Los días de los muertos: Letter to my dead father
Today is Wednesday, November 2nd 2022. I am sitting on a floor, in half lotus, on the 3rd day of los días de los muertos. And the energy and sincerity of the Mexícanos to honour their ancestors is strong and so I wondered about you. I wondered, without the awareness of any feeling of any significant feeling about your presence in my life, my life story, the story of what it is you contributed to the making of me, this strange guy with thinned now white hair, practicing yoga at a deep level. You contributed to half of my genes, of course. And even though your wife slept around, I am most likely your son, as my adopted sister Demelza bodily affirmed when she almost fainted when she saw me because I so closely resembled you. (BTW, she is or was SO angry at you for dying the way you did, slow suicide by food and inactivity.)
I am now 61+ and I think I remember that you died at 54. I don’t remember your birthdate–late September–nor do I remember you death date. I think in the mid 1980s in the winter. I was told about your funeral, a lone break in the family excommunication, and the option of a small inheritance from some oil bonds no one knew you had.
I didn’t go to the funeral. Your funeral. I didn’t go to your funeral, Claude, my absent father. BTW, that is pronounced ‘klode’ as in ‘load’, not ‘clod’ as in a ‘fraud’. Now I’m laughing because you eventually stopped correcting the mispronunciation. I’m still correcting people who mispronounce my name. And so that is something we have in common, the French name in an English speaking world.
Why not? Why didn’t I go to your funeral?
Fear, actually. Not fear of seeing your corpse. Perhaps some fear of seeing my family after having left them with an emotionally cataclysmic feeling-break it. I chose Louise co-dependency. We had, my family and I, agreed without words on a mutual post-explosion excommunication, a kind of mutual shunning that at the time was like a death into a long lived purgatory before a rebirth that was begun in subsequent years. Maybe the family death was the beginning of rebirth, although it just felt like death at the time.
My fear at the time, with hindsight, was that of the extreme co-dependent’s fear of being disowned by the hallowed other.
Hallowed be thy name…
the cult of family shame
used to replace the spirit
as centre of soul.
Sole soul eater.
I didn’t go to your funeral, even though a part of me wanted to, because I would disappoint Louise, my partner, my saviour, the person my do-gooder-people-pleasing-self wanted to help. Even as I was smashed to pieces, the broken healing the broken. It was a toxic mess, that relationship now recently ended, the one that saved my life, actually. It was at the time a kind of dimly seen toxicity that was less than that of what my family was. Until I had been gone from family for about five years, it too remained unseen, a ghost in the machine I felt dimly intuitively, just enough to compel me to duck and dive with all skill to avoid seeing.
Is that what you did? Were doing before your death?
And of course you were a part of that, my compulsive avoidance behaviours too, as a traumatised child yourself, further traumatised by war, in an adult body and as a mostly absent parent, as both victim and castrated creator, and co-creator of my own castration.
I haven’t called you ‘father’. Here. Nor have I for years and years and years, as the Who song goes. Oops. Mis-memory. The Who song was ‘miles and miles and miles.’ An odd Jungian slip? Miles and years having an intuitive connection, of course. And the lyrics beginning with so much of a synchronicity, truly a Jungian slip:
I know you've deceived me
Now here's a surprise
I know that you have
'Cause there's magic in my eyes
Magic? Rose coloured or the black of volcanic dust? Not coal dust, which with a spark will fire into smoke. Phoenix? Dust free, rose free? Bird free or bird brained? Maybe a pretty good volcanic dust monocle over the one eye, and wonderful dried rose petal dust coloured monocle over the other eye. And I’d flip eye patches from time-to-time!
Time is changing the presence of both those forms of avidya into clear-eyed vision. LoL! Certainly more clear, as measured by a lightness in my body, mind and connection to a feeling of being alive in the spirit of life. I’m forgetting to put on those monocles more and more often. Actually, I think I’ve forgotten where I’ve put them!
In this last year, with meeting so many people on my journey of discovery as a covid refugee, I have used the word ‘father’ to represent you when it has been convenient, a laziness so as not to explain who ‘Claude’ was. Is? I smile, as I write that, because I called you father as a combination of laziness and to avoid re-telling the story of your name. That was both a story I held on to, and a story that helped release me from that story, that samskara.
