japonisme: why i don't believe in hell

25 September 2011

why i don't believe in hell

my father kinda looked like a mixture of mayor bloomberg and alexander nikolaevich yakovlev (photo composit). today would have been his 99th birthday, if he had not died in 1980.

he smoked a pipe, sometimes cigarettes, he had a manhattan every night when he got home from the office. with a cherry. and he played 'fur elise' on the piano. he bought himself an eames chair, and was always the second son, the one least favored.

as a pup, he had done some disc jockeying on the radio, and he was the best dancer i ever met.

when i came home from dates, he would be sitting at the dining room table eating corn flakes and reading the paper.

as i thought about him, new of his talents kept popping into my mind. singing 'scarlet ribbons.' acting in musicals at the jewish center -- 'captain sammy's showboat' (directed by my mother). he could draw middling good, and had wanted to go to art school, but ended up following in his older brother's footsteps to go to medical school at the university of chicago.

a month before he died, my mother's mother died. in the car on the way to the funeral he cracked jokes the whole time.

when i look at him in the tangle of my memory, i can only seem to find a mangled creature, partially melted into himself, some darkened parts that look like they might be from burns.

no, i don't think i'm seeing him now. i thinking i'm finally seeing him with clarity, he who will always be in my memory. how can one believe in hell? a man may spend some kind smiles in his lifetime but if he also places his own pain & fear & terrors onto his children with a scream and the back of a hand, he is being rightly tortured at that time.

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Anonymous evan said...

Ain't it the truth for so many- parents who rise to the defense of their chicks, but don't think twice about hitting them or jamming soap into their mouths for asking what a word they'd heard meant themselves. Ain't it the truth also that other kid's parents are always cooler than your own.
Oh, to have that naivete still. Or not.

26 September, 2011 09:54  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

i felt like for the first time i was seeing a portrait of how it felt to be him. how do i feel that he had a secret side to him that outsiders never saw? it was a long time ago. but somehow getting an idea of the hell he was always in changes things.

26 September, 2011 16:57  
Anonymous evan said...

A secret side...my Dad was in the CIA...wanna talk about secrets? It's interesting, the idea of the secret side others never saw. For all his job-related secrets, my Dad was who he was- other peoples sense of him matched my own. My mother, on the other hand...sainted rescuer of stray beasts to the outside world...do I have to pay for this therapy?...I'll put it this way...I disappear into my work when I draw, & knowing when & how to become invisible was a good thing to know...

27 September, 2011 10:52  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

evan--really?! or is that cia as metaphore?

27 September, 2011 14:15  
Anonymous evan said...

CIA. Really. In WW 2 he was in the OSS (precursor to the CIA) & fought behind enemy lines in Burma. I could never quite put the quiet, bookish guy who was my Dad together with the guy who trained to jump out of planes & fought the Japanese along side the British & native Burmese tribesmen. He was in Vietnam for a while. As a kid, I asked if he carried a weapon. He did, a Baretta submachinegun he kept in his briefcase. He sketched it for me. Still I only half-belived him, until after his death I found a photo album, & in that album is a snapshot of my Dad out on a firing range somewhere, blazing away with the submachinegun he'd sketched.

28 September, 2011 09:52  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

wow, evan. not only is that fascinating, but it makes a wonderful vignette that you relate beautifully. thank you.

28 September, 2011 11:00  

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