Friday, February 29, 2008

Too Many Words



"Too many words, Mr. Dubov, too many words". This was often my Mother's single criticism of my written work, for it is true, as readers of this journal well know, that I use too many words. I run on at length when I would be better to be silent or at the very least not be so damn verbose. The use of too many words is a failing of mine in the spoken realm as well, for I often say too much and certainly somehow manage to say the wrong thing to the wrong person at the wrong time.

Hopefully, I use this journal as a release for the excess verbiage that I seem to spontaneously generate, but this is no excuse for my tendency to speak without thinking or worse, speaking to others as if what I have to say is of any real import to them. For more often than not, my words, if I am lucky, are merely redundant. However, when I am unfortunate enough to be unable to restrain myself once again, my words are, in their bluntness and lack of restraint in their use, hurtful and damaging to the people who hear them. I understand now what Yeats meant when he said he "would be now, could I but have my wish, colder and dumber and deafer than a fish".

It seems that the time for me to stop talking and start writing has come. That way, at least those who choose to read my words know that they can also choose not to, thus freeing them from the foolish and selfishly self-aggrandizing opinions I would otherwise force upon them in the aural world.

For those whom I have harmed with my words over the years, I cannot expect forgiveness, but I can hope for the understanding that they were uttered without precaution and concern for your feelings. For these words, I apologize here and resolve not to continue subjecting you to the torture that I know a conversation with me can seem to be.

Remind me, if you will, when talking with me and you hear the words begin to run wild, that I have made this resolution. Tell me without hesitation that you will no longer tolerate the kind of verbal abuse I've subjected you to in the past and that your expectations for what I say should be tempered first by what I do.

Pierre Jordan Dubov

Pierre Jordan Dubov passed away on Wednesday, February 20, 2008 at the age of 20. Born and raised in Austin, Pierre is survived by his parents, Valery and Phillip and his sister Madelaine, all of Austin. He is also survived by his uncle Stephen of Austin, uncle Christopher and aunt Collen of Austin, aunt Alexandra and uncle Steve of Los Angeles, aunt Anne and uncle Eric of New York, uncles David and David of Virginia, as well as grandparents Billie & John Clark of Holland, Michigan. He was preceded in death by his beloved grandmother, Lynda, who passed away at the age of 90 in November of last year. Her loss was especially difficult for Pierre, as she had nurtured his artistic ambitions by meeting and speaking with him often to explore their mutual love of art and the intellect.

With a life cut so short, it is difficult to imagine what might have been, but we knew Pierre as a talented artist with a gifted mind. We believe that he would have, through his art and complex force of personality, affected the lives of many more people than he did his brief time here with us. His parents nurtured their son's boundless exploration and provided him with a solid and loving home where he was buoyed by their support and encouragement. His sister, Madeleine, loved him with all her heart and follows his lead in her open and courageous nature.

His artistic bloodlines came from both sides. His paternal grandmother, Lynda, brought him into her studio and took him to symphonies, operas, art exhibitions and museums from Austin to Paris. His maternal grandmother, Billie, who is a sculptor of considerable note both here in Austin and in Holland, did the same, taking him the theater and into her studio to teach him how, among many things, to create molds and cast metal, which likely would have been his medium of choice had he lived to pursue it. His uncle Stephen is also a well-known and active sculptor here in Austin and across the country. He teaches sculpture and drawing from his studio, Atlier 3D, as well as at Austin Community College. He also took Pierre into his studio as an apprentice, teaching him about ceramics, drawing and aesthetics. Pierre spoke often with his uncle David, who is an actor, about life and literature and art. His uncle Christopher showed Pierre about the art of photography, which he had recently taken to heart with his typical passionate fashion.

As an artist, Pierre was subject to the powerful and often contradictory forces of creativity, which sometimes caused such raging conflicts of the heart and head as to make his life difficult to understand, if not unbearable to continue. It would false to speak of Pierre as if he was possessed of an insuperable optimism, driven with boundless energy and a had a plan to build a career, for the truth is that, like so many creative souls, he was tortured by self-doubt, paralyzed by the fear of human interaction and not yet capable of sustaining the single-minded determination necessary to support himself independently.

