is home. He moved in at a time when my lease was almost up and I was trying to figure out what I was going to do, move out to the country, find a cheaper place, or stay. He just said, “I want to stay, I like it in Portland, I want to know this city.” So it was time to build a home, it was time to build OUR home again. I moved the bedrooms around, giving him the larger one for he and his dog, his drums, and for when my oldest son (just dropped him off for his Freshman year of college, more on that coming) shows up to visit. He and I would make the decisions together so that he knew he has some say in how his life out here was going to be out here. We bought new recliners (one for each of us), we bought a new couch, I hung some old artwork I had on the walls, I got rid of junk, I organized closets full of old memories providing him space for his stuff, and we planned meals instead of the chicken, sweet potato, and broccoli I had for dinner almost daily. This small apartment that was once quiet, lonely, and felt like a stranger, was starting to feel like a home.
While he moving out here has been incredibly positive for the both of us, I find that I struggle when my depressive wave comes crashing down. My former routine to guide myself through these moments was predicated on the fact that I would be alone and not have to worry about another seeing me so low. It was designed to allow me to sit in silence pulling the tangled mess that was in my head apart to get to the root cause, to segment each individual strand of emotion that was tying me up inside, placing each on its own parallel path and walking each one until I got to the end or a place of comfort that this wasn’t a trail I was ready to hike and I should tackle it another time. I now had someone that was visibly in front of me that could sense these moments, that would know things weren’t okay, and that would cause unnecessary concern for someone that, while intelligent and caring and also aware of his own dalliances with depression, may not be able to fully comprehend his father feeling as low as I can get. None of this is, of course, his fault at all, but mine in not being able to adapt to a new style of self soothing or even able to think about finding a new way. I had become so focused on finding a way to mask the tangled mess that I stopped writing, which was and is how I was unwinding the emotional ball of forgotten Christmas lights that filled the garage known as my mind.
I am not one that believes in being in control of emotions, I am not one that believes you can do such a thing. What I have grown to believe, almost religiously, is that I am in control of how I work with the emotions I am feeling. I have no way of knowing that the next scene in a movie or TV show will have a woman whose hair looks just like hers, or when I will walk through a store and smell something that reminds me of her, or when I will be cleaning and organizing and find the wedding ring that I wore with such pride for so many years. This happens regularly, it built up and wrapped around my throat which then cut off oxygen to my brain, a brain that had a way to work through these emotions, I just stopped and not because my son moved out here, but because these new positive happenings in my life didn’t fit in to the unrelenting routine I had developed, a routine I never thought I would get into or want, but nonetheless came about as necessary, or so I thought. So I thought that is until words started swirling around in my head, small sections of a poem, or a song, paragraphs of thought that jumped into my head while watching a show that I would share on Facebook, then whole poems and completed songs would fill my cell phone as I frantically wrote them in a text to myself. I knew I couldn’t ignore this anymore when I was in a store and there was a stack of thin brown notebooks that I was unable to resist purchasing. A new notebook always meant a new chapter.
I knew then, it was time.
Next – It has been a while – Part 2 – A Promotion