Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Xmas

I love the term merry "xmas." Anything that gets the religious "right" up in arms can't be all bad. OK, I admit it is a character defect, but I get a perverse pleasure at making people feel uncomfortable by challenging the arbitrary lines of myth and truth, right and wrong, black and white. There is a local group of so called Christians who are taking a perverse joy in calling a local atheist group and harassing them with christian greetings--you know. . ."Merry Christmas, it is my constitutional right to brow beat you with my religious beliefs, so don't hang up on me." One of the local yocal right wing radio hooligans was giving out phone numbers to the "Freedom from religion" group. The so called Christians were bombarding the number and pridefully telling of the guerrilla tactics--basically proving the point for the group--of calling the group and hassling them because they do not wish to be hassled by religious groups. I find it kind of humorous when "Christians" become the persecutors. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson seemed to be extremely well versed at this type of activity. They must be very proud!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Joy and Sorrow

I have observed many moments in life where I can hold seeming opposing emotional responses at the same moment. From the mundane, to the profound, there are many that come to mind. Mundane can be as simple as losing a heated contest among friends. For example a fantasy football league: I am saddened by losing when coming so close, yet at the same time I am very happy to spend the time and energy competing with my friends. I can hold both feelings at the same time. We always have choices in the way we look at things. There does not have to be a right or a wrong way, but it generally takes an ability to look at something in more than one way for me to enjoy any kind of satisfaction or understanding as to what is really important in life.

The profound can vary from times when we overcome great difficulties and turn them into triumphs or even the ultimate life and death struggles where we lose loved ones in all kinds of situations. For example the alcoholic drug addict who overcomes his addiction to become a useful member of society. There is generally great destruction and heartbreak in the wake of an active addict or alcoholic. There is also much joy and happiness to be found in one who has passed through that abyss and is able to begin to repair the damage one has caused while under the influence. Many times that is a life long adventure. It can also be a fulfilling and worthwhile adventure.

This topic came to me from reading a post by Lightning about the child of a friend who died young in an auto accident where booze was involved. Parents had to bury their child. This is the ultimate sorrow, and perhaps the most difficult to find peace with. My brother died in 1988. He was a victim of his own actions. He jumped off the Cooper River Bridge. I remember getting the phone call from the chaplain of the Mt. Pleasant Police department. The words he used were meant to be comforting but they brought about the most violent reaction inside my body and soul. He was sorry to have to inform us. . . .there was no mistake. . .he was very sorry. My stomach tried to wrap itself around the stones that thudded into the cavern that opened. There was not enough oxygen in the room, and I my eyes bled so much water as if a river poured out from within. My father was across the table from me. I asked the man if he could possibly tell my father, because I did not know the words to use to tell him. He graciously agreed. . .

The next few days went by in a fog. People coming, going, calling, staying, crying, food being dropped off, relatives from out of town, neighbors, teachers, all reaching out to console, to soothe, to share in grief and help to make the journey through the sorrow. Fear, anger, resentment, confusion--all of these feelings battled to take the main seat within my being. But, somewhere inside I knew that this was forever. I would not see my brother again and there was not one thing that me or anyone else could do to reverse what he had done. What about my mother and father, what about his wife, his children. . . .what the fuck was he thinking?? That was not the point of view that I could let form my focus. I was not going to spend the rest of my life in a self pitiful miasma of anger, resentment and fear. This was not about me, and I was certainly not the only one affected by this.

After some consideration, the only way I saw out of it was to try to forgive. The prospect of forgiving was made a little more difficult by the fact that he could not come back and ask to be forgiven. This in itself was a kind of dilemma, but in the end, a valuable lesson. We all make mistakes. We all need to ask forgiveness and we all need to forgive at various points in life. They really go hand in hand--can't do one without the other. The old saying about there being good in the worst of us and bad in the best of us is true. We all have hurt some one at sometime, or done something that we were less than proud of for which we needed in the end to say we were sorry, and we needed to do something to make some sort of amend. It helps if the other person forgives, but it is not always possible. Sometimes they can't get by their own resentments or they are no longer around to forgive. In my case I had to forgive some one who could not ask to be forgiven. It was not for him. . .it was for me. I could not carry the burden of resentment, of embarrassment, fear, anger. . .whatever you want to call it, for the uncounted days of the rest of my life.

We, I, my family, were helped along by so many friends and loving well wishers. To this day this was the largest funeral I ever saw. It helped, and helps, me to remember how much I loved my brother. It helps to be grateful for the time we did get to spend together. . . to know how many others he touched. I began to search for some joy that I could take with me to help to lighten the load. There were other family members who were there, other friends who were there, to help me carry and even lighten my load.

It has been twenty years and, to greater and lesser extent and success, I have forgiven my brother. I miss him still, and tears are still shed. But there is so much more to the story. My brother was an alcoholic. He tried to get sober and made it for a small amount of time. He fell off of the wagon and went on a binge that was the precursor to the eventful day. We are of Anglo-Irish stock, and the alcohol gene runs deep in our roots. Mostly, we are functional - but alcoholics dot our pool. My father was an alcoholic. He spent his last 17 years on this earth sober, starting 2 months after my brother died. This was a direct result of my brother's actions. Tommy's death always weighed heavily on my father. There was a spring that was sprung that never came back, but he was able to put aside the sorrow and find some meaning and joy in his remaining days. When he died in 2005, it was at the end of a journey well traveled. I truly felt the sorrow of losing him. But even more I felt the pride and the joy and the gratitude of having had such a wonderful father. I did a lot of things in life to disappoint him, hurt him. . .at times I was not a very good person, much less good son. I always knew I was loved, and no matter what I had done, I was always forgiven.

I also had an uncle who was like a second father to us. He was a catholic priest, and one of the kindest, most generous and loving souls I ever knew. Upon reading, hearing, seeing some of the abusive acts that priests have committed, I almost feel like I was raised in a sheltered life. He was quick to speak for the poor, the under privileged, the sick, the old and the imprisoned. He wrote letters to the newspaper which invited people to look at the issues of poverty, humanity, racism, social justice. He got blasted on a regular basis by people who had opposing views- people who were made to feel uncomfortable by his invitation to look at those who are less fortunate as human beings-- just like us. I never once heard him say anything derogatory about
anyone who held an opposing view, and he never took the bate to attack anyone personally, no matter how ill they spoke of him. He was the glue that held us together.

I am truly greatful for these three men in my life. They are gone, and I miss them, but I can, and do hold joy in my heart for each of them. Each has taught me things that have helped make me who I am today. I am a lucky man--maybe the luckiest that ever lived.

Friday, December 11, 2009

BDR FF Playoffs

As a first time fantasy football player, I feel kind of lucky to have made the playoffs. I won a lot of close games--more than my share. The most memorable was the Monday night that New Orleans played Atlanta. New Orleans is my defense. With 36 seconds left on the clock Atlanta scored a touchdown and I was down by 1.5 points to my opponent. It should have been over for me. . . .However, the Falcons recovered the onside kick then threw an interception on the last play--2 points for me. Lucky bastard I win by .5 with no time left in the last game of the week.

Anyhow, I have a bye this week, and will prolly bow out in the first round of the playoffs next week. Not a problem though, if I do win, I'll crow like I deserved it. If I lose, I'll whine like the best of them. Either way, it has been a blast!