Difficult though these obstacles appeared to be, we--he and his family together--knew that they were not insurmountable. We were all working to help him overcome these challenges each and every day. Given the time, we believe that he could have discovered the way to cope in this world, but our time was simply cut short. Diligent though parents may be, it does not take but a single foolish mistake to undo the care and attention given to providing a safe and secure environment for their children to grow in. We are all deeply saddened in his absence, but we will all also be forever stronger, smarter and more loving as a result of having been given the privilege of knowing him.

His extended family, those good and close friends who surrounded him daily with love and attention, Sean, Brendan, Drew, Travis, Sujan, Jeevan and Ciara, also miss him dearly, yet know that he is finally at peace.

Contributions are best made to someone's life, but if the need to give is deemed necessary, money and/or time may be given on his behalf to either Garza High School or Hospice Austin.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Beginnings

Well, today is a new beginning. Certainly it is a new chapter in this journal, as it will be the first time I have to talk about Pierre's death. It seems funny to say this now, but I haven't yet really written it out.

Pierre Jordan Dubov, my son of just 20 years of age, died on Wednesday, February 20, 1080, at 3:07 pm at South Austin Hospital.

I guess I must begin this journey of words with the first word I heard that let me know that this was real, no nightmare but just plain old reality, like waiting for a stoplight or having your oil changed.

"I'm sorry for your loss"

Uttered over and over, these words begin to take on that absurd quality of comic relief, like saying the words 'bubble gum' over and over till it sounds like the very gibberish that it is. Perhaps lot more than numbing, it's a reminder that words are just words. Repeated over and over, they cannot be any different. It is like asking the air to be different this day because he is dead. Or perhaps I could suggest to the sun that she not be so bright today. Maybe, the ocean just cut back on the salt a bit.

No, it not like we get to alter the universe, just be a part of it. Interestingly, the line between the comic and the tragic that divides and blurs those parts of life and the universe in which it lives line is death. Defining tragedy is something I'll not only have to revisit for myself as philosopher/poet, but also to arm myself, as it were, against the misuse of the term, for it is the false feeling that so many people have; that they can somehow share your pain because they too once lost a favorite cat or had an uncle who died in a car crash when they were eight. I saw a dog dragged to its death when I was eight and I was never the same. Grief took me that day and has never released me, but it's not the same as losing my son.

In spite of my effort to wash it off and compartmentalize it, there can be no doubt that the pain I felt that day was the re-opening of the wound that has never healed and never will, not with the death of my father, or my mother, nor my son or any one else. It is the fateful and fatal march that consumes us all. Now has come the time to reflect and find an expression of a feeling older than the mind itself, or at least the crucible in which the mind itself was formed.

Death is not just an equalizer it is an ideal. The way tells us that attachment is pain and the penalty, or, in other words, the price one pays for the pleasure of attachment is pain. Death is the release from that, and most of us are simply too damn afraid to kill ourselves.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Tolerance

Today I find myself thinking about tolerance. Part of the process of getting older, it seems to me, is developing a sense of tolerance for the never ending series of slings and arrows that each day managed to nick and cut me enough to draw the blood but which are, at the same time, insufficient in their severity to actually drain me of the entirety of my life force. The drain is palpable, noticeable and in the most ironic sense, intolerable to me, my being, my way of life. Yet there seems to be no escape.

At what point does do I no long suffer the insults and prevarications of the unwise, the unready and the unwilling? Can I spend my whole life trying to amend the misunderstanding and avoid the deliberate misrepresentations that are given to me daily as if they were consensual agreements and plainly spoken truths, or am I obliged to tell the emperor that he has no clothes and that I will not be one of the fools who says nothing, or worse, nod in tacit agreement with his self-delusional falsehoods? When the mirror is held up and the rationalization there observed is 'duly noted' but disregarded, shall I support the illusion that it is the mirror cracked and the eye not blind?