That has been my current most active yogic practice, to drop those kinds of samskaras, stories. That’s why I smiled, the funny synchronicity of Life, to let go of the story of ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘mine’. My father. The irony is that I now say my father to be lazy after years of having dropped the story of my father, to let that samskara fall into disuse and fade away, and re-groove into Claude. Oi vey! The yogic story of telling the story of the story I don’t want to tell. Too funny! An idea/word play you might have enjoyed, so long as it stayed in the head, to be talked about with a nice scotch. sin hielo, as they say here in Mexíco.
You studied, meaning you read about, Buddhism. And Castenada. I don’t remember that you really practiced it, Buddhism, I mean. At least I didn’t see or feel that you did. Castenada did not interest me, for some reason, and I’ve not read anything by him. I think he was an interesting idea to you more than a practice to actually do. I’m smiling, because you didn’t even begin the process of spiritual by-passing that is an easy trap with Buddhism. Or maybe you did with Castenada and the magic of my eyes had been dimmed enough, naïve enough, dulled enough to be blind to it. You were a great reader of things philosophical historical and could stick them in your brilliant head better than most.
I was by that measure, your son. Yup, a true ungrounded head case, encased by books, and their ends end on end. Endless. I read Buddhism for several years, stuffing it into my head, until I dismissed it as ungrounded. I’m laughing at that now because, with some synchronicity Yoshiko has accidentally brought it back into both of our lives. She is the daughter of a Buddhist monk and was born in her father’s monastery. She too had passed on Buddhism until recently. The circles of life. Helixes, more accurately. The actual practice of the ‘best’ Buddhism is a grounding exercise and has become, especially in the west, a lovely means of spiritual by-passing into ideas and orthodoxy that can easily dismiss the body.
When I first met my sister-in-law, a psychologist of some kind, she was keen to know why I called you ‘Claude’ and not ‘father’. She and her brother, your second daughter’s second husband, called their parents by their first names at the direction of their “liberal” (nascent ‘woke’) parents. That was about six years ago, when we met, and I don’t remember, now, my exact words. I remember my answer’s feeling-tone, one of sharpness and … perhaps a kind of anger. So much anger still in my body, even then after years of reading psychology, self-help and two years of daily yoga and meditation! I probably thought I was anger free. I think I don’t feel that anger, although the discomfort in my right hip and stiffness in the right side of my neck suggests anger is still extant in me.
I’m listening to ‘Einstein on the Beach’, as I write this. Strange music-like noise, some would describe it.
There is a rhythm in the slightly shifting progressions that I find engaging and soothing. Drives most people to drink. You loved jazz, played pop music with your band for money. Live music at the local strip bar. Your band practiced in our small house, no jazz. And I’m not really a fan of jazz. The odd thing, here and there, has caught. I remember the lead singer, Liz. She had a good voice. You were alive with music. And yet it wasn’t enough to keep you alive. Or did you give up on it?
I remember your patience when teaching me electric bass. I couldn’t play though, because the play was strangled into judged performance perfection. Not from you! From the very air we breathed from the cult of narcissistic required mommy-pleasing perfection. Perhaps I had the facility to do so. Yet I experienced too much performance anxiety, too much need to be instantly perfect, that overplayed any wish I may have had to play music. There was no play in Mudville those days.
Even now the ukulele Yoshiko bought me to play is sitting unplayed behind me, as I have chosen to read and write, about living in the time of covid. Becoming a refugee in the time of covid. So much to learn, first in through my eyes and then to let it go out through my fingers, out through my breath and finally out of my body. Although I was doing a great job of learning the Irish tin whistle before the injection mandate gave me the opportunity to discontinue that and be expunged from work, from my stressful and comfortable hamster wheel, lazily ignorant of how deeply insane the world had become.
You were clearly a very hurt individual. Your hurt in turn hurt us, your children. Hurt me. Your stuffed anger expressed itself with rage when you blasted to death those kittens, stuffed in a gunny sack, in front of your young children. It was so well hidden, your anger and rage, that that blast benumbed me. That is the first time I thought that, how that numbed me to my emotions. Contributed to the numbness I needed to survive childhood.
You saw war in Korea. That war hurt you. I have the awareness now, that you were suffering from PSTD. It rested in your body like a coil, a fully wound spring you kept from unloading, except when any of us woke you from sleep, when you would jump off the bed with an out-breath filled with a kind of fear and panic that you couldn’t suppress in that transition through the liminal world back to real life.
