It Forces the Issues
Over the quarter century of writing, I have talked about a long litany of hauntings that nagged me. They continue to harass me until I address them in some fashion. While I don't like the feeling of some unresolved issue, I am glad that my hauntings make me uncomfortable enough to force me to act. Like Auguste Rodin's The Thinker, I have spent a great deal of time mulling over things that force me to confront the dilemma in some manner.
Some of my hauntings are lifetime issues and, in some cases, aren't critically important. One issue that has haunted me for decades is getting things organized. My parents were always after me to clean up my room. While that issue haunted me decades ago, essentially, I still have trouble keeping my office cleaned up. I clean it up but then allow it to become cluttered quite soon after. Additionally, it haunts me that when I am organized, I am more productive and get more things written or completed. Therefore, why can't I stay organized?
Another long term haunting was my feeling both dumb and poor. I was born a couple of months before my father was shipped off to the South Pacific during WWII. When he returned at the end of the war, he worked hard and got a promotion several years later. However, we moved from Pennsauken, NJ, which was a middle income community and an average school system where I was an above average student. My father wasn't able to go to college as a result of the war. Nonetheless, he was going to make sure his boys would go to college. Therefore, in the run-up to our move to Pittsburgh, PA, he asked a realtor what was the best school system in the Pittsburgh area. The realtor's answer was Mt. Lebanon.
My father struggled to move into the richest community in Pittsburgh, because it had an excellent school system. It turned out that Mt. Lebanon was the 19th best school system in the entire country. He sacrificed a great deal to provide for his three boys excellent schools to attend. The net result was that I felt both dumb and poor, which adversely affected me for decades. I had been an above average student in Pennsauken, but at Mt. Lebanon I wasn't. It took me many years of that haunting feeling of poverty and academic inadequacy before I realized that I have miscalculated both my IQ and income level.
Another haunting occurred a half dozen years ago. I had remarried and my wife, at the time, had adopted an infant during her first marriage. The infant was now an adult and married. A couple years later, she gave birth to Jack and a couple years later gave birth to Owen. We went to the hospital to celebrate the births of both the boys. I was happy to be there at both exciting milestones. However, when Jack was born, he wasn't a part of my family tree. I was there just to celebrate his birth.
After Jack's birth, all of his parents' family members had an opportunity to hold Jack. For a half hour, that poor infant went from one admiring relative to the next. I just stood by and enjoyed watching. Then Jack's parents asked me if I wanted to hold Jack. That was when the world changed. I said sure and picked him up. That was the best mistake that I ever made. Two years later, Owen came along. I love those two boys so much that I would give up my life to protect them from any sort of harm in less than a nanosecond. I don't understand that transformation within me. I went from just a happy observer to a devoted papa.
I see Jack and Owen weekly. We play games, read, and enjoy our time together. When Jack was three, I was teaching an online art history class. He saw me working at my computer and asked what was on the screen. I told him it was a famous painting, and he toddled off. A couple minutes later, Jack returned with the same question. Finally, I understood that he wanted to learn. Today, he can identify the name of the painting and the artist of about five dozen famous masterpieces. Owen is following Jack's footsteps. Each of the boys have copies of two different sets of paintings in their bedrooms.
Jack and I were in my backyard throwing rocks into the lake. Then he asked, "What's this?" He showed me a rock that he had picked up containing several fossilized seashells. He and Owen now have a collection of dozens of fossils. What haunts me is why I love them so much. I love them both as much as my three children and my adult granddaughter, but why is the haunting question.
A part of my attachment to Jack and Owen was due to my two dances with death. I want to remain in their lives particularly at their young ages as long as I can. However, it took me several years to comprehend the transformative nature that doing the dances had upon me, which was beyond the two boys. Finally, after watching Randy Pausch's Last Lecture, my mind finally understood the changes in me.
For example, on the fifth anniversary of falling off a ladder and hitting my head on a cinderblock retaining wall, I wanted to have a family gathering. I called the event The Humpty Dumpty Party. Having had a traumatic brain injury, I just wanted to have a celebration. I thought that event would be just a normal festivity.
I have written over a hundred essays about dancing with death. Additionally, I have also written articles about a couple dozen people who have also done the dance. However, those other dancers successfully danced with death, but, over time, they did finally die. I can't find anyone who has done the dance with whom I can talk one-on-one. That haunts me for several reasons. There have to be other dancers still alive out there. Also, many of them might be like me not aware of the changes in them after their doing the dance. I would love to chat with another successful dancer.
Another haunting was my trip to Myanmar. Of all the time that I have traveled or lived overseas, the most metamorphic change in me was the trip to what used to be called Burma. When I returned from Myanmar, I had a routine checkup with my cardiologist. My heart was fine, but Dr. Marchand asked if I had any questions. It was then that I asked him why I was so driven. He said that I had seen the light.
It was obvious to me that something had affected me positively when there. I can explain a part of the hauntings related to Myanmar. Min Ko Naing invited me to Myanmar's Independence Day, which is on January 4th. That was a déjà vu moment for me. It took me back to my days of the civil rights movement in the 60s.
It didn't take me long to grasp that tie between Myanmar and America, but that doesn't answer all my hauntings about my feelings for some of the people in Myanmar about which I am concerned. That issue still haunts me.
Nonetheless, regardless of whether or not all my hauntings are understood, I still wish to joist with those windmills like my mentor, Don Quixote. My hauntings push me to completely understand the issue. Then I will address the issue. My hauntings benefit me. It goes back to the old saying, no pain, no gain.
Visit the Burma Independence page to read more about this topic.
Visit the On Seeing the Light page to read more about this topic.
Visit the My Hauntings page to read more about this topic.