The greatest gift my parents gave me was the education that today gives me at least the perspective to know that the rhetorical questions I pose are just that. I don't have the answers, obviously, not can I reasonably expect one, especially at this age. There is so much for me to learn as an individual organism, knowledge that comes in itself from knowledge. Knowing, as I have since I really began thinking, that all I really know is that I know nothing only drives me harder to understand, but it does nothing to prevent the pain of attachment. I know why old men should be mad indeed.

Still, thus poorly prepared, into the void I press. Though perhaps it ought not be surprising, I find often find, in what I perceive to be uncharted territory, a small cairn, another waypoint left by another lost traveler who no doubt perished from a similar sense of self-doubt only a few hundred yards further into the abyss. Of course, the sight of that deliberate warning is no real deterrent to me because I am that same fool. I know I will press on no matter what discoveries I make; no matter how trivial or rare the sights, I accept the fact that moments of enlightenment, if they come to me at all for, are to be found only on the well worn paths. Though certainly safe, they offer no choices of direction and little comfort for the fatigue that sets after so many footfalls.

Tolerance, it seems, is often more resignation than acceptance; recognition that the world does not change, only our ability to endure it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Cupid's Revenge



Valentine's Day is coming, and I, for one, just cannot wait.

Not because I have a particular affection for the day, nor because I have a true love for whom this day is always the most romantic of the year thanks to my carefully planned, consummately considerate and unnecessarily extravagantly expensive shower of gifts large and small delivered at various times of the day including dinner at the most romantic restaurant in town.

No, for precisely all the reasons listed after the word 'nor' in the above overburdened sentence, in fact I have a particularly loathing for Valentines Days that is not only earned, but richly deserved.

I'll not speak--much--of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre in 1999 that was the worst service experience not only of my life but of at least half a dozen other veteran waiters, those of whom are still in the business recall it with a shudder and no doubt we all still have nightmares about that night. I had ten two-tops; seven of them were seated within ten minutes of each other, and there were ten waiters that night in the same situation.

No, that's not it , but it could be. Oh, it could be. If you were there, you know.

And, though I love my beautiful and decidedly romantic and opulent gift loving bride very much, she shares my loathing for this false holiday. At least, she pretends to actually 'loathe' it when simply 'hate' would probably be enough. And, though it doesn't hurt to give her a pink and white card on the day (or a thirty character text message), as long as we've been together, which is the same length of time that I've been employed in some manner in some restaurant or club somewhere as a waiter, she's never had even the reasonable expectation of eating out at a restaurant. Why? Well, because we have, quite frankly, seen way too much of how you idiots do it to ever want to act that way ourselves. I mean really.

By today, which the day before the day before the actual freakshow, I've already had way too much of you. Oh but dammit, you won't even start filing into the restaurant, Noah's Ark style (two-by-two), for another two days.

Hence this rant, and here's the reason. It starts when too many people ask the same question of me, over and over again. This makes me start to go a little crazy, especially because I am expected to sound all bright and cheery about it.

Now, hard though it might be to believe for the fools trying to secure the reservations, especially at the last minute, of course those exact emotions--cheery and bright--are about the last two feelings I have under consideration. No, I'm actually trying to give another clueless idiot 'the spiel' about what it is 'we are doing' that evening. For chissakes man, we serve dinner here. That's what we are doing! I've got a better question, what the hell are you doing?

Ok, I've answered the phone, so now, depending on at what point it is in the reservation cycle, I have to either listen to complaints about how expensive it is or excuses about why they are calling so late. This goes on, oh, for say, a few months, then, in the last few weeks, we get to the guys, and yes, it is about 200-to-1 guys, who call up and play mindless games like 'Ummm, have you got anything available for next Thursday?'