You didn’t talk about that war experience. I remember you talking about it twice. One time about how much alcohol everyone drank as if drinking 6-12 Canadian beers per night was natural. And once you described how war changes one’s sense of humour. You shared how everyone laughed when the cook was shot in the stomach, as if that was somehow funny.
I remember your attempt to be a father at my entrance into puberty. I imagined then, with a bit of contempt–sorry about that–that Terry likely put you up to the task of talking about the birds and bees. The ‘talk’ came a little too late. I think that I had already had sex-ed at school by then. We went into town as father and son, to some place for ice cream, maybe. Likely I was out of my body for most of that.
I have a memory impression of you being kind, talking gently, while we were in the car. I think the car was parked then. I don’t remember your words. The light was bright coming from the shop’s big window. It was night. All disjointed and disconnected. In part my contempt was because I felt that this was a gesture at father-son time, far too late, that Terry put you up to do. Her barely hidden contempt, even back then, likely seeded my childish contempt.
That father-son time was the only time I remember you doing that, spending time alone with your son. That is the clearest remembrance I have of that car drive, the surprise and oddity of going out with you alone to do something together. To the best of my totally disconnected and gapped memory, so much of my childhood gone into some kind of black hole of dissociation, we didn’t walk together anywhere. Didn’t drive anywhere. I’m sorry if that is not correct. I have learned that we humans misremember at least 50% of our memories. And the few memories I have of childhood means that there is so much I don’t even have a memory of that if the little I have is only 50% right then… Go back to aperigraha and abhinivesa, the giving up of those things that no longer serve me and to give up the stories of self, since at least half are incorrect anyway.
As mentioned, I remember bits and pieces of you teaching me music. Now I do remember that we did spend some time, later, sharing a drive out to Laurence’s gold lease. The time you accidentally filled the truck’s gas tank with diesel, that the truck engine spluttered forward in fits and starts. That’s all I remember, the flicker of something else, perhaps your engineer hat as if in a black and white movie, maybe. 99% nothing.
On Monday Tommy R. shared his felt experience of grief and guilt and sadness when his father died a slow death, also young. And other people have shared their grief at the passing of their fathers. I haven’t felt that, and when I listen to these kinds of shares, I have interest and a kind of curiosity at their feeling and at my lack of feeling. I wonder if there is something wrong with me. Is there? I look at that emptiness and wonder if it’s real, or another dissociation hole down into which feelings have been disappeared. I have written about this in the past, on occasion, as part of some self-help direction or inner prompt, and no emotions came to me. Curiosity about that. Everything I read talks about this important relationship as a cornerstone of self. Is it for me? Do I even feel anger towards you? As I write this I feel that I do not and know, at the same time, that it is very possible that I am simply being totally blind to it.
I worked with a theta-healer for two years, and I did have some anger towards you that we worked on together to remove. Not much, far less than she had expected or has seen with other clients. Perhaps all that work I did, and that my anger was directed in response to Terry’s overwhelming presence in my life and your relative lack. For some reason, your lack did not seem to have constellated anger. Perhaps in part, as I grew into late teens, I recognised or understood that you had been, like your children, eaten by her powerful narcissistic energy. And so maybe early anger morphed towards sympathy and understanding.
It is is fascinating to see how long it took me to realise that Terry was a narcissist of extraordinary power. Like a fish not being aware of water, we were unaware of the foul smell of her narcissistic mendacity and manipulation. I know I was lost, and I see clearly that you were lost too. I remember, as proof of that, when she began the process of kicking you out of her life and you resorted to leaving notes pleading to be seen, like a small child looking for a parent’s approval. You physically died a few years later, death by the slow suicide of food-like-substitutes and alcohol.
I have a firm belief in the non-linearity of time in whatever the existence is that continues outside of our limited space-time continuum.
Continued 2022.11.07 Monday 10:45am Pre-Welcome to Oaxaca
Where was I? LoL! I was in a one room cabaña with a tiny and crude kitchen that is lovely with trees all around. It is up the side of a mountain and a good 10-15 minute uphill walk on a dirt road from the nearest bus stop. Today I am sitting in the upstairs terrace of the Oaxaca Lending Library. I am sure you would find it interesting and welcoming. One of the very few lending libraries in Mexico, founded about 60 years ago by gringos. It is primarily English. It is a community centre for the gringo expats.
