Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Beast

The title of this blog comes, of course, from a story by Henry James, a writer so cerebral that many find him unreadable.  All is allusion and moral ambiguity - bring it on, I say.  Anyway, the point of the story is that this guy, who thinks that something terrible will happen to him in his life shares this thought with a woman, and they spend many years musing over it.  She obviously loves him - to spend her life commiserating over his phantom misfortune - and only when she dies does he realize that the terrible thing he was envisioning has actually happened: that he could have returned her love, but didn't.

And so did I spend 26 years of my life - my prime, as they say - afraid of losing something that I never really appreciated while it was here.  Sure, I cherished the early years with my son - it was hard not to - he was like a magical being that every day brought me new wonder at his precocious mind and he was lovely to look at - with a clear amber brown gaze that even when he was a baby appeared unchildlike and thoughtful.

But when I had to release him out into the world, it just killed me.  Thinking of  him out there unprotected filled me with angst.  So I tried not to think about it.  That was easy enough - I had to work hard to keep our family afloat financially and to get ahead.  I was the sole breadwinner.  I was also only 20 when I had him.  So instead of confronting this world alongside him, I let him fend for himself.  And this was in the new country I brought him to.  As the years passed I understood less and less what he was going through.  I trusted in his intelligence and social aptitude.  I let teachers bully me into things I never should have agreed to.  And most egregious of all, I never got to know his friends.

When he died I found out what these friends thought of him.  Their response was overwhelming.  So many of them spoke of how well he understood them, saw into them, taught and inspired them.  How could he be that to so many?  How could I not know this?  Of course, I thought the same of him, but to others he offered the best of himself.  To me he often entrusted the worst.  Perhaps not the very worst.  That he kept to himself.

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