So that's where we are now. Hmm, they don't even know what day it is? Do they imagine that by pretending not to know what day it is, that they think maybe they can get in by way of their simply being stupidignorfuckingramosness?

Ok, I know that's not even a word of course but it has to be made up, just to be used in this context. I am referring to the braindead guys who cannot fathom the idea of being romantic on any other day than Valentines day and the mediahyped girls who insist that the treatment they receive (or don't) on this day is the accurate measure of all the affection they deserve and/or have been (or not) getting. Further, there is an understanding between both parties that there is an inverse relationship between that feeling and the amount of sex that they will provide. Nuts. A lot of blue nuts at that.

They all--boy diners and girl diners alike--want a quiet romantic table and not be rushed and want the food to be extravagant, and want the wine to be bubbly, and want the waiter to make this the most romantic night ever for the two of them. But to us it isn't even remotely romantic and it is really difficult for us to pretend that it is. In fact, we may be lucky to be working on this 'most important' day, just because it is really sad work; like shooting fish in a barrel.

Honestly, if you love to serve people, you hate to work on Valentine's Day. But if you like sloppin' the hogs, well V Day's the day for you! Good waiters do it because they have to, and most can pull off the act, or they wouldn't be good. But like most actors, you have to really 'connect' with your audience to perform night after night, and on herd nights like VD, it's one tough crowd.

So, by all means, Mr. Desperate Guy, if paying a lot of money to be treated like a herd animal is your idea of a romantic dinner, well, go out on Valentine's Day. But think, man, with your big head for just a minute. For a quarter the cost, you can get all the same shit you're laying out big bucks for on the very next day (it's the 15th, by the way, or the day before,which would be the 13th) and still get laid. Yep.

And think of what she might do if you surprised her with a Valentine's day in say, March? Oh, no, of course not, that's not 'the' day, is it? Cupid is sure enough laughing at your sorry ass!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Dining with the Dubovs



So, I heard on the radio the other morning a story that attempted to explain the relationship between the act of a family eating dinner together and the relative strength or functionality of that family.

The essential premise of the story was that some researchers somewhere had concluded that there was a relationship between communal dining and the relative success of the children in that family. In other words, the idea is that the more often a family eats together, the less likely it is that the children will use or abuse alcohol or drugs and the more likely it is that they will go to school and get good grades. Now, the uselessness of comparing good grades to functionality is not worth mentioning here with more than this dismissal, but I since I am interested to know if our having eaten together as a family since our children were tiny is bound to produce any beneficial effects for our offspring, I want to give the idea some more consideration.

We've eaten together as a family for all of our children's lives. At 18 and 20, they are both about to leave home, and as they do, it's worth wondering, for me anyway, whether or not all those meals together had the intended good. After all, we are not without difficulties here in this family, with grades and drugs both. Yet, in spite of our tribulations, I have never felt our problems, or those of our children to be impossible to overcome, nor so inevitable as to be pointless to struggle against. In fact, dinner time has been our most interesting time as a family; it is when we've manged to reach our most solid agreements, and come to some spectacularly showy disagreements!

A communal meal is a crucible for human behavior I believe. On this Valery and I agreed long before we had children, and we've made every effort to make dinner in our house a welcoming and warm social event. Of course it doesn't hurt that Valery is fabulous cook, but I can say with some pride that it was most often to our table that our children's friends flocked over the years, and many still do. Few have failed to jump at the invitation to return our table once they've been there just once. More than one of Pierre's and Maddie's friends have told us how much they've enjoyed our table and the pleasure of being a part of our 'banquets', even though they were really simple but freshly prepared meals

We've done this over the years as a matter of principle; a 'food is free' sort of philosophy, and not as an inocculation for our children's health or to boost their grades so they can get better jobs. No, we ate dinner together it because it seemed, and of course, still does, like the right thing to do. We actually enjoy each other's company. Everyone gets to have their say. The small details that get swallowed up so fast in life these days are made meaningful in the time we have together. We talk of the most minute daily happenings and thoughts, plan, dream and tease each other. We reminisce and speak often of our cats, those children to our children who also fill our lives with love and affection.

