Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Whatever Happened to Waterskiing in Mission Bay?


Gruff and demanding, but also an affable laugher;
Belligerently narrow minded;
Steadfast, bigoted supporter of your country, right or wrong;
You who beat your boy with belts and paddles, wire clothes hangers, the back of your hand and even your fists;
You who treated your wife to the back of your hand and closed fists as well;
You who never had one kind word for your son and only child, and never expressed pride or respect for anything he ever strove for or accomplished;
Tyrannical you, empirical you, critical of every thought that disagreed with you, micro-manager of every moment of your wife’s and son’s lives;
You, the man who told your son you never wanted children;
The same man who skipped the country to get away from your responsibilities, but then returned a month later to raise that boy by pickling yourself with liquor and hiding your misery inside a television set;
You who never uttered the words “I love you” to anyone when in the presence of your son, not even to the poor little boy who idolized you, the adolescent who sought desperately for your approval, or the adult who needed the reassurance you never provided him in your whole life;
Yes, you were that man who told your son you gave up your freedom and any idea of a life which included happiness for yourself so you could raise that boy;
You were always the man that secretly degraded all non-Christian, non-whites with racial epithets to hide your own insecurities and failings;
You who got into a fist fight with your brother at a family Christmas celebration because you called him a fag in front of the family.


A lad of only seventeen when you joined the Navy in ’39, you were brainwashed along with your whole generation during boot camp to believe in the nobility of war, the necessity of war, the inevitability of war, until, full of yourself as always, you rushed off to lay waste to your world with war; rushed off to insanity, to holocausts of Jews, of Hiroshima and of Nagasaki, to abominations beyond imagination; hate piled upon hate, festered within you, especially when your captain refused you liberty for your father’s funeral.
How can your son judge you?
How can anyone…
Must I enumerate them for you? Midway, Guadalcanal, the Solomon Islands; “No more,” you say. OK, then no more. But it’s amazing to think you survived 3 years in the Atlantic before Pearl, and 3 more in the Pacific after Pearl – all in a tin can, under Halsey; and oh yeah, you received a Presidential Citation for contributing to breaking the Japanese code, after all, you made sure to tell everyone that;
No one can witness that much killing and dying and come home whole;
Weep for your lost youth, unfortunately claimed by your country before you had a chance to live any of it; weep for the loving, giving father your son might have had if there had been no war; weep for how an entire generation was warped by 6 years of mayhem, destruction, tyranny, oppression and death into thinking it is normal for countries to go to war, dooming themselves and future generations to moronically repeat, time and again, the waste of war simply because conventional wisdom confers upon it legitimacy; oh yes, and weep for the mothers of all the young men who never came home;
Once liberated from the Navy, you failed in school and found you could not tolerate any more authority figure bosses, so you went to work for yourself; the Chief Radio Officer was still the boss, even if only over yourself; oh come on, you can laugh with your son at that! OK, so you occasionally hired crews, no one would deny you ruled your home as if your wife and son were chattel: yet, your ambition must have been lost in Saudi Arabia before you returned to your wife and son;
Your whole generation became alcoholics because none of you could look yourselves in the mirror after enduring the gruesome history that was forced upon you; why can’t you see marijuana is just later generations’ own coping mechanism for the constant looming threats of nuclear annihilation, and now, sudden mortality from terrorism; at least grass isn’t addictive, doesn’t kill your liver, and one must add, pot doesn’t lead to anger or hostility the way alcohol does; what a fuckin’ load of hypocrisy;
It isn’t hard to understand how your generation set humanity on a course that focused on accumulating wealth, voracious consumerism and amassing war arsenals so potent their use could render all life on Earth extinct; after all, you grew up during a depression and had nothing, rather, as a child, you had to work to help the family survive; between the Depression and Pearl Harbor, you sacrificed your entire youth; it was only natural you’d respond to those calamities by excess in the opposite direction; actually, conventional wisdom is nothing more than coping strategies developed by your generation so you could deal with your fears and insecurities; truly a sad legacy of your old world; yet you, unnecessarily, forced your coping strategies on all succeeding generations;
It wasn’t long before you and your kind decided to send their sons off to war in Vietnam, but boy were you shocked by the audacity of the youths who flipped you off on their way to Canada; how dare they, you said, but your son knew: inside, you meant how dare they do what you wished (in retrospect) you had done;
You told your son he was a commie son of a bitch because he led a sit-in at the ROTC building in ’72; from ’67 to then, you and your son did nothing but argue about the war, but after that, you didn’t speak again for years;
Your son would have died for his country; he just refused to kill for it.


It took 4 years of quiet before you and your son could span the gulf created by the war in Vietnam; you had lain there in your hospital bed after your cancer surgery with no son to see you just as your son lay in a hospital having his appendix removed and no father nearby; you and your son had to learn not to talk about politics, and you had to learn not to utter racial epithets in his presence;
The great reconciliation couldn’t take place in the immediate aftermath of US withdrawal from Vietnam and Watergate, no, all reconciliations waited for the election of Jimmy Carter; your son didn’t have to go to Canada as a draft dodger for him to be alienated from family, like a refugee in his own country, but Carter’s dodger pardon didn’t mean fathers would love their sons again; still, one bicentennial day, you shook hands with anathema, no one spoke of sorrow or remorse, the past was ignored;
Gone by then were counterculture cabals, the Symbionese Liberation Army gave revolution a bad name anyway; besides, the bicentennial mixed well with disco as alcohol anesthetized the movement into retirement and your old world sighed in relief at the birth of yuppie culture – socialist vanguards sold out to the capitalist malaise; your time was past, all you had were sports on television, an endless succession of high balls and an early grave;
Your son took you home with him, tended to you, tried to get some food into you and hoped you’d regain some strength, but on the third night you didn’t rise for dinner; when your son went in to check on you, your body was at peace, and you were gone; eleven years without war healed the wounds between you and your son, but your passing came too soon for him; true to form, you even deserted him at the end.


Whatever happened to water skiing in Mission Bay? Whatever happened to circling the cove as your wife and her sister watched the kids play in the sand and while your brother-in-law and Naval comrade drove the boat? Whatever happened to barbecues at the beach amid laughter and a beer or two?
They disappeared when you went to Saudi Arabia, never again to be enjoyed.
Didn’t you know that in sacrificing your own happiness, that’s all you would teach your son?
Your son chooses now to recall your presence at every single one of his high school basketball games; he can’t omit the recollection of trying to awaken you that night, calling out, “Dad… Dad,” vainly; “in retrospect,” your son considers, your relationship “was mostly superficial, so,” he wondered, “why did it hurt so much to lose you; why does it hurt even more with the passage of time?” At last your son’s anguish cries out, “I miss your ignorant but enduring enigma!

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