It’s been a week of some melancholy and clouds. Days of changes not to be believed. But ones that had been seen coming, like a swelling storm, twirling down a midwest road for miles. Time that brought broken things, but with those chances for new creations.
Unexpected. Somehow, in the middle of the dark, powdered dust of disappointment that settled, filling lungs and covering heads, there was light. That’s how I could see the particles of hurt and hard, dance and settle to where they were meant to spend their days. And I could see a way to wipe them clear.
My family changed this week. Changed in ways that are large, and I say with earnest acceptance and hope, permanent. Changed in ways I will only begin to understand when they all fly back across the plains.
Leonard Cohen echoed through my mind all these days. My mirror twin, my next of kin. Waiting for my young master to be back with me. I’ve missed this boy. At times a painful, empty ache. But, he had adventures to take.
I’ve also had moments in these days. Moments of music and learning, of laughs and ridiculous fatigue. Moments of more wine than is wise, but is somehow just the right amount, because the moments that followed were pure lovely.
Insights occurred. What my young half needs, what I need, how I can be more things for him and for myself. How we can all be better than we are and more together.
I have intentionally stepped away from the art that sometimes inhabits my world. Insecurity, sadness, failure. These things do not, for me, breed creation. But, there were shimmers this week that made me want to find new ways to step back in and find new ways. Looking back to look ahead and do better. I thought of where something started.
Hank Williams Drove North
It was every Hank Williams song,
slow and repeated and so full of heart break
you’re thankful it happened under the sun.
Because at night, moonlight and black air carrying
the signal full strength, the radio would shut itself down
needing the static and silence to cover the grieving pain.
I drove south, scanning between
the scrawled directions in my hand
and the exit signs, skewered pikes
along the West Virginia highway.
I was too early.
So I sat in the truck stop parking lot
An out of place Volkswagen
in a sea of thick treaded rubber tires and rusty truck beds
The men in orange and green and mud brown
walked in and out of the diner
and the gas station clinging to it hopefully.
They pulled in. Him driving, his/my/our smaller self
asleep in the back of the truck, the shiny one without rust.
He looked like his father, tiny, innocent version of the man in the driver’s seat
Nose and eyelashes copies but unforgettable
The lateral napping-child vehicle transfer.
He woke up.
Not whining, or moping.
No pouting hyperbolic and vengeful tears of
childhood jealousy and ego
powered by the short energy of perceived injustice
He woke up screaming.
I held my son as he wanted absolutely
“I want to stay with daddy!”
From the diner, the music played as our son raged.
Hank Williams witnessed as we handed off
our child in a truck stop.
And we all cried as we drove off in different directions.
And I hated
This and me and him
and the one in charge
I wanted to yell over
the tears and the radio.
“I didn’t want this!
This wasn’t my idea!
I can’t do this!”
In the back of my car, watching
sleepy but unwilling to surrender,
now hot and sweating in his car seat,
he still cried.
We crossed the state line and drove north.
The radio played.
I wondered what Hank Williams would have done,
if someone had made him feel this way.
Kept swinging until his fist hit the wall
and they hit the floor?
I bet he would.
I bet he did.
That’s what I wanted.
To unload the hurt I felt.
The hurt that I was sure would never leave,
the hurt was sure would kill me.
But I couldn’t. It was mine.
At home that night, after the sweat had cooled
and the tears had stopped,
he was asleep.
Train blanket kicked off as always.
I went into his room.
Because I couldn’t sleep.
Climbed into his bed.
Because I was afraid.
I pushed my thumb into his open palm
and curled his small hand into a fist.
Because he likes to hold thumbs.
Because they’re squishy.
What was I doing to him?
Would he hate me? Tomorrow?
For not settling? For not fixing?
For not being good enough?
For not being fine with fine?
For two different bedrooms in two different houses
in two different towns?
For the favorite book left overnight in the wrong one, there,
and Ross the giraffe left here with me, when he’s not?
When he needs it?
When of course, I need it more.
I hope he knows. That he sees and hears
the things and confessions and the absolution I beg for
from him when I whisper across our pillows
where he sleeps
and I watch.
Finally, I let go of his hand, and let dreams have me for a few hours.
I gave the guilt and sad a moment to themselves
to play and sing.
And do they ever. Loud and straight-ahead properly mourning, Irish wake raucous
that would make Joyce smirk with pleasure.
and only then building to honky tonk, jukebox kicking, gut spilling
sun will never come up and get us tease
that would make Hank pick up his guitar just so he could play along
and show them how it was done, son.
As I surrendered back in my own bed, beneath my eyelids I remembered to be thankful,
that he and I are here asleep together.
My heart resting beside me.
Singing. Waiting. Hurting.
Won’t be here forever.
But at least for this fleeting, moment, Here.
Because, south a few miles, his dad is missing
his heart. Singing. Waiting. Hurting.
And away from all of it
somewhere on a cold, dark highway,
Singing. Waiting. Hurting
Hank Williams drove north.
When I wrote this, his father and I were starting our divergent travels. I thought and dreamed the worse. But it’s not. We’ve been open and honest about this journey from the start. When I’m open and honest, sorrowful and angry and scary words sometimes appear on pages. And I give access to this. When my little love read this piece, he cried, telling me it was the saddest thing ever. He’s come around on it, and so have I. Good is still happening and more is possible. The paths are more entangled, we have more passengers. Miles from where we started and more to go. All of us.
This week was a changing one. Brought some sad, but so much more happy. So, maybe it deserves some dedications as it becomes a fond memory.
To my son: Love you, my darling boy.
To his father and step-mother: True wishes for every happiness.
To the one who held me through this week: You are truly fantastic.
More miles and music to come.