The conversation at our table is not always deep but most often we find a way to have a laugh or two and perhaps share some wonderment at the world. This is what I try specifically to bring to the table. Lynda used to say that there are three things you can talk about: people, things or ideas. For my part, I love talking about the latter. I love to talk about the art thoughts and ideas that have changed or are changing the world; dreams are not to be discounted and generosity of thought and spirit is to be reinforced.

The question is, has it made any difference?

Interestingly, this is the exact opposite direction from the one that the radio story took, choosing instead to test the premise that eating together more frequently would and could somehow help the dis-functional family. In other words, the premise was that dinner's magical 'family-regenerating' power has already been proven. It is like a medication; take two of these a week and your family's mental will improve. Oh, and your kids will get better grades. Right.

I guess I am torn here because I so obviously believe that that eating together is among the most important and oldest of human traditions, yet I also remain unconvinced that it in fact holds the power that I once thought it did. Despite the double negativity, that seems to sum it up pretty well. While I am obliged to admit that the alternative couldn't have been better, and therefore conclude that it is clear that my misgivings are mostly self-directed doubt, questions like these are the essence of my thoughts.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Banks: Tiny Cuts



I've just had a most intense and unpleasant conversation with an employee in the collection department of US Bank. I want to write down some of what just happened and try to capture the relevant facts in order to be able to write a letter to the bank, explaining my position.

What happened was this. I received a bill from US bank last September or October for $44.19 as the final payment for our 2002 Miata, which we traded in for the 08 in August.

Ok, fine, I did see that there was one last little payment to be made to clear up the paperwork, but I didn't get around to paying it till January because, quite honestly, car payments aren't in my usual 'roll' of monthly electronic payments. I had to write a check and mail it in. This I did in January. The man with whom I had the dispute this morning, 'Dan', even confirmed this. He told me that the bank had received it on the 8th of January. Well, of course, he had to tell me this because his point was that the bank had received the check but had 'Returned' it to 'Maker'. Hmmm. I am getting ahead of myself here a bit.

Today I got a call from my man Dan in the collections department at US Bank. Though I missed the call, I called him right back. He knew who I was, amazingly, and quickly explained to me that the reason he'd called was to inform me I now owed the bank at total $64.19 because my check for $44.19 had been marked 'Return to Maker' on or after the 8th. As a result, he told me, I had been assessed a $20 fine or 'processing charge'.

Now, interestingly, I received a statement from US Bank in January, which showed a total due of 64.19 and itemizing the $20 as processing fee, I think. There was, however, no explanation as to what that was for and why it was being assessed, as in, why my check was being 'Returned To Maker'. So, looking at the statement, I guessed that they hadn't received my check (or processed it) in time for the statement to be printed, thus the still-due $44.19 plus $20. I figured that I would get another statement with the $44.19 deducted and that if the $20 continued to show up as due, I'd either call the bank and dispute the $20 because it was in fact paid on time, or just call it quits and send them $20. Nonetheless, there was no clear explanation on the statement ha there had been a problem with my check.

Enter Dan. I told him this, but no, he thinks he's got a deadbeat here. As far as he's concerned, the 'Return To Maker' on my record is the same as 'NSF' or "Not Sufficient Funds' and that equals 'Deadbeat' in his (presumably rather small) book. Never mind that the marker 'RTM' was in fact issued by his institution, US Bank, for reasons not made clear, either to me or Dan, and that I was not aware, until the phone call, that there had even been a problem with my check!

Now, often it takes several weeks to process paper these days, so it didn't surprise me to *not* see it on my statement online (which I check regularly, as in, daily). However, to this guy, Dan, there was simply no possibility that the amount could be in dispute. I explained that I didn't actually dispute owing the $44.19. In fact, I pointed out, I had tried to pay it. But, I said, I did (and still do) actually dispute whether or not I in fact owe US bank $20 for what seems very likely to me to be their mistake, not mine.

