Salute to the Big Bands, performed by the Lee County Community Orchestra, Sanford, NC, October 19, 2013.
I’m the tall bass standing in the back. I’m also the Pythonesque falsetto at the end of “Pennsylvania 6-5000.”
This was a lot of fun.
ahimsa, aikido, bad dancer, death, double bass, family, fatherhood, Hayley, kinesthetic learning, Lee County Community Orchestra, meditation, Melanie, mortality, mu-shin, no-mind, pacifism, wu-wei, Zen
It’s funny how life decides to challenge you.
I wrote here last week about my reaction to my father’s impending death. Five days ago, life decided to throw me a curve ball.
Just after 8 Friday morning a man came after me, possibly wanting to kill me. He was armed with several weapons, including a K-Bar military knife. It’s not clear exactly what his intentions were because I wasn’t where he thought I was, and by the time I was aware anything had happened he was already in the custody of the police, who had to take him down with guns and Tasers drawn. I think there’s a decent chance that if he had guessed right I might not be here writing this post.
I had already been thinking about my own mortality because of my father’s dying- but I had no idea when I left for work Friday morning how close I was to leaving my kids without a father. Strangely (or perhaps not), I found I didn’t fear death at all. What I did fear was the devastation my death would bring to my children, whose future depends on me being here. Dealing with the possibility of violence is an occupational hazard for me (and this is not the first time I’ve faced a wanna-be assassin), but it really sunk in in a powerful way that this was for real- that somebody who maybe did too many drugs might one day ruin my kids’ lives by sticking a K-Bar through my chest.
Not without a fight. I am an avowed pacifist. I quietly brushed off all the suggestions to get a concealed-carry permit (which would do me no good at work anyway, since of course I could not carry a weapon in the building). Yet, I suddenly felt that I could not use pacifism and ahimsa to allow me to be a sitting duck the next time. I would not wish my attacker any harm (I actually pity the guy who came after me), but that doesn’t mean I have to let him run me through, even if I were perfectly able to do so without blinking.
Monday I started training in an aikido dojo. The great thing about aikido- the real challenge of it- is that aikido is about using the energy of an attack against you and neutralizing it, without harm to wither the attacker or defender. The last thing I needed was to take on something else! but I have to be able to do something if I am ever faced with this situation again and need to defend myself.
I am no stranger to the mental and emotional discipline of martial arts. I’ve done this type of meditation work for years and am well comfortable with the concept of no-mind (mu-shin in Japanese, wu-wei in Chinese: it’s the feeling you have when you are so comfortable at an activity that you just disappear into it and do it effortlessly and naturally, without thinking)- but I have not done the physical discipline of martial arts before. Heck, I just got back in the gym this summer. (Doing well with it, by the way- down about 10 lbs and feel a heck of a lot stronger). I was pleasantly surprised last night at the orchestra’s first rehearsal that I was able to play with no-mind despite laying off all summer to rest a thumb injury caused by bad technique. It flowed effortlessly and freely, without any conscious thought about technique, position, etc. It just played- a far cry from the night before with me stumbling and staring stupidly around the dojo.
I’ll confess right here- I find it tough. It’s strange for a musician, but I am not a good kinesthetic learner. I have trained myself to be able to learn fine motor skills (such as playing the bass), but I’m a tough learner with gross motor skills because I’ve never really done it. (Sadly, I could never learn to dance. I’d just get too confused, like a kinesthetic dyslexia. Which foot do I move? Left? No, right? Do I move forward or backward? Where does my weight go? etc. It’s why I am a terrible dancer.). It’s the same with aikido. So far it’s slow going for me to pick up a form- sensei and my sparring partner, who is also a black belt, have been very patient with me- but once I got it I got it. I’m sore as hell, using muscles I haven’t in years. I’m exhausted.
And yet I feel stronger- and younger. I felt like an old man last week. This week I’m rolling into somersaults like a kid as I get thrown to the floor. I think I owe that guy some thanks- so long as he accepts it without any weapons, or else he’s going to end up down on the ground!
I’d just like to take a moment to thank all of you who have taken an interest in what I’m doing here. Today I crossed the 150 follower mark (151 to be exact). Frankly, when I started this blog last fall, I never imagined more than a small handful of folks would be interested in this kind of lab of experimental creativity, especially with me being a rookie, and with some of the unorthodox things I post here.
Thank you for your inspiration, your support, and your collegiality. It’s a privilege to be here with you.
I use this blog to express myself- usually in some sort of creative attempt- some more successfully than others. However, I don’t typically directly put my stuff out there. This blog is not meant to be a diary or a confessional.
