We just saw Laurie Anderson’s lovely documentary Heart of a Dog, about losing her mother and her Rat Terrier Lola Bell, and obliquely about losing Lou Reed. It’s really about memory and loss and the strange business of being alive.
Anderson tells this amazing story about a long hospital stay when she was a kid, and while she’s a wonderful storyteller she says there’s something “creepy” about stories: you tell them to describe something about yourself or something you learned, but the more you tell it the more you lose the real memory.
I was thinking about this because at our lovely Easter Egg dying and hunting party I was telling the story of how only 4 years ago the kids came for the first time to our house, to our egg party. We’d just met them a few days before, and the social worker thought a social event might be just the way to bring them into our lives. Frankly I think it was a crazy idea, but it was a fun day, and it might have set the tone. These kids want to be entertained! That’s fine, we want an entertaining life.
But I’m just not sure the story is still really true.
For a long time I needed people to know I was a new parent. I felt a constant low-level panic. I was saying “I’m barely hanging in here, I hardly know what to do.” It was true. As the sudden dad to a 1- and 4-year old, I felt truly out of synch. Out of my depth. I didn’t have 4, or even 1, year’s experience. I was totally making it all up and hoping I wouldn’t ruin them spectacularly.
But things are different now. I may still need to cry after dropoff some mornings, feeling battered by the morning routine and being a dad. But I realize so do a significant other group of parents. We hide it well (we think), but getting these little beings through the world is not easy.
Yet. I’m not a new parent. I know what to do as much as anyone does. Which might not be much, but it’s not any less than everyone else.
And, I feel I’ve known these kids their whole lives. My whole life even. I feel we have a cosmic connection that transcends calendar time. This makes me feel guilty for the times I wasn’t there, for the neglect and sadness they went through before they found us.
At some core level, my story about how it’s only been four years just isn’t any longer so. We’ve been together forever. They’re stuck with us, and vice-versa.
It was a nice thing to realize on a gorgeous sunny day before Easter.