This I posited to Dan. I asked if he thought that it was possible that US Bank had erred in marking my check 'RTM'. This, he admitted, was possible. If this was so, I concluded, it was then also possible that I wouldn't actually owe the $20. He said yes, it was possible that I might not owe the $20. But, he reasoned, I still had to pay the full 64.19 immediately because, technically, this disagreement we were having didn't amount to a 'dispute'. I thought this was interesting, especially because we were just about to have our real dispute. No, he contended obstinately, I needed to pay it all now and, if the bank had indeed made a mistake, they would reimburse me, possibly with a small ($5) remuneration by way of apology. Oh the irony! His or mine though, I don't know for sure.

At this point, he offered to basically split the difference with me. He said that if I'd pay with a credit/debit card over the phone right then, he could and would use his 'power' to waive the $20 late fee, or processing fee or whatever we were calling it by this time. However, he said he'd still have to charge me $10 for making the payment on the phone. Now, to be fair, to his way of thinking, this was half what I 'owed', but to me it was still $10 more than I owe.

Ok, I said, I'll pay on the phone, but I won't pay the phone processing charge. Why, I asked, should I pay for the $10 of paying my bill on the phone, when I really hadn't intended to pay on the phone (expressly to avoid paying the fee associated with that form of payment) in the first place. Further, I wouldn't even need to be doing it now, except for the fact that I'd actually called him back (on my dime) and was for still unknown reasons, patiently trying to resolve the issue by promising to pay. I was firm, though, that I'd only pay for what I knew I owed. I stood firm on disputing the portion that I did not believe I owed the bank.

This, I think, caused his head to explode. It really set him off. He asked if I thought that this was a 'dictatorship'. In a somewhat parental tone, he proceeded to tell me that he was the one who was telling me what to do, not the other way around. He further told me, in an equally stern voice, that he was not prepared to offer me anything other than 1) the chance to pay now or 2) have him make a 'note that the customer will not pay'. I had to tell him he should actually not 'note' that because it wasn't true; I repeated that I was willing to pay the original amount due but not the fine.

His tone became increasing ruder as he attempted and failed to bully me into making payment. Immediately. Next, essentially, he tried to blackmail me by telling me that unless I paid right then, at that moment, on the phone, nothing less than the $54.19 that he was demanding, he would report to the bank that I was actually refusing to pay.

At this point, feeling that threats of this nature aren't sanctioned behavior and that I should report it, I asked to speak to his supervisor. Conveniently, Dan told me that said supervisor 'was not available'. Since it now seemed to me that that speaking to someone else wasn't going to be an option, I asked him if the conversation was being recorded. This was a bit of a bluff, of course, but at least since they threaten you with this at the beginning of every call (I suspect to deter people from cursing at the collection reps) and I'd been unfailingly polite throughout the conversation, I thought it might be to my advantage. To this query, he sounded surprised and asked why I asked. I said that I at least hoped someone would listen to it and see that he was being rude, uncooperative, and unnecessarily so, especially because I was actually explicitly offering to pay the original amount due.

Our dispute, of course, is not about that amount, but the other charges that I feel are being unfairly assessed, however they are labeled. Curiously, since I waste a lot more than $20 every week on frivolities, I find myself engaged in this disagreement for no reason other than the mere principle. This to me is a sort of quixotic quest I often find myself embroiled in. It happens to me whenever some large company demands a very small amount of money from me for reasons that have nothing do do with the service or goods the company actually provided and everything to do with the institution trying to assert its power over an individual. But why?

Indeed, what gain is in it for the big company? Punishment? Deterrence? No, I think it is simple greed, at a corporate policy level. It's not an individual's greed--certainly not Dan's, who shouldn't even care whether or not I actually send in $44.19 or $54.19. I mean, what's it to him?

