Time Zone Shift

Posted by on Sep 28, 2010 in Angst, anger, anarchy, My Children | 0 comments

I have slept on this futon in my firstborn’s living room for four nights now, and only this morning became cognizant of the clock that ticks somewhat laboriously right over my head. It has the distinctive mechanical sound of a swinging pendulum, something I can’t help but believe is a calculated contrivance. Perhaps the pulse of it has been soothing me at night, the heart steady beat taking me back to a time and place of primitive comfort. After three busy days and four restless nights neither my brain or my body have adjusted to the rhythm of the northwest coast. I don’t think I can blame it on the wonderful coffee, for although my consumption of it has increased while here, I lie me down and sleep peacefully with enough caffeine roaring through my system to lift the airplane that carried me from the east. Since I have ignored the clock until today’s 3AM awakening I think we can discard that as a possible cause of my unrest. I feel it might have more to do with recent revolutions and revelations in my own life and those of my children. I am filled with secrets, possibilities, and impossibilities in equal measure.

My grandson’s birthday was held on a cold rainy Monday and all the cool kids were there. We dressed everyone up in homemade cardboard robot costumes and paraded down the street like so many happy fools. Seattle did not even blink at our absurdity. The next day my eldest son took me for a wonderful walk through Elliott Park which is sandwiched artfully between the towers of downtown and the proliferation of ships in the harbor. The hillside is wild and tame in turn and dotted with sculptures. Every man made object along the path seems to have a grace and style that says “look at me again”. For some reason my lasting memory was a lone creosote log, balanced on an angle down the rocky coast line, and bobbing up and down precariously with the tidal echo.

With so much of the day still left my son drove us over to Ballard to watch the ships go through the locks and have lunch at an old converted Firehouse. The words between us were of a private nature that required us being face to face and heart to heart. He tells me his secrets between sips of a light crisp local Pilsner that tastes like a fleeting summer day. He does not have to ask for my blessing or my acceptance, because for these few hours we are the intertwined souls that held each other fast in days gone by. As we leave the restaurant I take his hand like I did when he was a little boy and tell him how proud I am of his integrity and decency. Over at the locks the ships slip by us one by one while all the words that can be said are said. He judges not that he be not judged and I do the same. I come home filled with joy and hope and love beyond my understanding.

Wednesday night I had a less serious interaction with my middle child over dinner in a fu-fu Asian fusion joint that worked a bit too hard at being exclusive. We arrived unfashionably early and the large minimalist room had only two patrons. “Do you have reservations,” the maître d queries, in a tone that suggested she had recently been sitting on a tack.
“They were for 6:30 but we took a chance and came at 6.” She looks around the empty restaurant as if she is trying to figure out where she can squeeze us in. My son and I are both amused, but play along by following her eyes around the room. She seats us in what seems like as desirable location as any other, along the wall toward the back. After a perusal of the menu we order and dine sparingly on excellent but exorbitantly priced seafood. I leave too large a tip, just to prove I am cosmopolitan and accustomed to such practices.

The web of pretense I weave around my humble origins surprises me at times. I try to hold my center as I move through places and people unfamiliar to me, but my success with this attempt is sketchy. The young man across from me, the shy bright peacekeeper of the family, seems to have a firmer grasp on the concept of self. “In Richmond,” he says, “I was a bleeding heart liberal. Here I am almost conservative.” I compliment my steadfast child and he shrugs it off like water, for after all, it is his nature.

No matter where I land, my chameleon character cannot hold its color for long. My voice, my step, and what is left of my religion begins a slow shift, attempting to make myself indistinguishable from those around me. When I was in England I shared my colorful history with my daughter’s family by marriage. In trying to explain my roots I related a story from my childhood of the night when our Redbone coon hound gave birth to puppies under our tiny one bedroom house. My father had to crawl into the spidery darkness to remove the babies, whose whimpering woke all of the occupants above. Of course I then had to elaborate on the practice of coon hunting in rural Kentucky and further expounded that the modest house was literally where I was born. There were no hospitals, no convenience stores, no alcohol, no bars in that small town – only churches and gas stations, one grocery store, and steadfast honest people from the heartland. It stands to reason that I could not hold the pattern of my childhood sacrosanct when I left that life behind in such a tiny corner of the world.

Here, far away in the last cool damp days of the brief northwestern summer, I try on the mindset of unfamiliar philosophies and colorful people. Their dress and attitude reflect the landscape, grey and brown and black with unexpected splashes of bright color and print. I feel my colors changing to as I turn through the clothing in the cute shops of the delightful neighborhoods. Still, I am slightly out of step with the street traffic, find no discernible accent to mimic, and realize I am perhaps too old to fit into the crowd I would gravitate toward. It is this advance and retreat that keeps me unsettled here. My elder child and his wife embrace the life on this shore, love the friends they have made, and look forward to rearing their child in an atmosphere that is green and hopeful. My middle son is more stoical and merely says he fits in here as well as anyplace. I see all of them content with a full and rewarding life together.

I peer into the future from this vantage point, but like the rabbit in the Dr. Seuss story, I look around the world and back again only to see the fool on the hill trying to know the unknowable. The only thing I am sure of is that I will get on the airplane Saturday morning and fly back to the comfortable but confining place I have called my home for almost four decades. After all this living, I still have more questions than answers; at a time when I am supposed to be settled and serene, I still yearn for adventure and challenge. The stranger I see in the mirror often lies to me about possibilities and impossibilities, but she always yearns for a perfection she is incapable of achieving. I almost hope she never figures it out.

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