I cried this morning. For the first time. I woke up late after suffering through a night of Mingo yowling in my ear and drove to Lolo after eating a warm banana. In the night I realized that I had failed to grab the hard drive in my recording studio. I can stand to lose all the recordings of my musical life. I can stand to lose the instruments I left behind… one of which I have had since I dreamed of being a rock star at age 14. What I cannot fathom losing are the recordings of my son on that hard drive. When he was little (now he is huge – 15 and towering to heights that defy my genes) I used to record him out in my studio. I wish I had done more but the few recordings I have of him are priceless. I have him declaring what he wants to be when he grows up – a drummer at that time. I have him telling me that he loves me in the pure way that kids do before ego gets in the way of spirit. I have him calling me “Daddy” which I will never hear again outside of my own head. I became “Dad” at some point along the way. All of you fathers out there should cherish the fact that your daughter might always refer to you as "Daddy". Sons don't do that. I don't do that.
I parked at the incident base and walked across the parking lot. After stopping to photograph the mud puddles in the parking lot from the little bit of wetting rain that came this morning I stood in a short line to obtain a permit to return to my home for that hard drive.
I explained to the man at the table why I needed to go and was told that I could not go. This was after a woman in front of me had been granted a permit to visit her home for something or another. I was caught completely off guard. I did not expect this. I felt the air in my lungs burn a little and then turned and left without saying a word. I sat in my truck for a few minutes, eyes closed and breathing.
I thought of my favorite Mark Twain quote… “I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened”. I realized that the news was better today… that the fire had been 30% contained on the side opposite my home. That is good news for highway 12 but relatively meaningless for my home’s location. The forecast today is for winds to come out of the WSW at 10 miles per hour. That points the fire directly at The Elf Palace – an informal name given to my home some years back for reasons obvious upon visiting. All the firefighter reports are positive but I know that none of them really know anything with any certainty. After all, last night we were supposed to get major wind gusts that fortunately never showed. Whose to say they don’t just like to show up fashionably late? If things are so rosy then why can’t I go to my home for 5 minutes and yank that hard drive? I heard my son say “I love you, Daddy” and I got out of my truck again. I approached the information desk and asked the man behind the folding table how they define a legitimate reason for a permit.
He then asked “Why? So you can tell me what I want to hear?”
I told him that I was being very honest with him about my reasons and that I was puzzled. I explained to him that the day before I had been granted a permit to retrieve “medical supplies” – Sophia’s contact lenses – and I failed to see how something as replaceable as contact lenses could take priority over what I had just described to him. He looked as if he wanted to give me the permit but the lady next to him, appearing to be his superior, piped in. All I could hear was psychology 101 and my frustration grew quickly. I felt patronized and stopped her after listening to a bunch of “yadda yadda yadda”.
“I do not need to hear your manipulative attempts to get me to become a believer. I have told you what I need and why I need it. I just need you to tell me ‘yes’ or ‘no’.” I declared
“Sir, I am telling you ‘no’.” She answered.
I went to my truck and, not surprisingly, my wife called at just the right moment. And I cried.
I used to think that something was wrong when I cried. I used to think that things were not the way they were supposed to be when I felt sad or when something "bad" happened. I have come to understand over the last number of years that things are always as they are supposed to be, even when they seem to be awful... even when they actually are awful. By being human it is inevitable that we will suffer from time to time. It is normal to be sad now and then and it is best if we allow ourselves to be sad when the time comes. To realize that fact is to break free from the shackles of a deeper suffering. We can then experience all there is to experience in a more graceful way. So much of our suffering is in our head. As Mark Twain described, most of it isn’t real. When it is real we do have a choice. Victor Frankl, a nazi concentration camp survivor who knew suffering greater than any of us can imagine, taught me about our only true freedom in his book Man's Search for Meaning. If things keep on the track they are now my recordings will survive and I will probably only listen to my son’s young voice on the next blue moon and others that follow. If those recordings don’t make it I will disappear from this earth sooner or later anyway but I will always remember my son calling me “Daddy!” as he flew through the air like superman, arms outstretched with his chest resting on the soles of my feet.