Thursday, January 17, 2008

Chosen Confinement

I tucked him into his bed, kissed him on his forehead, moved the hair from his face … only as an excuse to linger for another instant … and then with a “Goodnight Son, I love you.” , I moved down the short hallway to his sister’s room. Because I understood that she had an intense aversion to intimacy, I simply sat on the carpeting, beside her bed’s headboard, and gently jiggled her mattress to the rhythm of whatever tune I chose to hum. She could feel my presence through the “rocking” of her bed … hear the soft tones of my voice … and drift off to sleep, aware that my love for her was, yet again, her guardian and escort as she traveled from “here and now” into Dreamland. I would then steal away into the darkened living-room, sit in the rocking chair, and weep my tears of agonizing loneliness … until weariness drove me onto the sofa … where I would go to sleep for yet another night. This was my routine for the last many years of marriage.

My children had not so much as an inkling of a hint that their home was anything but a comfortable, peaceful, supportive and sustaining place of nurturing and care. I had made a conscious commitment to that end, and never allowed any other voice or influence to be known. Yet this cocoon of warmth and love that they knew … was the place of my chosen incarceration. I was held there by self applied bonds of commitment to my responsibility to provide the very best of worlds for their individual and joint development and growth. The bars of my cell were installed by me, and known only to me … but had the strength and security of the toughest of maximum security facilities. But to the world outside of my perceptions, mine was the ideal setting of the happiest of families and homes.

And it was worth it! My children did indeed grow and thrive in their own settings and in accord with their own abilities and talents. The mission was being accomplished. So, then why do I recount, to you, My Dear Reader, the picture of what lived behind the façade of working imagery? Because I know, for an absolute fact, that there is, all around me, a world of similar imprisonments lived out every moment of every day. And no one is even daring to whisper about their reality.

What I refer to is what I consider to be the noblest and most honorable of sacrifices that one human being can make for another. That of giving every element of one’s self for the betterment and good of another. And this is what a loving parent does with every decision; every choice; every election that life places before them, when they choose to put first the needs, desires, and best interests of their children … often at the expense of their own fulfillment and happiness.

I did consider the option of “breaking out” of the prison. I heard the rationale of our culture’s opined view that “we can only offer our best to our children if we are being our best for ourselves.” And I actually researched the subject … actually interviewed single parents whose spouses had chosen to follow other dreams and fulfill their individual callings with their commitment to their children taking a lesser place of prioritization. And then I discovered an article in one Sunday’s “Parade Magazine” supplement to the newspaper. In that article, the scientists who had given birth to the “the children will detect an unhappy marriage and be wounded by it … the healthier choice for the children is to separate the home and allow the children to develop in two happy environments” theory. Those two men were publishing their revised conclusions (after twenty years of “follow-up study”) … chiefly (after thousands of interviews with hundreds of children of homes divided as a direct result of their earlier postulations), that it is far better to permit children to learn skills in conflict resolution, in a less than perfect environment, than to teach them that “cut and run” is the best of interpersonal skills to develop. On that day, I closed my “Marriage/ Yes-No” file (which I looked at just recently [yes … I do keep all of these things!]) … and chose to bind myself to the better interests of those in my family who had no vote … my children. And the unyielding doors of my emotional and spiritual tower closed with a resounding clang.

That you, whether you are one of those who can relate to this story from personal similitude, or one who was, prior to this writing, unaware of the reality of such circumstance all about you, may know that yours or your neighbor’s song is, by no means, a solo, I submit this expose'. For, unhappily, I can attest to the fact that their lives a virtual chorus … choir upon choir … of such voices … borne of those who, because of the nature of their commitment, cannot make themselves heard. So, today, I speak … I sing … I cry for them … and bow to their courage and marvelous expressions of consummate love.


Anonymous said...

This conveys the personal pain that you endured, yet portrays the deep
fatherly love and commitment you had for your children. You sacrificed
your personal feelings and self for your two precious children and that
is an awesome testimony of true love! What a father!!

John-Michael said...

The fact that you have been my ever-dearer friend since before the my children were born, coupled with the sterling nature of your character and inclination to reservation in comment ...make this statement one of inestimable worth and a compliment that I hold dear and precious. Thank You, my dearest of friends. (psst ... next year will be 40 since our friendship began ... can you believe that yesterday was 40 years ago? [smile-hug])

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