Coming Home Again

When I was twelve, I found a copy of Thomas Wolfe’s classic, You Can’t Go Home Again, I remember being profoundly impacted by the title. Just the words alone made me wonder about home, and in my 12 year old mind I thought of my cousin Billy, who had just passed weeks earlier in a tragic car accident. He was a close friend, a cousin, and a model of a human being whom I aspired to, but whose magic had departed at an early age.

At Billy’s passing, the tragedy effectively shut me down, I was a ghost of myself for the next few months, and really didn’t have any clue what life meant to me anymore. I only knew that my cousin was gone, and I could no longer count on him to be there next to me as a child growing up in a confusing world. What used to be important to me suddenly didn’t matter. We were embroiled in the Vietnam war, and now all I paid attention to were the names scrolled on the news of the dead U.S. servicemen. Somehow I related that to my own loss.

President Nixon would resign in six months, Spiro Agnew already convicted, the political world that my mother paid attention to with every pundit’s prognostication began to have meaning in my life. I was raised in the 60’s so I already had experienced the loss of the Kennedy’s, MLK Jr., Malcolm X and countless others through the eyes of my older siblings and parents. Yet, as things settled, I kept still trying to figure out what Wolfe meant with that engaging title. So, I read the book.

I remember being fascinated with how fiction would somehow expose reality, how the community didn’t respond well to the writer’s focus, and the meaning began to take shape. For the next few years, my life evolved as a child turned troubled teenager in the city of Wausau, WI. I attended three different high schools, had academic struggles, dabbled in alcohol and drugs and was generally a classic mixed up kid with a lot of baggage that followed me until I could finally leave town. I moved to the twin cities and slowly carved out a world for myself.

Tonight, I return to Wausau four decades after I left, though I have been here many times since, I now have a better understanding of Thomas Wolfe’s meaning when he wrote his book. He didn’t necessarily intend to suggest he was ostracized or banished from his community, really more likely he was acknowledging that change is inevitable and we all must be prepared to accept the challenges that life might have in store for us.

Tonight, I drove into my hometown in the middle of a snowstorm. I drove past city markings familiar to my childhood, and realized while the snow fell as regularly as it did when I was twelve years old. I remember burying my cousin Billy in Minneapolis while snow gathered on the treetops along the winding roads around Lake Calhoun as we caravanned to the cemetery to pay our respects. I looked down 28th avenue as we drove into town, my home 40 years earlier, my life now settling into an early autumn. I realized I could come home again.

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Diana Ross singing at Rockefeller Center

I was watching a Christmas special on NBC tonight – the lighting of the tree at Rockefeller Center – the Rock as it is referred to. I was entertained by the singers and circumstance, and then suddenly, Diana Ross took the stage. I was stunned. Her voice carries over the decades of my life. In the 60’s she became the iconic singer she is with the Supremes, a fiery voice that would carry a wonderful spirit throughout my life.

Tonight watching Diana sing standards didn’t necessarily make me feel old. It helped me realize the beauty of music and how it carries us through all the experiences in our life, the ups and downs, the learning moments, the tragedies, and finally the hope we all might have that such energy is a gift.

Diana Ross is a gift to my life, and tonight she moved me. What a beautiful person.

A Life Led

Watching movies all of our lives,

imagined scenarios,

romantic interludes

with coveted designs

all created within the scope

of such sweet select yearn

we celebrate a constant envy.

 

While the world reminds

us of simple routine,

a Thanksgiving Day parade

the Macy’s celebration,

streets lined with normalcy,

our world in a capsule

filled with smiles and reason.

 

Watching a stranger now,

who did once lead a life,

a sort of mechanical failure

brought him to his knees

standing outside

a warmth and peace inside.

 

We choose our lives.

Would we that gather an

idyllic scenario

now that terms are met

could we ever disregard

the notion of our lives

to be the

sweet remembrance of why.

 

In lasting conversations with friends

as memory suggests, pretend.

Being In My Head

A description

suggestive in its exploit

meant as prophecy

more oft bereft

Fallacy.

 

The other afternoon

when caught

in turmoil’s grasp

would one recall

Travesty.

 

We are ourselves

makers of the storm

we design our fall

how we rise we dwell, this …

Legacy.

 

This notion of an internal measure

Always reminds me of my leisure.

when the words don’t matter

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Sitting by the shoreline,

the water fairly calm,

a sharp breeze enough to

suggest only the time of year.

 

watching seagulls swift past

the eery history of the mast

wondering just when waters

would ever tell me a secret.

 

I could listen for hours

while the sun began to dance

along soft waves of yesterday

sounds around me airily fast.

 

the birds, their legacy staid

by waning summer’s crying lead

in the autumn of these days,

the ones reminding time away.

 

I listen to Bob Dylan, a surreal croon

speaking of wanting ways

wishing time would forever sway,

‘Blood on the Tracks’ seems to say …

 

Inside this visual macabre

Our surreal horizon rob.

There’s This Place I Like To Go

In the quiet reminders of how we live our lives

a silent recall will always come knocking

always come knocking

always come

to somehow tell us we are a concept

we remain here forever,

always knocking,

a steady rap of recurring thoughtful

imagined lives that stir our hearts

until all the passion we feel

suddenly spills into the next

time and place

where 

always knocking

a soft moment, 

we might certainly

become enthralled in sweet 

reckoning

because we share our lives

inside the spectrum of some

displaced anxiety,

an autumn sunset

begins a solemn wholeness,

the human condition,

always knocking

on Heaven’s doorstep.

A Reminder

Over ten years ago, I dropped my son and daughter off to school, in tears, as I was saying good bye for a month of treatment. It was probably the hardest day of my life. My son was twelve, my daughter almost 16, and I was nearly 50 years old, and wondering if in that moment was I the child or were my teenagers? The phenomena of addiction is something that a person cannot predict when in the throes of its powerful grip. What can  be predicted though is the outcome if the right choices are made.

I was triggered tonight watching a cop show where a father was taken away while his eight year old cried in confusion, not understanding what was happening. It made me think of my son, and the quivering he had one morning in family group when he admitted his fear of his dad not coming home. That was one of the first moments I realized the brevity of my actions. The second was celebrating my daughter’s 16th birthday in a sterile guest room of the treatment center.

There are two directions I might go to help define the impact my actions had on that fateful day. My arrogance might have driven me away from my children, but I realized how important they were to me. I realized their unconditional love, teenagers having no idea what was happening with their father but still loving him, and wanting him in their lives meant the world to me, and yet, I still didn’t get it.

I went through weeks of intensive therapy to understand just why it was that addiction had taken over my life. I recognized the people closest to me were the ones I was pushing away. I understood eventually there was nothing more I wanted in my life than a second chance with my kids. I realized addiction had consumed me.

Not everyone gets the same opportunity to right their lives. I’m not perfect by any stretch, but I do understand the difference between good and bad choices. I made some bad choices and fortunately found the resources to find a way toward recovery. It is not easy, but seeing a crying child tonight helped to again see how lucky I am, and how important it is for all of us to understand the critical scope of addiction and our need to say strong while making good choices.

Just some thoughts watching television create yet another example of the power that illusion has upon the fragile nature of our reality.