I have been busy with researching and writing. Writing comments in Substack, mostly about covid and great reset miscellany. And continuing with my essay “Obedience to Authority, Mass Formation, Woke and Corporatist News”. I have had a very strong intuitive drive to finish it. To finish completing it to a level of awareness beyond what I had before I started it, between ‘Obedience’ and agriculture and the neurology of the lobster and so much more. It almost seems like it won’t end. I wonder, now, just now, for the first time, if you would enjoy it. It is describing a process that helps to explain how the Hitlers and Stalins, etc, are able to get a community to implode and willingly kill themselves. We are in the process of a mass genocide now, a very sneaky one that most people don’t see happening. Amazing time.
Would you have lined up to take the injection? I wonder.
Continued 2:30pm Boulenc:
“It is is fascinating to see how long it took me to realise that Terry was a narcissist of extraordinary power. Like a fish not being aware of water, we were unaware of the foul smell of her narcissistic mendacity and manipulation. I know I was lost, and I see clearly that you were lost too. I remember, as proof of that, when she began the process of kicking you out of her life and you resorted to leaving notes pleading to be seen, like a small child looking for a parent’s approval. You physically died a few years later, death by the slow suicide of food-like-substitutes and alcohol.
I have a firm belief in the non-linearity of time in whatever the existence is that continues outside of our limited space-time continuum.”
I reread this and noted I didn’t write that Terry was a sociopath. Michelle was the person who softened that when she wrote ‘I wouldn’t disagree with you. On my kinder days I would say she suffered from narcissistic personality disorder.’ What about you? What were you? As if that is something that can be captured in a simple noun or even adjective noun? I return to you having been absent. Funny, you were absent. And you loved music. And you loved books. Books and music as spiritual by-pass. I remember, vaguely. And what did you think of her? Did you have a noun to describe her? Or even your relationship?
How does this ‘fit into’ non-linear space time? Are you stuck there forever, or has it already evolved into an awareness to reach some kind of Bodhisattva space-time transcendence?
Too funny! Here I am, in the middle of a concentrated effort at dropping the stories of ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘mine’ and now reconstructing some of them. I’ve been wrestling with the challenge of describing experiences I’ve had without them being the stories of who I am. Now to compound that with adding your stories into the mix. Your stories? As with me, they are not who you are. Were. Whatever.
Am I able to feel a feeling without creating the story I perceive it to need in order to be with the feeling of it?
Continue 3:30pm Café el Volador:
Espresso after lunch. The coffee in Oaxaca is excellent.
It seems I have meandered. Mind and body. Where is the anger I am looking to let go, let go of, like a toy, a childhood toy, that when I was a child no longer had interest in, and was to be forgotten in totality as I grew into the now I experience? Perhaps it is gone? My hip, that uncomfortable tell of some part of me out of ease, has been moving with almost total ease since waking, this morning.
Now to stop. How to stop? What am I stopping?
“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” 1 Corinthians 13:11.
On the surface this looks like it is about the transition from childhood to not childhood. Maybe. I now recognise it as the equivalent of the yogic-Buddhist practice of letting go of the childishness of hanging onto the stories and toys of childhood as if they are true. It is about taking the protective bars and walls away from the hurt child within and allowing that child free to express them. Then with having been expressed the effortless letting drop away that hurt as effortlessly as the child’s hand that opens to let the toy fall away, no longer wanted, and to raise the open hands towards the sky and into the strength of the maturation of spirit in physical form. “I am HERE, NOW!”
That is my intention, Claude, my father. LoL! If you read between the lines, I have managed to equate your existence in my life to a now unwanted toy. Really? Is this how the intergenerational traumas are healed? To see them as toys of the meme-making mind-memory? Curious. For some reason this brings to mind Jordan Peterson’s comment about voluntary reciprocity between equals best expressed as the ability to play. A play thing or an equal? A toy or … what? Perhaps it means we are equals, the toy you are to me is no less the toy I am to you, that we are both to let go with the ease of a child’s joyfully opening hands in anticipation of the next unknown that comes within reach.
Good night, that long night’s sleep. I’ll be there too, soon enough.