Me and My Hauntings
I had a meeting in Atlanta, GA a couple of weeks ago. While in Atlanta, I drove over to Buena Vista to see GiGi before flying back to what she calls the big city. We sat in her sunroom since sitting out in the sun would be a bit too hot.
The first thing GiGi mentioned, after we discussed our health issues and the U. of Chicago Hospital caring for us, was that Hillary was 7-points ahead of the Donald in Georgia, which traditionally is a red state.
While I think that the Donald is a train wreck, I responded to GiGi that I hoped that all the dust doesn't settle until election day. That political windbag provides plenty of opportunities to write scathing essays regarding that wannabe leader.
GiGi's next question was about Jack and Owen. I had told her about Jack going to all-day kindergarten. I went on for some time talking about both the boys, Jack and Owen. GiGi just sat back and smiled at all the things that I recounted for her.
Then GiGi added something that she had mentioned every time we talk about the two boys, "You certainly are proud of them." I agreed; they are great children. I paused for a moment trying to decide how I would phase my next comment.
GiGi asked what was the matter? It is her way of opening the door for me to enter a psychological room about which I was not quite ready to do. She does that often but then kind of pushes me gently into the room. So I went in. I said that Jack and Owen are my means by which I can vicariously relive my early childhood. I explained that most of my first five years can't be recalled. Therefore, I put myself into where they are and imagine myself over six decades ago exploring my new world and asking why to everything about my world. This is precisely what the boys do.
GiGi's psychoanalysis continued with the next rather forceful Rogerian-esque question, "Yes, but you spend a lot of time teaching them about the art world and fossils. Why? What drives you?"
I responded that I started teaching Jack about famous paintings when he was three. Three years later, Jack and Owen know dozens of paintings and the artists who painted them. I love art history; however, I couldn't imagine that a three-year-old wanted to know about paintings. I can't explain the boys' drive to know about paintings or fossils. In the past couple of years, I have given them copies of paintings that particularly interested them.
GiGi's answer was that I am always quoting Picasso, "All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up." In response, I agreed that Picasso is correct but why. I don't get that drive, which I see in Jack and Owen. GiGi again responded with her psychological comment, "You certainly are driven to answer everything." Then she smiled to indicate that she approved, even though I was a bit overly driven.
I continued about how Jack and Owen also love fossils, which aren't issues related to creativity. I told GiGi about Owen wanting to teach me about ammonites when he was four. The vast majority of Americans have no idea what ammonites are.
On GiGi and I went discussing the two boys and my love for them. Then GiGi ended her comment, "I'm proud of you. Jack and Owen are lucky to have you." Well, there I was in another doorway not wanting to reenter a room that GiGi and I have been in many times prior.
We have talked about her implied virtue on my part to want to teach them. She heard me say that I accept that Jack and Owen gain from my love for them expressed in my teaching them. I get that. However, my drive to teach them is more about me and my discomfort emotionally.
GiGi knows all about my parents moving from Pennsauken, NJ to Mt. Lebanon, PA just before I entered sixth grade. Because of WWII, my father wasn't able to go to college. Therefore, when he got a promotion, we moved from Pennsauken, NJ, which had an average school system to Pittsburgh, PA. While looking for a house, my father asked his realtor what school district was best in the Pittsburgh area. He was told that Mt. Lebanon was the best. It also was the 19th best school system in the entire country. I went from being above average to feeling that I was dumb. The effects of that move to Mt. Lebanon affected me adversely for half my life. Once I realized that I wasn't dumb, I became extremely interested in teaching at the college level. I remember the pain of feeling dumb; I wasn't about to allow college students to diss themselves as I had.
I went on explaining to GiGi something that I have explained hundreds of times. If I was driven to help college students, she can imagine what I am like with Jack and Owen? I realize that I cannot protect them from every stumble as they journey down their yellow brick roads of life. However, I am capable of assisting them from making unnecessary mistakes about how they see themselves. I know well how that feels.
However, I ended my restated explanation this time due to beginning to choke up emotionally. There is something else I don't get. Why can't I just present the facts without getting overly emotional?
GiGi's response was that they have benefited from my helping them. My retort was that I am sure that they have. However, I am really the beneficiary. I vicariously experience their feeling great about themselves, and, in some strange way, I relive my early childhood and help them avoid needless stumbles in their schooling.
An interesting side note: I was recently teaching a college class, and we were discussing the Indian religion, Jainism, which was a spinoff of Hinduism. I mentioned that Jainism, like all religions, is adversely affected by sexism. During the class discussion about that religion, one of the guys challenged me on my comment about the issue of sexism. I think that he was not so defensive about Jainism being sexist but about all religions being into sexism, which included this.
Nonetheless, reasoning with this student was like reasoning with the Donald. I mentioned that Trump claims that he is very religious. Nevertheless, both Christianity and the Donald are sexist. In a failed attempt to illustrate my point, I mentioned that the Donald is both sexist and oblivious to issues due to sexual harassment. I cited a reporter who asked the Donald, if his daughter worked in a company where someone was sexually harassing her, what he would suggest that she should do? His response was to get another job.
Since that teaching moment wasn't picked up by that student, I gave a personal example. I have written about this in many essays. When I was in Myanmar a couple years ago, my tour guide had to stop and pick up some travel documents at her home. While there, her nine-year-old daughter, Ti Ti, was home from school due to some holiday.
Ti Ti spoke perfect American English and asked whether I wanted to play Scrabble with her. We played for around an hour after which she added up the score. Ti Ti was delighted to announce that she won. She was happy. I told Ti Ti never to forget that experience. She had beaten a person old enough to be her grandfather, in an American game, and in English, which is her second language. I was happier than Ti Ti. And I was very serious about her not forgetting this event in her life. A young girl was able to best a male. That was a learning moment for her.
The male student didn't reply to the story about Ti Ti. I still wonder if he understood my drive to reinforce my admiration for Ti Ti. However, more than likely, he didn't get it.
GiGi again smiled and said, "My, you are driven." I qualified her statement by adding I am more driven that I was in the 60s during the civil rights movement. Then it happened again. I hesitated a moment before I went further.
GiGi seized that moment of a slight delay to ask about my hesitation. I felt like she opened the door again and gave me a little nudge into a room that I was not prepared to enter.
I was honest with my reply. I wanted to get my words processed correctly. With the extra time and GiGi pushing me, I told her that having danced with death a couple of times, I realized my mortality at a deeper level than I could have understood prior to doing the dances. Therefore, because of the dances, I am more alive than ever before. While doing the dance with death caused me to live might seem an oxymoron, it is absolutely true. I am into living due to realizing that my time is limited. Therefore, LEGACY is the word that is always in front of my eyes. It is one of my hauntings. I guess that Jack and Owen will benefit, but I am benefiting.
Visit the Burma Independence page to read more about this topic.
Visit the The Last Lecture page to read more about this topic.
Visit the Dancing with Death page to read more about this topic.
Visit the My Hauntings page to read more about this topic.
Visit the "The Hand May Be a Little Child's" page to read more about this topic.
Visit the GiGi page to read more about this topic.