I think I Understand?

 

 

“Life is a search for the father or for home.”

Nietzsche

 

I have this quote on the wall of my home because it has a profound significance for me and I want to be reminded of that significance whenever I happen to look at it. Undeniably, my life story is one, long travelogue. Family and friends have never understood my “restless ways,” and to be honest, I don’t think I have either? It’s just that there has always been this vague urge to be on down the road. As a result, I often long to be traveling to foreign lands and experiencing new sights, sounds, tastes, etc. I have told myself that I have to travel for inspiration and experiences to write about but this quote from Nietzsche has got me wondering if there might be a deeper meaning behind my wandering ways?

 

In retrospect as I ponder the meaning of my life, I can see the truth of Nietzsche’s words or rather, his brilliant insight into the human condition. I have always longed for close friends and a sense of belonging but it has usually always evaded me. I sincerely believe that I am a warm & compassionate person yet “friends” rarely call me and my son can’t even bother to pick up a phone when I’ve been in the hospital? Perhaps my mother was right when she said that I needed to learn how to get along with people? Although I really have no clue as to what it is that I am doing wrong because I am always there to encourage others, offer a smile and a hand whenever I can.

 

Another possibility would be that as an aunt told me when I was in my early twenties, the guy who gave me my last name but wasn’t my biological father, beat me fairly regularly when I was just a toddler and I’d hide behind furniture whenever he or other men would enter the room. Maybe this caused a deep-seated distrust of people, men, in particular? Perhaps this is why I may believe I’m a warm, loving person but keep a wall between me and others and won’t ever let anyone get too close for fear of being hurt again? This isn’t said in the hope of gaining pity or to offer excuses as to why I’m not “responsible,” in the usual understanding of the word but rather as an exploration as to who I am.

 

I have commented many times over the years that I wished I had an older brother to fight my battles for me i.e. to protect me against bullies, etc. I think this was my way of expressing how tired I am of always feeling that I have to defend others and have rarely felt protected myself? It’s like a heavy burden that weighs on you not only physically, but psychologically, and emotionally. And I think that with this massive writing project I have undertaken, I may have now expanded my protective nature to the entire world? Most of the fights, physically & verbally, that I’ve been in have been in defense of others less able to physically or intellectually defend themselves.

 

Moreover, I think that subconsciously, I worked hard in school because it was one of the few places where I was praised for my efforts. My mother worked hard, sometimes two or three jobs. She was often a single mom and had four kids to raise and that’s why a lot of the responsibility for taking care of my two sisters and my brother, fell on my shoulders. When my mother wasn’t working, she was often drinking and I have carried on in this pattern. I think I drink for several reasons but perhaps escape from the burdens and worries of life, is number one?

 

Following this further, I believe that I escaped into the world of books and knowledge because they offered me comfort and never let me down. We moved a lot as I was growing up and I’ve always been a shy person so it’d take me a long time to make a few friends and just when things were starting to go well, we’d move again. I also first started dreaming of becoming a writer somewhere around the age of seven or eight. Books became my best friends because whatever I was feeling, loneliness, sadness, etc., books were always there to cheer me up and take me away on magic carpets of adventure and delight. And although I worked hard in school i.e. I’d usually complete my homework while the teacher was talking, I always sat in the back of the class and rarely raised my hand to answer a teacher’s question. In fact, I never thought of myself as intelligent or above average until after several years of attending various community colleges and somewhere around the age of 28, I began to sit in the front row and engage the professors who were stimulating in their questioning, in serious debate though always respectfully. It wasn’t until around this time that it dawned on me, why should I care about what the other students, often younger than me, thought of me. I gradually came to realize that most students don’t give a damn about learning and only want to know what’s going to be on the test, memorize it, and forget it. This was my great awakening and I became bolder as that flame of desire for knowledge, truth, & wisdom grew brighter within me. I started going to professors’ office hours not for help but simply to engage them in serious questioning.

 

Again, in hindsight, perhaps I was seeking in my talks with my professors, a sort of surrogate father or mother figure? Of course everyone has their own life to live and I couldn’t impose on them for their time too frequently but those conversations inspired me greatly and gave me a tremendous boost in my self-confidence. And speaking of an ego boost, I owe a tremendous debt to who was to become my wife.

 

From the moment Jeri and I met, it was like we were kindred spirits and I felt at ease talking with her. We shared a love of travel, education, music, etc. and we were together every night after our first date, the next day. The fact that Jeri was a teacher and was finishing up her Master’s degree greatly impressed me and because she cared for me and believed in me, I believed more in myself and made a vow to myself that I wouldn’t drop out of any more college classes. I had switched majors and dropped out dozens of times, sometimes half way or better, through a course.  Jeri and I were there for each other and it was the longest stretch of “stability” in my life. And when our son was born, I felt at last that I was whole. I guess that being responsible for another human beings‘ life, and especially having the opportunity to shape their life so significantly, really does ground one? I’ll always treasure those memories of watching him waddle across the living room floor and giving us hugs.

 

Well, as Ryan grew, Jeri and I grew apart. Perhaps it can’t be helped with all the pressures of parenthood, work, house chores, etc.? So, I withdrew again into my world of books and drank more and more. Jeri and I tried to make our relationship work. We went to individually therapy for a year and to marriage therapy for a year but as soon as we stopped the therapy, we fell back into our old ways of arguing and avoidance. We strove to raise Ryan in as healthy an environment as we could but I know now that all our fighting mostly due to resentments on both our parts, was a very unhealthy home to raise a child in. perhaps that’s why he seems so cold and aloof now that he’s a young man and preparing to get married himself?

