See it Through
The only fatherly advice I can ever give students with family issues is See it Through; See it Through. Now I find myself at mid-life (Ha! as that great Irish theologian Denis Leary once said to Letterman: “Face it Dave: You’re not mid-life: how many people you know live to 100?”) living in a house with my disabled parents not so uncommon an occurence rendered more poignant by the severe disability of my son who caught a heavy version of the wiring anomalies that run pretty well through both the lines: the one from Cranny near Ennis via Hudson County and the one from Cork to Bay Ridge by way of Wood-Ridge. There’s no electrician’s manual to cover the wiring issues in this house but that’s not the theme at current: the theme at current is how it can be Seen Through.
The overweening dominance of the Catholic Church over my family’s history was a great gift for a historian since it was the one recognizable influence my long-suffering, heroic and extraordinarily profound New Orleans Methodist graduate mentor could urge me to explore. That it was never treated directly at home amped it up to a deep burn: while my dad traveled mom shut the door to their room while the ice cubes crackled; she got on the phone with God knows who and read from Jimmy Breslin columns, delivered a day late via U.S. mail in the final days of the life of the lamented New York Herald-Tribune. She also wove these incredibly lugubrious and very painfully audible narratives in the confessional for all to hear. Now she mostly asks whether Charlie’s at school and did I make him a sandwich? My Dad was the compleat non-talker; nearing 80 and immobilized with MS we now talk, just a wee bit (a Tuesday’s with Morrie this ain’t by a long damn shot). But it really can be seen through: I finally found myself saying to him, in an actual normal tone of voice; “you know Dad the thing that totally enraged me especially with the Boston sex abuse cases is that these guys would say, like, ‘Don’t bother telling anybody cause they’ll never take your word over mine.’” To me that was always the whole deep tribal Irish part of it with its strangling code of silence. Then I finally said in a normal tone of voice ”Dad I always figured if something like that happened to me you’d take their word over mine every time.”… “Yeah,” he said. Like I said it was in a normal tone of voice and that’s the whole point; after decades of confrontational tones over issues great and small I finally gave the guy a chance to respond in his own true tone of voice. And no I never was sexually abused though one of my best friends now deceased was. I was smashed hard in the face at age 16 by a Franciscan priest in the old Howard Johnson’s motel across from the Watergate in DC but that’s for another story (hey if you knew me then–all 108 pounds long straggly hair with a scowl beneath–you mighta wanted to take a poke at me too). But as I tell the kids: It can be seen through if you’ll see it though in its own time.