The answer is, naturally, 'nothing' really. But, I maintain that, it is a matter of corporate policy/culture, which is what Dan is blindly following and was trying so desperately to adhere to in his conversation with me, I think for no other reason than his desire to keep his job.

On the larger scale, here's what I think is happening. The institution has it set up as a matter of corporate policy so that hundreds of thousands, if not millions of 'customers' are subjected to a million or even a billion 'tiny cuts' or fees, processing charges, late fees, and fines. These tiny cuts are really a hemmorage, adding up to untold billions of dollars in 'slush money'. And this practice is very hard to detect because is not as discrete or even as obvious as the outrageous ATM fees we are being charged every day just to see or use or own money, and nobody seems to be complaining about $3.50 ATM fees that meet the legal definition of usery.

Yes, the fight is indeed quixotic, but I can't help it. Some foolish clerk like Dan gets it in his head that he can be righteously indignant with me on the part of his company because he 'knows' that I am 'deadbeat' because of the 'evidence' he has in front of him and off I go! Again, never mind that it's all manufactured by the company (including his very 'collections agent' job) as a revenue stream that goes directly to the bottom line. And that's a best-case scenario. I am being generous, though for no good reason I can see.

In any case, I told him I was going to pay, by check, tomorrow. I told him further that I would include with it a letter explaining my position and outlining my complaints not just against US Bank for mishandling this whole process, but specifically to the individual who was so unnecessarily uncooperative and rude in his attempt to collect the money. Dan wasn't having this. Finally, after reiterating his intent to 'note' that I was 'refusing to pay', he told me I could leave a message on his supervisor's voice mail. This I did, in a clear and calm voice, and left my number for him/her to call me back. I do not expect a call.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Contemplation

Interestingly, after months of constant thought about Lynda, it was thoughts about my father which dominated yesterday after an email exchange with my brother prompted me to think of him. Suddenly I find myself missing him, wondering what kind of counsel he might offer me these days. It's been so long since I even considered how much I used to talk with him that I am surprised. Of course, it is natural that the last year focused my attention on my mother, to the detriment of not just my father's memory. Unfortunately, I haven't forgotten his kindness and willingness to listen, but I do not seem to have inherited these traits.

Lost, then, in the drive to work and fundamentally need to support myself and my family, is the tenderness and understanding that comes with contemplation. Bill certainly had time for thought, and at the end of his life, reached a kind of spiritual understanding that I secretly mocked but in hindsight it appears to have been out of envy more than spite, since I understand endemically that I will not ever reach a similar understanding, my tendency to think constantly notwithstanding. No, thought for me leads to action, not paralysis, mostly because I think my thoughts are in keeping with the majority of human contemplation, mundane and boring, elevated only past the functions of eating and excretion by a single degree. It is that very degree of separation which leads me inevitably to work.

Unlike more powerful and imaginative thinkers such as my father, I am not really capable of generating much creative thought in an abstract sense, so I am instead driven to act, to do something with my time that at least allows me the illusion of being productive, even if it is nothing more than a sysiphyian task. Also unlike those individuals such as Bill who are able to think clearly enough to see the result and therefore determine that the effort to get there is not worth it, I have no such clear vision and must, in a the most clouded of states, plod forward like a draught horse in the furrows, glad for the direction if a little melancholy that the path is forever straight. Free from these constraints, creative individuals are capable of much greater imaginative constructions (if only, in some cases, merely mental) can indeed soar to great heights, though I confess from where I stood, it seemed like my father could get no further than the kitchen table on most days.

Oh well, while I do realize that my limitations need not be imposed on others in my care, I cannot help but wonder what it would be like if I could in fact keep from allowing my personal shortcomings (as in, the absence of creative vision and compassion for the purely contemplative life) from hindering those around me. Here's a thought: If in fact, I could remove, or even diminish the destructive tendencies I have imposed on others, would the lives of those oppressed by those tendencies be bettered, or would they simply seek out another source of opposition?