 

I told myself that I was a good father. I went to every baseball game and almost every practice, the seven or so years he was in Little League. He spent many nights in the hospital due to his asthma but he never spent the night alone in the hospital and mostly it was me who stayed with him because Jeri made more money than I did and if one of us had to lose their job, it was only pragmatic that it be me. I spent a year building a tree-house for my son, went to every parent/teacher conference, every back-to-school night, etc. Took him to Europe for a month after my mom passed away, etc. etc. etc. But psychologically, I probably did serious damage to his psyche or spirit? And I now feel sorry for myself and can’t accept or understand why he won’t even pick up a phone to call me now and then. I guess the vicious cycle of abuse and/or neglect carries on from one generation to the next? Ryan will search for his father or for a sense of home. I wish him better luck than me.

 

Given all that I have said so far, the one accusation that people sometimes make about me is that “I’m not responsible,” and this really makes my blood boil. You can say I’m just rationalizing or making excuses or whatever you like but this is my defense or way of saying that I am & have always been responsible but sometimes, responsible on a deeper level than most people can comprehend?

 

To begin with, as I stated earlier, I have always fought against bullies and I helped raise my brother and sisters. I started cooking for my brother and sisters when I was 12 years old. I made sure they did their homework and their chores, got to bed on time, etc. I also defended all my first cousins as we grew up. Whenever there was a family reunion, it was me who looked out for the 20 or so, younger cousins of mine. I have defended friends as well as strangers all my life and have sometimes taken on several guys at the same time. I didn’t always win but I went down fighting and though I’ve been knocked-down several times in fights, I’ve never been knocked-out even though I’ve had baseball bats & tire-irons up alongside my head. I saved my brother from getting kidnapped when I was about 12 years old. I tried to tell my mom that my brother was shooting heroin but she blocked me out and she was the one who found him dead in her bed with the needle sticking out of his arm. I called the cops on my brother for his heroin use. I beat the hell out of him. I hugged him and told him I loved him and a day or two before he died, he tried to reach me by phone but I didn’t return his call because I was so disgusted with him and I carry that weight to this day.

 

I write with a passion and a fury at times and dream of someday being vindicated. I want to prove everyone who has called me a loser, a quitter, irresponsible, wrong! I have pursued knowledge like a madman obsessed with finding the secrets of the universe. I have traveled the world sometimes on a one-way ticket with a couple hundred bucks in my pocket, in search of peace and a place where I felt at home. I give everything I have but it never seems to matter because I remain alone, no lover, no friends, and a son who doesn’t care whether I live or die. I cry frequently at all the suffering of humanity that I sometimes fear I’m going off the deep end? I hope and pray that my efforts will help to relieve some of the injustices of this world. I can only take just so much disrespect and will then walk away from a job that I feel is killing my spirit and filling me with so much anger that I fear what I might do. And as a result, I have had to start over from scratch, from rock bottom, from minimum wage countless times and take the sneers, the insults, etc. of peons who I know I’m light years ahead of in terms of intellectual and spiritual understanding.

 

I have matched my wits with some of the greatest minds of all time and every now & then, I have an epiphany because I realized that I thought, felt, knew in my soul, or sensed that very same insight but didn’t or couldn’t say it quite so eloquently. And this gives me the greatest comfort because it reassures me that I’m not inferior or unworthy and perhaps have flashes of brilliance? But if I try to share these thoughts with others, they think me an ego-maniac or something.

 

Music, dance, drink, & writing are my primary outlets for release of the constant tension I feel. And when I meet someone who can hear me, I feel like I’m on top of Mt. Olympus. I’ve been struggling and fighting all my life. I’ve been battling against overwhelming odds in the perhaps vain hope of gaining acceptance, recognition, and respect. I’ve had to fight stepfathers and some of my mother’s boyfriends in defense of her and my brother and sisters. I hitched across the United States. I’ve swallowed my pride far too many times and yet, I still believe I will one day succeed. I still believe in truth, justice, equality, love, beauty, & peace. They haven’t totally broken my spirit yet. Part of what has driven me on is my anger at the wealthy people I have come into contact with and their smug, arrogant disdain for all those less fortunate than themselves and I take comfort in knowing that I can usually out fight them, out think them, & out drink them. If they were dropped-off in some of the parts of towns where I have grown up and lived, they wouldn’t last a day.

 

Perhaps there is a hole in my soul or an emptiness which I can never fill? And maybe this is why I can’t let people get too close to me? I often feel like a modern day Don Quixote or a fool chasing windmills but I know I’m one of the most responsible men you’ve ever met. I sometimes feel like a warrior poet to borrow a line from Jim Morrison of The Doors. My soul cries for all the poor, the downtrodden, the weak, and the abused of the world. We have so much injustice because we have allowed the greedy bastards in charge of corporations to get away with murder for far too long. Nonetheless, I will continue to wage my war until my last breath and will die knowing that I cared and truly tried my best.

 

Maybe my marriage failed and my relationship with my son failed because of this emptiness inside me and because I have been in search of a father or a home all my life and therefore, have never grown up? As Cat Stevens sang “I’m on the Road to Find Out.” And for the record, Noam Chomsky is the closest I’ve ever come to finding a father figure because I feel to the marrow of my bones that he is truly an honorable & courageous man. This piece and perhaps all of my writing is an attempt to understand myself and the world I’m part of, yet separate and outside of at the same time?

 

—Rob DeLoss, December 21, 2010 (Tualatin, Oregon)

 

 

 

10 replies
    • admin
      admin says:

      And thank you for taking the time to write. I love hearing from people who have read my posts and I love even more,exchanging ideas.

      Reply
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