I feel caught between two conflicting visions of the world and myself within it. These two visions might be broadly understood in terms of my parents–at least for me, it is their face I see when I want to assign an image to these world views. My mom stands to the left side: darkness, mystical explanations, explosive temper, creative energy, wild passion, mania, depression. The significant thing, for this post and for my own crick in my sanity, is the creative part. For me, she is the emblem of creativity and its most ardent advocate, but this is inseparable from the undisciplined asshole alcoholic, the grandmother bored with a toddler because he doesn’t do what she wants, the the aging woman that insists on buying the most largest bottle of Elijah Craig and consuming it within a single weekend, indulgence, pettiness, an insistence that she has telepathicially understood what someone actually wants despite the fact that this may be the opposite of what the person says or does and coincidentally, in line with what she wants.
This is a woman once referred to as June Cleaver by coworkers of mine at an art store.
My brother has said, probably more than once, that art takes arrogance. A rigid self centeredness, a self obsession that demands one’s vision of the world be heard. Above all others if need be. And to be fair to Mom, this is what she has perfected in the years since ending her marriage and leaving Christianity. That she is not the woman I want her to be–mother&grandmother–but that she creates what she wants to create is all the more credit to her.
In a distant way, I can wish her full speed ahead, love & laughter. I can see her strength and magnificence.
But for the life of me, I do not want to be in the same room as her.
The other side of this diptych is my Dad, and it would be marvelous to paint him as the cool, analytic engineer, carefully plotting each move, thinking through his options several steps in advance. But in truth, while he is cooler and calmer, neither has the EQ to make particularly wise work decisions. And he shares with her a mystical mind, one willing to attribute any number of happenings in the real world to Causes in the Realm Beyond. But he is sedate, phlegmatic even, to her excitability. There is for Dad a bottom dollar–which is to say, he believes in the dollar, the Budget, a bottom line. He has boundaries and they are pretty easy to guess, or if probing, he is clear where his side begins and ends. So while Mom will agree to everything, only to snarl and hiss and lament when you’ve over taxed her, Dad will simply begin the conversation with No.
And he’s very good at saying No.
His grand vision of the world is likely ensconced in a late 20th century understanding of Christianity, although the truth is that having made it clear that I do not share his vision, he does not embark on grand scale narratives when we speak. I only brush against his over arching vision here and there, like brushing past an old church on your walk home: you’d never darken its door, but its familiarity has past from annoyance to comfort. I’ll always see his world view as small, limiting, with a narrow door. And whether there’s more inside I’m missing, I’m happy to never know.
From my Dad, I sense no expectations. He personal peace and equanimity infuriated me as a teenager and young adult. And even now, though I find comfort in talking through the different issues of my life with him, it’s unclear to me how much absence or presence affects his world.