When I was a kid, I deduced that grown-ups had a secret. The deduction rested on the fact that grown-ups could make you go to bed at a certain time, that they could make you go to school and that they could make you eat Brussels sprouts. Clearly, they had powers a kid did not and I figured that when I was a grown-up, I would become privy to the secret source of that power. Who knew -- maybe grown-ups could fly or possessed other magical, but secret, powers.
Yesterday, small events seemed to convene to remind me of that hovering secret. First, some next-door neighbors, never really known, up and moved away ... a man, a woman and a child ... goods loaded on a truck marked "Ideal Moving" and ... they were gone. Second, my older son, after a stint at home after completing his junior year in college, moved back to his college town, where he had rustled up an information-technology job with a beer distributor. IT is his thing, so I was pleased he had found something that suited his current interests and was out in the real world. His mother dropped him off yesterday. And third, this morning at about 5:15, my wife and younger son set off for a National Guard command appearance in the eastern part of the state. I had suggested that it might be better if my son went alone -- that this was his choice and his life and he would be stronger in a solo journey -- but I guess they decided between them that mom would come too. Mothers, I thought with an uninformed conclusiveness, are built to hover.
But were dads much different? In other ways, perhaps, I too hover over my children, wracking my brain for understandings and useful information that will ease their way ... stuff I think is worth knowing ... secret or not so secret ... imagining I could really do something helpful.
And that brought me back to the grown-up secret I had once imagined grown-ups might have. Of all the secrets adults know and learn, which is most compelling, most useful, most imperative and most, in the end, secret? Was there actually just one? Probably not, but I came up with one anyway ... utterly useful ... utterly useless. It went like this:
1. No one can know your experience. Horrific or exalting, bland or spicy, ordinary or ornate -- no one can know your experience.
2. To the extent that this recognition comes calling, it can inspire a terrific and wracking sense of loneliness and confusion. The hoverings of the past promise that once comforted and reassured and eased ... well, however kind and loving, they simply don't work in the perfect, mothering ways a child might imagine they did. No one can share your experience ... how fucking lonely is that?!
3. This recognition can come on little cat feet ... perhaps in some not-quite-complete relationship that ought to be complete. Things may be wonderful, but they are not completely wonderful ... a sense of unsatisfactoriness whispers at the edges. Or the recognition may come in utter horror, in a realm where help is desperately needed ... help me please! ... and there is no help. It feels as if I had been hung out to dry in a heartless universe ... and no one knows. Worse still, no one can know.
4. To the extent that anyone can muster the courage to face the fires, to accept a premise that cannot be escaped ... what then it a good course of action? True, a person can acquire more and more possessions, or simply settle for the half-a-loaf-is-better-than-none compromise, or create a god or bright-light environment to aim for. Maybe it works for a while, but I doubt that 'for a while' is what anyone would like to settle for. A hovering fragility, one that lacks relaxation and peace ...
5. No one can share my experience. Loneliness and confusion ensue. Which application will heal instead of just being a Band-Aid? The only choice I can see is to revise or reconfigure the understanding to accord with the facts. And the upshot of that courage and determination and effort is...?
6. You never were alone. Experience is just experience and the notion of 'sharing' doesn't happen to compute. No one can tell such a secret to anyone else, though as a hovering father or mother, I might wish I could. And ...
7. What secret?
Blah, blah, blah ....