Archive for October, 2012

Noah the Giant and Milwaukee the Bold

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Fifteen years ago the neighbor children pulled a kitten out from under a wood pile, and brought her to my mother. She was too young, and she frightened the old woman holding her on her lap, pitifully inconsolable. So I took her home. I made her a warm place and nursed her and taught her how to conduct herself, and I named her Milwaukee.

She was a beautiful kitten, calico, with a bobbed tail, of which we always said she was inordinately proud. She was a merciless hunter. We brought her a young male companion, whom she despised. He would catch small animals and bat them around with a paw, uncertain what to do. Milwaukee stalked, pounced, and ate, unceremoniously, on the site of her kill.

When we returned from the beach, Noah’s grandmother observed Milly had become rather ‘hippy.’ Her lopsided figure resulted from a sizable cyst on her thigh, caused by a cancer that led to a draining abscess and, finally, a decision to cancel further payments to the veterinarian. I felt I wanted to talk to my boys about death.

‘All living things resist dying, because life is so wonderful. Jesus teaches we don’t need to fear death, and we don’t fear it. But I think it is good, when we’re around someone who is dying, to show them we’re with them, that we love them, and they’re not alone while they do this thing.”

Evan interjected: ‘it doesn’t have to be a religious experience, though.’

So I said, ‘it is what it is, that’s all we can say about it. None of us will escape it, except through our faith.’

Noah slept with Milwaukee purring by his head. In her old age, she would wander downstairs at night and then return to his bedroom door, howling for his attention. He would wake immediately and hop onto the floor, long before daybreak, to find her and stroke her back. Then they climbed back onto the bed and slept together.

Two days ago Milwaukee the Bold stopped eating and drinking. This morning we took Noah from school and brought him to her on her living room chair. He stood and loved her and held her head when the attendant arrived. Then, not sure what the event might entail, he sidled around to his father and put up his hand. He’s too large to carry now, but I picked him up. When Milwaukee’s heart stopped beating I kissed his temple and said, ‘she’s gone on ahead of us,’ and Noah the Giant laid his head on my shoulder and wept.

Innocent today

Friday, October 12th, 2012

We returned to our familiar foothills in midsummer. Evan dashed off to the English-speaking shopkeepers with their forty-seven flavors of sugar water. Then he bicycled away among the pines beside the friends he’d missed for a year. He reaffirmed to me, whenever something reminded him, “there really is a lot more to do here.”

My boys are brilliant students; exceptional across all categories. They’re beautiful to look at. They’re creative, personable, gregarious, and healthy. I’m an uncomfortable parent, but I watch Evan going about his life, and join mine to those testimonials from fathers who lived to see themselves outdone in their sons. Evan is beyond me. Now I know what ‘fierce pride’ means.

He’s not a little boy anymore. He still asks for ice cream after dinner, but he knows what orgasms, bigotry, and crack cocaine are. He knows some adults keep their kids from listening to gangsta rap, while cheering on men who burst through twelve-year-olds’ houses in Afghanistan, splattering parents all over the walls. He heard his English teacher is Conservative, and worried he’d be graded down because he hasn’t accepted Jesus Christ as his personal savior. He knows his country is divided into two big Parties which hate each other for no good reason.

This is where Evan will discover right and wrong. He’s starting to try out opinions, forcefully asserting himself on one position or another. His father tells him to wait as long as possible. His father tells him to enjoy this time. It will pass, and he should cherish it. His father tells him smoking marijuana will change his work and his relationships. His father tells him girls will change his entire life. But today, Evan bounces down the mountain trails with his pack of boys, yelling and swearing and straining at the leash. He hasn’t yet touched the fire.

Evan’s wake

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

Noah was not a surprise. He took a lot of ‘work’ to conceive. But the person who arrived was unexpected. In the womb, he held his arms up close together on his chest, with his hands folded down like the paws of a mouse nibbling cheese. When the midwife caught him out of my wife onto our bed, and saw his fingers held close to his face, she suggested a pacifier to keep him from using his thumb instead. But Noah sucked on his mother for supper, and was satisfied with that.

Noah’s path to the pleasures of life was relatively easy, because his brother cleared the way. Evan the baby simply wasn’t told things like sugar cookies and televisions exist. He didn’t see them. He didn’t want them. When he finally suffered enlightenment, he promptly went to war for them. A whole series of prohibited foods, toys, and technologies was conquered one ugly battle at a time. His parents were exhausted by their first child. Evan’s spoils fell also to his little brother.

Evan has a generous soul, but he became contemptuous. Noah would cry, which seemed pointless and implausible, and then sometimes get what he wanted, which was unforgivable. Noah began to feign abuse to draw wrath upon his innocent brother, and Evan’s public spite became relentless.

But I followed them under the guanacaste trees, down the hard packed dirt and gravel on the way to the beach, when they’d forgotten they weren’t alone. The two little men shared stories and advice as they walked together, and I listened to them in the distance, laughing. Noah came from his public classes the other day and said, “I’m surprised how strong I am, at school. Having a four year older brother made me think I was pretty weak.”

Evan gathers himself up and launches straight into the world. Noah follows right along, enjoying the captured territory.