For Hamlet and the trifling of his favour,Hamlet Act 1 scene iii
Hold it a fashion and a toy in blood,
A violet in the youth of primy nature,
Forward, not permanent, sweet, not lasting,
The perfume and suppliance of a minute; No more.
The intention of these letters was never to offer a complete picture: a movie spanning every moment and nuance. They were meant as more of a greatest hits. Echoes of an oral tradition, told through digital screens instead of around firelight. My time in Kansas City as a Fallen Son was not that much different than my time there as a Mormon Gangster. My eyes were opening to a world that had always been obfuscated, and it was changing everything that I thought I had previously known. The only difference is that my time in Kansas City with Anika was outside of the confines of Mormon shackles. But in terms of stories: playing Foosball with Martin Gore, being on the guest list of most shows, dating a girl that everyone else wanted to take home, having brunch with William S. Burroughs. That pretty much completes that section, and none of them translate to Letters worth writing.
But, just because one leaves a particular belief structure, and starts shedding those dogmas and rituals, that does not necessarily change all of the roots of one’s hopes and dreams. Many concepts we cling to are rooted somewhere else, tied and knotted with the tangles of other ideas. For me, one such weed was the concept of dating.
Mormons do not date, they hold job interviews.
And even as a fresh apostate from the church who had had a clean theological break with the faith of my youth, I did not know how to think about dating outside of the idea of marriage. There was simply no reason to date, unless it was to find a future wife.
Marriage. I still believe in it. I still actively try to get better at it every single day. But never in my youth, even as a professional step kid, did I realize the truth: Every single love story should begin where it ends. There is no happily ever after. There is only constant work and compromise. Fairy tales were never meant to be for children.
The Best Laid Plans
You were supposed to be The Millennium Baby: due date December 31,1999. There were rumors of some sort of million dollar giveaway to the first baby born in the new century; I don’t know if those tales were true. You came early, exactly one month before I turned 26. Your mother and I were watching The Green Mile in a theater in Mesa, Arizona when she turned to me and said, “It’s time.”
The tall beige brown building off of Brown and Country Club used to be a hospital, and the window just west of the corner, third floor from the top, is the room where you were born. I stood in the parking lot of an exotic pet veterinary hospital, leaning up against my motorcycle smoking a cigarette. Tears were streaming down my face. Dripping from my chin like bombers trying to land a kiss on the cherry. I tried to clear my mind of all the dead dreams by imagining I was a B-52 bomber, aiming those salty explosions at the burning edge of cancer. Smoking was just another thing daddies did that I was never supposed to do. Like getting a divorce. Or losing children.
Nothing that I had laid out in my mind as the great Supposed To’s had come true. Not first days of school. Not losing that first tooth. Not teaching you to drive. Or showing you how to shave that first peach fuzz. Not meeting your first date. Fatherhood was not supposed to be limited to time in the summer with a person you barely knew. That was another thing daddies did, that I had vowed to never do.
The cherry of the cigarette sizzled in sharp defiance of the salty bullseye. Hit! Direct Hit! I dropped the cigarette, and pulled out the pack from my inner jacket pocket: lighting another. No, really the first and last time anything happened in the really real world that was supposed to…. was up in that now empty and unused room.
Umbilical Cords are like slimy industrial strength hoses. The doctor handed me a surgical scissor, and held out the bloody tube. I expected it to cut like a thick pasta noodle: just a hint al dente. At one point in my youth I had wanted to be a veterinarian. I loved animals, and I could really not think of anything I would rather do than help them. Until I worked at a vet’s office for a summer to earn my Veterinarian Science Merit Badge for Boy Scouts. Being a vet was all maggots and blood, and I quickly found out that blood was something that I could not do. I had stood next to your mother as she pushed you into the world. I watched her face heave as she wrestled with Atlas, but I did not look below the curtain. I wanted to be awake when you said hello to the world, not blacked out on the floor in need of smelling salts. Your birth was quick, nothing of the terrors I had envisioned (father terrors, like losing your wife and child in childbirth, or a fifty hour labor that leads to an emergency Cesarean Section), and just a couple of minutes before the 30th day of December, I squeezed hard on those surgical scissors.
I squeezed, imagining scissors cutting through butter, and the resistance of that connection to the safety of the womb was much stronger than I had anticipated.
I squeezed harder, watching the tissues start to split, frantically thinking, my God am I hurting her! but too fascinated by the strength I was having to exert to separate you from your mother to look away.
All I could hear was the slice of that cutting edge, until finally with one last force of will, you were free from her. You were out, on your own, in the cold harsh world without a lifeline, and I had put you there.
The nurse placed you in my arms, wiped clean, swaddled, and crying, and my blue eyes met your dark gray ones. I imagined that we could see each other, even though I knew your eyes were not ready to see. And you would probably need glasses. Just like me. I probably looked like some sort of dark blurry beast, and who knew what that image would be in a mind that had known only warmth, and love, and inner music.
I must have been the first monster you ever saw.
I will never forget that thought. The first thought of Fatherhood. It will be burned into my mind even if I lose everything else to that thief Altz Heimer. It somehow signified the end of every single thing that came before… and was a harbinger of the fights that lay ahead.
Someday, someone will lash out, and hurt this face. Ball their fist into a ball, and slam it. Bones will crack and the blood will pour. Someday, someone will willingly cause this perfect innocent pain. And I will want to kill them.
My name is Irish, Ryan Boyd, little prince with a king’s ransom. Not sure how that ever plans on working out. We are not Irish, we are Scottish, and Welsh, and English, and Chippewa. But something in the power of the Gaelic names always reminded me of Fairy Tales. Aidan means Fiery One in the language of the fey….
Seven Pounds Eleven Ounces. You were never a large person. I did the same thing as my grandfather and father did, married a short white woman. Eventually all of our height went away, inch by inch, generation by generation.
Eventually…. your mother filed for a divorce. We had just bought a home in Show Low, Arizona with my inheritance from a dead dad. I had just started my teaching career at Blue Ridge High School in Pinetop. You had just turned a year old, and I was a couple of weeks from turning 27. Just like me, you would have no memories of your parents in love, or happy. You would only know us after the Fairy Tale ended. Not all Fairy Tales are For Children.
Later…. back in the beginning of trying to not be a single dad that failed all of the time…. I also took you to your first movie… at least as far as I know. You had just turned two. And normally, I would never have taken a toddler to a movie. But…. it was Spider – Man, and dammit – I had missed too many firsts.
Sometimes…. we gotta crash. Sometimes I feel like my life has been nothing but a series of them. One after another, full tilt, like a fledgling wanna be super hero that can’t stop messing everything up. But not you. You were not one of those colossal mistakes.
Sometimes I sat in that parking lot for one cigarette. Sometimes several. Every bombing run was different. Ghosts are everywhere. They are the haunted places filled with memories that will not stop replaying. My life was a mine field of supposed to, and that stupid, spiral-bound notebook with lyrics erased into the cover and notes that sometimes sounded poetic, would not leave my mind that day. I had erased a song into its cover about changing the world… but the title at the top, written in youthful confidence was, Things My Daddies Did That I Will Never Do. So much for Best Laid Plans. I slipped on my helmet, and drove away from the ghosts.
Continue The Story:
And if you are just joining the reading of these letters – why not start at the beginning? Letters to Laertes : A Prologue.