Sunday, December 7, 2014

How Close

To my son Tommy,

Not everyone knows how close they are to breaking on any particular day. I know. Two inches. That is how close I am to breaking at any time.

Two inches, the distance between your eye and the corner of the coffee table as you fell. Two inches was the distance between another emergency room visit, even though your mother told you to calm down and stop running around like a madman. As you fell, I didn't see you stop, even though you did. I flashed this picture through my mind of your head still going forward and the corner getting you right in the eye and me rushing you to the hospital.

I suppose I should have celebrated what did not occur. You were already picking yourself up saying you were okay. I should have been overjoyed that you were not hurt. But for some reason, the fear of what could have been came rushing from my gut. At the moment I responded, I was living in some alternate reality that would never exist. As adults sometimes do when they don't know how to deal with all this sudden emotion, sudden mix of emotions, sudden burst of fear, I yelled.

I was angry that you didn't listen to your mother. I was angry that you came so close to hurting yourself. So I yelled loud. With precise military execution I attempted to make sure you would never make that mistake again in a loud booming scary voice. This technique had worked a couple times on me when I was young, so it seemed appropriate.

The problem is, behind this yell was a couple months of an emotional rollercoaster. Behind this yell was a ton of raw emotion and fear that I hadn't had time to process or deal with yet. It was a two inch drop that made an emotional dam break and the flood started coming out. It was quick and to the point but it was scary to you, to your mom, and to me. Here I was lashing out at the ones I love the most. It scared me. So I got the hell out of the house.

Your mother spent the next hour or two trying to calm your tears. She explained that you weren't the reason I left. She was right. I left because I didn't want you to see my tears, my emotion, my anger, my confusion. I needed to be alone to gather myself so I could get back to being that father and husband that I was supposed to be.

It is funny what I think I am supposed to be. I am supposed to be a good son, and good father, and good grandson, and good husband, and I have high standards for what each of those terms mean. My image of how to be good at each of these jobs sure as heck doesn't include cracking under pressure. I should be Atlas and never shrug. So I brush things off. I keep things in. I go it alone far too often. But here we were. Going it alone and being such a "pillar of strength" didn't help clear the tears in my eyes as I drove, nor help console a five year old who thought his daddy left because he was mad at him.

I am angry at a bunch of things in this world. I am angry at life. I am angry at death. I am angry at brain cancer. I am angry at crohns. I am angry at MS. I am angry at myself for being angry. But I am not angry with you.

I fill these blogs with such "profound" thinking of how things are and how I believe they should be and how I believe I should be reacting to things. Some times that doesn't give a clear picture of how things really are, the ugly human side of life, filled with fear and confusion and anger. I don't tell you about the side I always struggle to overcome with God's help. On occasion, I fail. Then, evidently, I lash out at my son and my wife, those closest to me. The only thing left for me to do is beg for forgiveness and understanding and love.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

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