The Watchtower of Destruction: The Ferrett's Journal - Lessons Learned But Never Taught
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Lessons Learned But Never Taught|
"I really don't want to write today," I said. "My stepfather died. It feels like I should take a day off from churning out fiction. But it's, like, Bruce, he..."
"He taught you a different lesson?" Bec asked.
And that's the thing about Bruce. He didn't teach me any lessons. He didn't care, or at least I thought he didn't at first, because he just sat back and let you go your own way, so long as you didn't bother him - and "bothering him" could mean "fighting in the car with my stepbrother again" or "not mowing the lawn like you were supposed to." Occasionally, if he thought you were doing something foolish, he'd snark, and he'd smile if he thought you'd made it to a good place, but he'd never interfere.
Whereas the rest of my family was brimming with lessons. Sit-down talks, discussions of the future, shared wisdom - they were burning to teach me edifying tutorials on life. Bruce brought in contracts, made me write them with him and sign them. And then if I broke them, he got pissed. But there was never a discussion on whether it was the right thing to do or what it meant for my future as a man, it was just what needed to be done.
Bruce was the hitman. When the cat needed to be put to sleep, Bruce brought Frisky and Aurora to the vet. When negotiations needed to be done, Bruce bought the car - and got a good deal. He took a mid-level job and saved hundreds of thousands of dollars for their retirement years, scrimping now so they'd be well off later, forcing a financial planning that served my mother especially well in these days.
And what good was that? There were no lessons there. The man didn't teach, he just existed.
It wasn't until my mother went blind that I saw what he did. He kept her going, drove her wherever she needed, gave her such unquestioning support and never snarked. And it was only then that I saw the cost it took him; it wasn't that he didn't have emotions, it was that to him, emotions didn't matter. Who the fuck cares whether you're happy or sad or tired? Here's your wife. She's blind, and she needs to get to the Moose club to feel normal, and even if you're not the most social guy in the world you'll go to the Moose club and run for President because that will make her happy. And if your wife wants to move away to California to some new place in the last year of your life, uprooting everything you are to fulfill a final dream of hers - not yours - then you go.
That is what you do. So get it fucking done. (Not that Bruce swore, of course.)
I didn't learn a damn thing from him; I absorbed, like a taste seeping into the milk from the fridge, the truth slowly dawning upon me that all of my psychodrama and angst and suicidal tendencies were things that existed, but in the end was I making my wife happy? Was I fending for my family? Was I doing what needed to get done?
Christ, no wonder you're depressed, Steinmetz. Your life is shit. Does the whining accomplish anything? No? Make it better, then.
My marriage would have collapsed without seeing Bruce. Even with Bruce, it took me a while to learn that being upset wasn't an excuse to take a day off from being a good husband. But he never sat down with me and said, "Well, Billy, here's how you learn to endure." He just did it. Day after day. Year after year. And seeing it showed me that it could happen, and God I was weak, but every year I accrete a new layer of willpower and part of that is my Gramma and her New England roots... But part of that is Bruce.
So do I want to write? Hell no. Would it be a betrayal of the lessons Bruce taught me? Also hell no. He never asked a damn thing of me.
But his spirit is telling me that yeah. The fiction? Needs to get done. So I'm going to take my laptop, and I'm going to go downstairs, and I'm going to squeeze the tears from my eyes and write as many words as I can because you do stuff when it needs to get done.
That was Bruce. That was a man. And that's my keyboard today, the fingers moving even as the brain is numb, staggering forward from the wreckage one step at a time.
Al is in the office here at home writing a technical paper for moch the same reasons. Put himself in a better place at work so that he'll take better care of the family later.
Bruce did teach you something. PRACTICAL love, which is just as important as the romantic type. *hugs*
Absolutely, positively, well written. Wonderful prose and a great tribute.
Sounds like he did teach you, just not how you're used to. He taught by example and by letting you learn for yourself. He sounds like he was a wonderful man.
