Children begin by loving their parents; then they judge them; rarely do they forgive them… There is no cure for the common birthday. And Zakki’s miraculous 21st was anything but common. Which proves the more b-days you have, the longer you live. And the longer you have to forgive your parents…

I have always maintained – even long before my younger son Zakki was born with just about every critical malady to overtax the frontiers of medical science — that the more birthdays you have the longer you live.

And miraculously Zakki’s 21st birthday was Sunday.

Too bad I wasn’t there to celebrate his official entrée into manhood. The sad fact is I haven’t seen him in nearly 5 years. And except for a brief moment I also haven’t seen his older brother, Hanz, in about the same dark age of the total eclipse of the sun.

Don’t ask. It’s a complicated war story. My misjudgements. Stephanie’s perfidy. And a combustion of stupidity. Just another sordid battle. More redundancy and repetition in my lifetime of grand adventures revolving into misadventures.

We had all the dynamics of a dysfunctional family. And I wasn’t the only one who felt totally lost, floundering and struggling against the riptides. Then again I should have never allowed it to happen. But Stephanie worked overtime. In the ending stages of her dishonest reprisals she accused me of thinking her ‘stupid.’ And I aptly retorted: “No darling… no one as evil as you can ever be considered stupid.’

Hmm…I guess it may be true. That like a tea bag, you never really know how strong nor distasteful a woman can be until she gets into hot water. And, from experiences sewn into layers of deep scar tissue I guess I have reaped the wisdom to realize that when a woman loves you, she forgives you everything, even your crimes. But when she no longer loves you, she gives you credit for nothing, not even your virtues.

Hmm… But of course. And I am a philogynist!

Then again this truth and perspective is, admittedly, merely in the eyes of the beer-holder. And I, certainly, am not without 49 percent of the blame here. But fixing blame doesn’t fix the problem. Blame is a human madness – even though madness need not be all about breakdown; it also may be about break-through.

For whatever that is worth.

It’s no secret that most families are dysfunctional in their own way. Only ours became deleterious. And Stephanie’s total obsession with the daily life and death of Zakki, combined with my falling apart while trying to keep us all together ended up with saving the patient but killing the family.

And that’s why I’ve never appreciated trivializing such debilitating trauma as Nietzsche famously did. You know, that which doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.

For I have been weakened in ways which induce men to wander aimlessly, while barking and screaming to no one here or far. I have lost the ability to trust – others, but especially myself. I was much like a wounded soldier awaiting the dark cloak of Post Traumatic Stress to inevitably strike me low.

And when it did, the enveloping abyss threw me into a darkness without even starlight to chart a course. But after the agony of days and weeks and months of being so far out at sea that I didn’t know which way to swim back to terra firma I finally washed ashore. Like a castaway amidst so much jetsam and flotsam on the beach. And with the seagulls screaming out of the blinding sunlight I slowly became cognizant that I had survived. But pieces of me would be forever AWOL.

Hmm…

In fact, we do indeed, die in pieces.

So in the solitude of my apartment, before my gas fireplace I now sit and stare from my black futon sofa pulled up so close my legs can extend inside the hearth. I can see so much in the flames licking over the metal, artificial logs. Memories like these burn deep. They consume you. But unlike real logs and a real fire nothing is really consumed — except time. My mental tape keeps rewinding. It’s a daily battle to keep it from fading, being washed away in the remoteness that keeps ebbing.

And I think: Be kind – rewind. For in time we merely learn to live with our memoirs that can be selective and unkind. And in many ways I have managed a serenity to accept the things I cannot change, forgive myself… and move on.

But don’t misunderstand me. Do I sometimes get angry? But of course. Then again love implies anger. A man who is angered by nothing, cares about nothing.

So, Zakki is now 21 living somewhere with Stephanie who moved in with yet another one — a fifth one — but the first one to actually marry her. And much like today Zakki was born a day before a gathering snow storm. Who would have guessed the tempest would still be storming all these years later.

For those of you who have kept abreast of my periodic ramblings on this matter I know what you’re thinking. That I was foolish for not fighting back harder and more vigorously. But I did … until I just couldn’t anymore. And I ask you: How do you punch fog? How do you battle against someone like Stephanie, who made you want to believe her until there was nothing credible to believe.

