The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Gifting, Moving On

by Antonios Maltezos

For years, I wouldn’t dwell on my childhood memories. I refused. Easy to do once you’ve mastered the art of being distracted, of moving on. But there’s a part of you that remembers every heartache, that will nudge you even in your middle age like a child of yours asking the silliest question, trying desperately to catch your attention because they just want to know why this is like that. For your children, you’ll snap out of whatever it was you were doing, and you’ll force yourself to concentrate just long enough to have a precious one on one. What’s most surprising about these moments is how little effort they require. I usually pat myself on the back afterwards, because I had the patience and the goodness to set my child’s mind at ease. As adults, we learn to accept that there are things in this world we’ll never understand, and what we do want to learn about, we look up in a dictionary, or on the internet, or we ask someone who might know the answer. For a child, realizing they have a question is a big deal. I remember. There’s an expanse of blackness that opens up just after the tip of their noses. It’s scary. It could be the edge of the universe for all they know. Some of my questions from my childhood were answered along the way, naturally, just by me growing up. These were answerable questions. Still others I came to realize would require some special schooling, which was fine by me. Hey, as long as someone out there understood the formulas and why they worked. Today, when I’m asked why this is like that, or how does this work, and I don’t have a clear answer, I see how even my stumbling about sets my child’s mind at ease. All right, if dad’s starting to bullshit then it mustn’t be something I should worry about. He doesn’t get how electricity works, and he’s doing just fine. The important thing here is that I try and answer their questions as best I can. We’re connected. We’re in this together. They know I take my responsibility to guide them seriously. I should worry when they don’t come to me and my wife with questions, if we ever lose that connection. If that happens, it’ll be my fault.

For years I wouldn’t dwell on my childhood memories, and that’s because I hadn’t had my answer yet to the question that had perplexed me the most. I’d look back and see snapshots where I should have been playing movie reels in my head. The snapshots were of the happy times, and as for the rest, I convinced myself I had a poor memory. It’s been a long time coming, but after years of writing about stuff I didn’t know I was writing about, dealing with the issues that had me imploding with little emotional bombs as I grew up, I’ve managed to get to those questions one by one. Not that the worst things that can come to mind ever happened to me. We weren’t abused, and we were certainly loved by our parents, but my father was also a very volatile person. Angry is the word that comes to mind. I spent too many hours in my room as if it were a prison cell, my eyes wide open in the dark, caught up in the drama unfolding around me -- that of my parent’s lives in the cell next to mine. As a forty-three year old, and a writer to boot (thank God), I’ve traveled far enough away from those times to realize they had very little to do with me, and that I had no business worrying about my father’s moods. But what’s a kid to do, especially when he loves both his parents equally? I held my breath, doing my hard time as best I knew how, even though I hadn’t committed any crime. I certainly wasn’t being carefree, searching out the things I didn’t understand, making a list so I could bring these gifts, these questions, to my parents by the armful. I internalized, instead. I watched movies, I read books, I daydreamed… even in school. Crap! I flunked high school because of my moody father. Terrible thing to say, but it’s true! I hadn’t been prepared as a child, my curious nature nurtured so when I did finally hit my teens, I had a bunch of questions like an arsenal, and I was prepared to take on the world.

But I made it through somehow, my one big question finally answered to my satisfaction. None of it was my fault. And I’ve been rejuvenated, reborn, filled to bursting with questions whose answers are just at the tip of my pen. I’m finally ready to write about my father, looking back on the times we shared without being recriminating. I shied away, maybe, because I really didn’t want to stick a knife into the memory of the man, there was so much good in him.

I love you dad, and this is my gift.


Blogger Anne C. said...

August was the unofficial month of emotion here at the CWC. This is great, on more than one level. As I've already mentioned, I think that your family is your best topic. I can't wait to see what comes of this! And I'm not just saying that because it's a Saturday:)

Sat Aug 25, 08:34:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Andrew said...

I've spent the summer thinking about my father. It's been rejuvenating somehow- I can feel it inside me deep down- but it's also been depressing. I enjoyed your post, Tony, thanks for sharing this.

Sat Aug 25, 09:35:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger tamara said...

Beautiful post, Tony. It is amazing the power fathers have; your kids are lucky.

Sat Aug 25, 11:47:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Wonderful image that cell. Thanks for putting into words what many people have to do and that is to grow out of the image they formed of their parents as children and discover the full humanity of those parents. I have struggled for years to love my mother in an adult way. I think I'm almost there.

Sat Aug 25, 03:31:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Mel said...

Lovely, Tony.

Sat Aug 25, 03:46:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

Thanks for reading, friends. I'd thought that maybe this had come out too personal, but just for a second. That's part of growing up finally, I suppose, that distance. Hallelujah!

Sat Aug 25, 03:48:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Chumplet said...

I'm glad you finally realize it's not your fault. I think of how we children always wonder why our parents acted the way they did, no matter how we tried to behave.

Mon Aug 27, 06:45:00 pm GMT-4  

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