Daddy said even years were better but...

2014 sucked. My father died. My dear friend died. Many innocent people including children were slaughtered by a murdering gang of thugs who said they did things in the name of god a la, the Nazis, the Manson Family, Bosnia, northern Ireland, rogue soldiers and all the rest who killed, raped, hurt, stole with the excuse you had a spiritual or political agenda but really you were just insanely wrong.

I was raised a heathen. Our religion was literature, education, political engagement, humor and family loyalty which is weird because my mom always made fun of people who invoked their families as their ultimate authority. She also made fun of things like rituals and traditions which makes me think my parents probably saw these things as ways that people separated themselves by clinging to their Menorahs, Christmas trees, prayers and pledges.  We celebrated Christmas passionately but our presents weren't wrapped. We each were given a chair with our stuff piled on it. As a result, I craved wrapping paper, ritual, religion and pledges. I lived in a Buddhist monastery part-time for a few years and welcomed the mixture of serenity and terror that Renzi Zen Buddhism inspired in me. I loved wearing the robe, bowing and chanting and crawling occasionally. However, I used to return to my cell, make coffee, eat chocolate and read Vogue Magazine so some part of me wasn't fully committed.

My parents and most of my family went to Harvard. This was a source of pride but also not. God forbid you claim Harvard as your Alma Mater except in the most casual of circumstances.  You were not to sport any Harvard memorabilia or refer to your time at Harvard except in a very minor almost embarrassed way. We were bog Irish but aristocrats in our intellect and achievements. My father was a Gauss lecturer at Princeton, a recipient of numerous Guggenheims and an accomplished novelist and literary critic. My mother graduated from Harvard Architectural school and studied with a student of Walter Gropius. Still, we rarely mentioned these things except in passing. Maybe this is the reason why I referred to myself as a teacher when I was invited to a publishing party right after my first novel was published. My companion did a double-take and said, "She's also a writer," and I grimaced.

Supposedly the Irish believe if you praise your child too much the fairies will abduct them. I never worried about that idea as the compliments I was granted as a child were usually from strangers or other people telling my parents how well I played soccer, directed a play, performed or wrote. They rarely attended any school event and I rarely invited them. The reviews tended to be negative, "What a terrible play!" or non-existent. Oddly, I didn't feel unsupported. Just not entitled. And yes, a bit hurt.

I went to everything my son did and usually cried. He banged a xylophone in kindergarten and I wept. He was a royal child in "The King and I" which I saw twice and wept. He played guitar at a local club and I wept. It's weird how much I cry when I see my amazing, talented son in public. I realize he takes our support for granted because he was raised to expect his parents to always be there if they could. I hope I'm not crying for myself and those empty seats I used to see when I was in a play.

I assumed my parents were too busy and had better things to do than cheer on my efforts which inspired me to expect very little which has proven helpful in some cases and harmful in others. I am always impressed by the self-confidence of those I would deem less than perfect. Usually they had parents that found them charming, brilliant and gorgeous when the truth reveals something else, obnoxiousness, stupidity and, as my dear grandmother would say, 'a face like a foot'. Ah, there's the key, a grandmother who had no time for nonsense, who told you you were too fat and promised a lifetime in hell for your lack of mass attendance. This meaness was filtered by my mother and almost none was passed to my son.  I'm glad of that. If your mother doubts your talent it makes it hard to take risks. But I have always taken risks and sometimes fallen hard, sometimes soared.

I'm not sure what this has to do with murdering terrorists but I think it's connected to this idea that there's a ladder and only certain human beings are allowed to climb it to heaven or that place with all the virgins or whatever it is that makes you believe you are entitled to be cruel, wicked, inhuman and savage. You aren't right. You just have a gun while they are trying to learn things. You listened to the loudest voice when really no one knows a single thing about why we are put on earth except I choose to believe it is to be kind and not proud, accepting and not judgmental. I don't believe things happen for a reason because there is no reason that could satisfy what occurred in Pakistan, in Newtown, in Nigeria and on a smaller scale my friend's brain tumor. My father's death had nothing to do with god. He was sick and sad and 88. It was time. I miss him terribly.


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