Saturday, December 19, 2015

December 19: Peace Corps, My Daughter, Annie Dillard, The Three Wise Guys

For her part, in the spirit of the times and not wanting the life of her mother, Caroline thought she should see something of the world and signed up for the Peace Corps, which sent her off to Nepal.  One of Ives' happier times took place during a four-month period before she left for the Peace Corps, when she came to work at the agency, in the "international" division (one executive and a clerk).  Regarding his smart daughter with great pride every time he ran into her, which was daily, he would eavesdrop on her speaking her Italian or French or Spanish on the telephone . . . And he loved the fact that Mannis had come into his office one day to say, "Nice job you did raising your daughter, Ives."  He'd gotten so used to riding the subway with her in the mornings and seeing her on a regular basis that when she gave her notice he fell into a deep funk again.

Before his son is killed, Ives is damn near perfect.  Devoted employee.  Passionate husband.  Loving father.  He really doesn't make any wrong moves, for the most part.  His son is going into the seminary.  His daughter studies languages in college and joins the freakin' Peace Corps when she graduates.  His wife is studying for her doctorate at Columbia, I believe.  And Ives is a respected advertising artist.  Like I said, Ives is pretty close to perfection.  Until his son's murder, and then Ives' life starts to unravel.

I am not perfect.  I've screwed up a lot of things in my life.  I've made mistakes in my marriage.  I'm kind of hot-headed and stubborn.  Mistakes in my teaching.  I'm not a fast paper grader.  Every time I sit down to play the pipe organ at church, I make mistakes.  Loud, obvious mistakes.  I'm loud.  Some people would say obnoxiously loud.  And I'm extremely judgmental, of myself and others.

There is one thing that I always thought I was pretty good at--being a father.  I've always considered myself a sensitive and open parent.  I never wanted my kids to be afraid to talk to me about anything.  My father (and don't get me wrong, I love my dad) was not the most approachable guy.  In fact, for a good portion of my childhood, he frightened me a little.  When my wife got pregnant with our first child, I swore that I would be an Andy Griffith dad, not a Homer Simpson dad.

This morning, I found out that my daughter has been afraid to talk to me about something.  I will not go into details, but, suffice to say, she has been struggling.  And she has not wanted to talk to me about it.  (No, she is not sexually active or pregnant.)  She told my sister that I was unapproachable.

I have been a little depressed all day about this.  I've failed at one of the most important jobs in my life.  I thought I was doing really well in the father department.  My daughter takes all the dance classes she wants.  She goes on class trips to see Broadway musicals.  She has an i-Phone and braces.  I ask her about school.  Take an interest in her English papers and science projects.  I let her friend who's a boy spend weekends at my house, sleeping on the living room floor.

Yet, I have done something wrong, obviously.  My daughter feels like she can't talk to me.  Perhaps I've pushed her too hard, expected too much.  Maybe she's mistaken my interest and support for ego-driven pride.  Or maybe I just haven't really listened to her.  This wise man has been following the wrong star.

Saint Marty has screwed up yet again, and now he feels a little eclipsed in this season of light. 

 from Teaching a Stone to Talk

 by:  Annie Dillard

 The world which lay under darkness and stillness following the closing of the lid was not the world we know.  The event was over.  Its devastation lay round about us.  The clamoring mind and heart stilled, almost indifferent, certainly disembodied, frail, and exhausted.  The hills were hushed, obliterated.  Up in the sky, like a crater from some distant cataclysm, was a hollow ring.

The Three Wise Guys...

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