However, this time, I have something I need to say, and I need to say it directly. No BS. No flarf poem. No hiding behind a wannabe pseudoliterary conceit. Just me and the truth.
In Wisconsin in 1940 a 17-year-old kid went for a ride on his motorcycle. He might have had an incredible future in front of him. He might have won the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroism saving his buddies storming the beach at Normandy. He might have become President of the United States. He might have beaten Detroit pitching for the Chicago Cubs in the 1945 World Series. He might have cured cancer.
He might have been a gentle, kind, loving father and grandfather.
Fate had other plans. That kid crashed his motorcycle. He survived, but without wearing a helmet he suffered a severe frontal head injury. The damage to his left frontal lobe (the part of the brain responsible for higher order cognitive functions including judgment and impulse control), coupled with the alcohol he would soon add to the mix, made for an explosive, violent, unpredictable, uncontrollable combination.
To his son, growing up was a living hell. The kid was physically and emotionally tortured in unimaginable ways. He found little solace and no peace. He found as he got older the only way he could defend himself was to attack- with sarcasm, with insults, with his fists and legs. Feelings were dangerous to that little boy, so he attempted to purge himself of them. Feelings were “dramatic” and were among the worst sins anyone could have. The innocent boy withered under the torture and became a brooding, dark, angry, violent dysthymic narcissist. He could not love and could not accept love. A birthday or Father’s Day prompted a disapproving groan. A crying child deserved horrors I won’t describe here out of concern for those who might be triggered by it.
The little boy who was tortured so badly, who only wanted love and acceptance, became what he hated most.
The kid on the motorcycle was the grandfather I never met (except when I was thrown off his lap as a newborn, as he demanded a beer and to be left alone to watch the Cubs). The little boy was my father.
Several days ago my father was moved to hospice. His 3 pack-a-day habit finally caught up to him, as everyone including himself knew it would.
Several years ago, after he was released from prison, we tried to make a go of re-establishing a relationship, but it was not to be. He never had (or took) the opportunity to do the work to heal from the pain he’d carried all his life. He’d never had (or taken) the opportunity that I had, doing the work to heal from the damage he’d done to me. I had done the hard emotional work I needed to, so I was prepared to give it a try if he’d been capable to meet me halfway. Sadly, he wasn’t. The last time I spoke to him face to face he committed several deal-breakers, the worst being a joke about beating my daughter.
I dealt with the intense anger at his behavior and made peace with never having a father- not what one looks to in a father, anyway. We didn’t speak again for a year, and when he popped back up I simply told him that while I was sorry about it, he simply wasn’t capable of doing what he needed to do to be a father or a grandfather. “Well, if that’s what you choose,” he blithely replied, and that was it.
I do not hope or dream of a deathbed reconciliation. I know there would be no peace to be had showing up at hospice. It would only be the “drama” he hated so much. His death is more peaceful for him (as well as me) as I keep my distance. I am convinced his death will bring him peace that he has never found in life- and for that I am grateful.
I have great compassion and empathy for that little boy he was who had to live with the hell of his father’s brain damage. I mourn that little boy. I mourn the man my grandfather could have been if he didn’t crack up his motorcycle. I mourn the 73 years of intergenerational hell that happened because he did.
In a strange way I can feel the little boy my father once was inside me, inside my DNA, and in that way we are connected (and will continue to be so after his death). I mourn that little boy, the little Anakin Skywalker who would be turned into Darth Vader, but who I cannot turn back.
Rest in peace, Dad.
Power crews and highway workers will be busy through the day restoring electricity and clearing brush and debris following strong storms that moved through the area late yesterday.
The National Weather Service recorded reports of many trees down in Mount Gilead, Troy and around Lake Tillery. Some homes and vehicles were damaged or destroyed by falling trees, but we have not received reports of any serious injuries.
At one point, Mount Gilead Police Chief Cleve Willoughby advised citizens that many trees were down, several roads were closed, and that people should stay home, if possible.
One car was transporting kids from Mount Gilead to Troy for karate practice when a large limb fell on the hood and windshield. The vehicle was damaged beyond driving, but no one was badly hurt.
A small pickup truck was trapped beneath a large tree that fell in front of the home of Jack and…
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Photos of some of the damage caused by strong storms Jun. 13, 2013, in Montgomery County, N.C.
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I’ve started a new blog, Run Like Hell, that I’d like to share.
The focus of that blog will be very different. I intend it to be a training journal as I work back into running and cycling.
I’d like to invite anybody who’s interested to stop by, take a look, and drop a comment or two.
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