The man didn't teach, he just existed.
Sometimes you need an architect to teach you how to build, and sometimes you just need a sturdy, steady rock to build from.
Some people are good at being one, some people are good at the other.
that is a damn good quote.
|Date:||July 31st, 2009 03:27 am (UTC)|| |
What a wonderful tribute to a man who influenced you so deeply.
|Date:||July 31st, 2009 03:41 am (UTC)|| |
"That was Bruce. That was a man."
Sounds more like a mensch to me.
|Date:||July 31st, 2009 03:55 am (UTC)|| |
*gets up, puts on a hat*
*takes hat off to your tribute to Bruce*
|Date:||July 31st, 2009 04:09 am (UTC)|| |
Thank you for writing this. I did not know Bruce, but reading this reminds me of someone who had a similar influence on me during my formative years.
|Date:||July 31st, 2009 04:59 am (UTC)|| |
You really are an amazing writer, dude.
Touching - thank you for this, and your other posts on Bruce in the last few days. It has really helped me keep perspective with my own father.
What she said. Thinking of you and your Mum.
Well done him, and well done you.
|Date:||July 31st, 2009 05:58 am (UTC)|| |
Bruce clearly left an incredible and indelible mark on the world in the hearts of those around him. I don't know that there's anything more amazing and awe-inspiring in the world.
May he rest in peace.
He sounds like an amazing person.
I'm very sorry for your and your mother's loss.
"My father didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it."
- Clarence Budington Kelland
You have my sincere condolences. You were fortunate to have such a good example of a solid person who did what needed to be done for the people he loved. Not everyone has that kind of role model for practical love.
In my experience, after a death, be it a cat or a grandmother, all you can do is stay on autopilot and keep going. You keep feeding the other cat, keep getting out of bed, keep going to work and doing the laundry and eating. I found that a very hard lesson to learn, but as you learned from Bruce, you do what needs to be done.
I applaud you for being able to write anything today. My creativity fizzles completely during times of grief or stress, and I am impressed. It sounds like he would have seen that and given you an approving smile or nod, then gone back to doing what he needed to do.
My prayers are with you, honey. I'm here if you need anything.
My condolences, Ferrett, but what a tribute you have written, and I know you'll be a living legacy to him.
I've been struggling to get on with what I've needed to for quite a while, having completely flatlined on my programming, but having no motivation or energy at all. Sometimes you just need a reminder and a kick that sometimes you just have to get on with it regardless, no matter how crappy you feel. You just delivered that reminder to me.
|Date:||July 31st, 2009 01:09 pm (UTC)|| |
My sincere condolences on the loss of such an important figure in your life.
I remember when we waked my father, who was just such a dedicated family man. I was floored by the number of people, some of whom we didn't even know, who told us how my Dad had helped them in quiet ways and inspired them. I think that's a rich legacy.
Is probably the best tribute you can give him.
My sorrow for your loss. Bruce may not have set out to teach, but you've learned nonetheless, and by writing you share that with us all.
|Date:||July 31st, 2009 02:38 pm (UTC)|| |
My stepdad is the same. Reading this has really helped start to coalesce my own feelings (his system is shutting down 20 years after his triple bypass heart surgery).
I'm sorry for your loss
Thankyou for this, Ferrett.
"Show, don't tell."
It works for life lessons as well as writing, I see.
I'm truly sorry for your loss and your mother's loss.
I get this!
When my son died, I did, I'm still doing, the lesson: being a Mensch is about doing what needs doing.
I'm very sorry for you grief.
|Date:||August 3rd, 2009 01:12 pm (UTC)|| |
It always amuses me to watch my step daughter think in paths that only exist because she's paying attention to what I do in life.
He sounds a bit like my dad, too.
|Date:||August 6th, 2009 06:45 pm (UTC)|| |
And *that* may be the most beautiful and relevant post I've read by you.