How do you fight all the lies? And, even worse, the whispers.

I was both consumed and depleted. Not so much by the noise of my enemies, but more by the silence of my friends. I thought friendship was nonnegotiable. But a sort of claustrophobia was engaged by the lack of space people provided for the truth to unfold. It seems that humans cannot wait-for or honor the truth. Instead, we make it up based on who we believe people should or should not be.

These are the prejudices that inhabit our opinions. And make us rigidly judgmental instead of curious.

And I guess I never quite comprehended such expectations – that is who I should or should-not be. I thought I was merely an interesting person. And not, as it turns out, a-person-of-interest.

So I surrendered. I just didn’t have the will anymore to fight the whirlwind. The fire-fight in me went out. A headwind does that — especially to fire. It extinguishes the weak and kindles the strong.

I did what I thought best for someone as fragile and challenged as Zakki and as emotionally injured as Hanz. I let it go. I told the Assistant District Attorney, who wanted now to charge Stephanie with much of what Stephanie fallaciously leveled at me, to let it go. That Stephanie doesn’t see things as they are, but as she is. And she is not so much mean, but, like a crocodile, meanly primitive.

Truth is indeed in the half-closed eyes of the beholder. But truth truly exists; only lies are invented. And, as a result we cripple ourselves with our ‘inventions.’ And Stephanie, as even the once recalcitrant ADA observed, preferred to live a lie rather than endure the pain of truth.

Hmmm… But it all can be so elusive.

I am sure I am not much better. Everybody lies. Perhaps – and just perhaps – I am a tad more honest. That is with myself. For I have long witnessed that the first casualty of any war is truth. And the truth is that people don’t believe lies because they have to; but because they want to.

And if you are deceiving yourself then you probably don’t recognize that you are deceiving others. Like Brian Williams. Because you come to believe what you say. It becomes your truth. And often times such ‘truths’ pass into history. The world is full of lies. The trouble is that half of them may be true.

And even though truth unfolds in time, there often isn’t enough time for the truth to be disinterred. So perhaps there is no truth in our time — only moments of clarity passing for answers.

So the truth becomes irrelevant. All that matters is what people are willingly led to believe. Or insist to adhering to irrationally.

And so my children believe – irrationally or not — what they believe.

And so be it.

Hmm… That’s the problem with staring into a fire that doesn’t blink. Your thoughts are kindled. You start out thinking about your son miraculously surviving to his 21st birthday. And you end up brooding that there may be only two ways to tell the complete truth – anonymously and posthumously.

But then again, does it really matter in the end. In time does any of this really matter anyway.

And so I hide in front of the brightness in my hearth. Publicly I never confess my regrets. I simply joke that my only remorse in life is that I didn’t create more mischief.

But privately, as in now, I have my moments. Sometimes they ambush me in the middle of a sentence. Other times in the middle of a street. It’s not shame, but perhaps a grimace. A cringe. A distress. An S-O-S of should-haves… could-haves… would-haves…

But it is what it is. You can mentally rewind. But you can never go back.

Hmm…

I understand that our character is built upon the bricks of adversity. But I’ve come to believe that a person’s character is how he acts when no one is looking.

And right now there is only me. And the fire. And both of us are burning time. And no one is looking. And, frankly, I seem to be doing pretty good. It’s taken its toll. But I am rising from the ashes of the madness.

There is no denying there is so much I did wrong. I failed in so many ways. But are we not taught to forgive. Why is it so much easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend?

Hmm…

Perhaps as my dear ol’ bourbon sippin’ Pappy exhaled a few times between those omnipotent puffs on that omniscient corn cob pipe: ‘Children start out loving you, Then they judge you. But they rarely forgive you.’

And Zakki was 21 on Sunday. In May Hanz will be 29. There are two great days in a person’s life – the day we are born and the day we discover why.

There are many things I tried to do that were right. Perhaps one day they will recognize them. That like the metal logs on the gas fire, it all won’t just go up in flames. After all, the ultimate revenge is forgiveness. When you forgive you in no way change the past, but you sure do change the future.

Hmm…

And dats yDrewIS on dis penal colony…

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