Unfolding the Map
We turn southeast again at Merrill. I will once again, and for the last time perhaps, address the daughter that I will never have. This time, I will reflect on children that are unwantedand seen as the cause of their parents' problems. I hope that some of them make it over the rainbow. Thank you, all visiting Littourati, for putting up with my need to get all of this off my mind. Where's Merrill? Let the map be your guide.
"Looking for the land again, I turned east at Merrill....
"'Nana says Angus never forgave us kids for changing his life. We kept him from becoming a famous writer. But Nana says it's because he was too scared to really do it on his own...It's all bullshit. The only way he's big is pushing little people around.'
"'He must have treated you fairly sometimes.'
"'Yeah? Like he calls us 'hundred-thousand-dollar jerks' because he read that's what it costs to raise a kid. Or he calls us 'unfeathered, two-legged arguments for abortion....'"
Blue Highways: Part 7, Chapter 12
I Will Never Have
"Thousand dollar jerks." "Two-legged arguments for abortion." How people who bring life in the world can so discount their own offspring, so minimize them, so utterly demean them, is infuriating to me.
What makes me angry is that there are so many children that need love and affection, and I am continually left with the question why? Why are children born into homes that don't want them? Why do people with attitudes like the father's above even bother to procreate? It is not only a huge act of irresponsibility to get someone pregnant when you don't even want children, but an even bigger act of irresponsibility to demean them and abuse them once they've been brought into the world.
As a semi-practicing Catholic, the Church tells me that I should believe that abortion is evil. This is echoed by evangelicals around the U.S. But what kind of world is a child coming into if he or she is born into a family that doesn't want a child, and who views a child as a cause of problems? Wouldn't it be better to simply not allow that child to be born?
On the other hand, what kind of world would it be if people can simply abort children when they want to correct their own irresponsibilities?
I try to steer away from that debate, but it seems to me that the answer to the question is to be responsible. Don't have children if you don't want them. Use a condom or birth control (another method my Church doesn't condone, but I really don't care). If you are responsible, and still a pregnancy results, then all parties should consider all options instead of just taking a seemingly easy way out.
What bothers me about the rhetoric that flies around about the abortion debate is the assumptions that are made. There are assumptions made that if children are not aborted, that the families will want them, or that there are people out there just waiting to adopt. Maybe, but it's not guaranteed. Again, I ask, what kind of life is a child consigned to if there are no safety nets to catch newborn babies? There are also assumptions made that it's just easy for a woman to have sex, get pregnant, and then go and get an abortion. I know that is not true. A person would have to be an unfeeling, complete sociopath to not have any emotion about having that procedure.
Yet, it's easy for me to extemporize. It's easy for me because, in a sense, I've been irresponsible. In my case, I put off my own wants and desires for children and it has cost me ever conceiving you, or conceiving of you, getting to know you, caring for you, raising you, and loving you. But at least I am not putting you into harm's way. Someone else will have you, someone else will raise you, someone else will love you. At least that is my hope.
I just hope that the persons who raise you want you. I hope that they don't see you as an impediment to their dreams, but as a dream come true. I hope that they don't see lost opportunities in your existence, but find the incredible opportunities that arrive and await them because you exist. I was talking to a coworker who is raising a teenage daughter and he was remarking on the amazing amount of dystopian literature aimed at teenage girls. It makes sense, because the world is a scary place for girls in the teen years, when they are so vulnerable and still have to be so strong. The world is dystopian enough for teenage kids. Why do we have to reinforce that frightening view? We should be shattering it.
I hope that if I cannot be your father, that wherever you are out there I'll meet you. I hope that I'll meet you in the park with your mom and dad and that I get to play with you a moment. I hope that I meet you when, as I hope, I volunteer with an organization like Big Brothers or some other non-profit that matches needy kids with someone who will pay attention to them and provide companionship or mentorship to them.
Perhaps I've already met you in the myriads of kids with which I've gotten on the ground or floor, suspended my worldly worries, and just gone into their world. Maybe you've already touched my emotions or for a few moments relieved my sorrow about not having a child, a daughter, of my own. Maybe I've still yet to meet you.
Yet I know you're out there, and if you aren't to be my child, I can still be a special person to other children. I can still be someone to which they can become close and get support and friendship. They just have to find me. I have a feeling that it will happen. And when they do, regardless of the reason, they'll know that they are special. Maybe, in this way, I'll be able to honor you, the daughter I will never have.
Your Father that Might Have Been
Life always throws one curve balls. I've had a few hit me in the face. When I get down and melancholy, this particular song, Over the Rainbow, has always given me a reason to keep going. I remember it touching me when I was young and when I hear it now, I often get tears in my eyes, especially if the singer puts some real emotion into it. Judy Garland made it her own, then Jane Monheit claimed it, and most recently Israel Kamakawiwo'ole nailed it. I've loved them all, and I can imagine that a lot of kids in difficult situations wish they, too, could fly over the rainbow. Pick your favorite, or listen to them all.
If you want to know more about Merrill
Next up: Green Bay, Wisconsin