For those who know me, that’s probably a pretty shocking title to see coming out of my pen (or, keyboard, as the case may be). For those who don’t know me and may have found this blog by accident, first let me say hello! Hi! My name is Jamie and I am not a fan of Donald Trump. Like, at all. I believe that he is a bombastic, bigoted, billionaire boy’s club blowhard and a bully who is only interested in his own self-edification and aggrandizement. If you’re wondering why I believe these things, it’s because I have eyes. And ears. If you’re a supporter of his, that’s fine, and I hope and pray that your man proves me wrong, but in the twenty-five or so years that I’ve been aware of his existence, dating back to when he was nothing more than tabloid fodder set up by his PR team to try to make a celebrity name for himself around his highly publicized divorce from Ivana, he has done nothing to dispel me of the notion that he will. If anything the last few years have only made him worse, turning himself from a B-rated circus sideshow freak into an A-rated circus sideshow freak in the Oval Office. If you’re okay with celebrating someone who brags about grabbing your wives or daughters by the genitals, or stereotyping Mexicans as criminals and rapists, or any of the other asinine and insane things he’s said over the last few years that I don’t have time to get into because I’m just quickly spitting this out on a short break from work, but if you’re okay with those things, I suppose that’s between you and whatever compass of morality and common decency you adhere to, but I know that it’s not the same as mine. Doesn’t mean that we can’t be friends, but we should probably avoid discussing politics, and you’ll understand if I keep my mother, sister, wife, and nieces away from you. And don’t give me that line about locker-room talk. I’ve been in plenty of locker-rooms, and while some crude things were thrown around, I never witnessed anything on that level of pure creepiness and narcissistic self-assurance.
So, if I am so diametrically opposed to Donald Trump and just about every single thing he stands for, why the hell am I writing a blog about how I think he’s going to make America great again? That doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it? Except for that it does. You see, I’ve spent the last couple of months since the election experiencing a myriad of emotions. First, just feeling defeated that the election went in the opposite direction of my personal values – I believe in openness and inclusion, I believe in freedom from persecution, and I believe that all are equal before the law, but instead the election, and the reaction to Trump’s ascension, went a little backwards from those values. It was a sad time, and then it was an angry time, and there may have even been some feelings of metaphysical malaise mixed in there as well. And neither the news reports about his cabinet picks, nor his reactions to celebrities and comedians making commentary on his actions and opinions only made those feelings worse. I don’t have kids so I may be off the mark, but he comes across as a petulant toddler throwing a tantrum because he was told that he had to wait until after dinner to have his dessert, but dammit, Donnie wants his ice cream now! Waa! Donald Trump is reactionary and dangerous, and as of tomorrow he will be one of the most powerful people on the planet. Terrifying.
Okay, yeah, I think I’ve established that I really don’t like the guy, so why on Earth am I sitting here on the day before his inauguration finding myself filled with a great amount of optimism? Seems kind of counter to everything I just wrote down, doesn’t it? But it isn’t. Because, you see, I have not been alone in these feelings, not by a long-shot! People are angry, they are scared, they are fed up, or to put it in acceptably geeky pop-culture terms, they’re mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore. In the last two months I have seen people organize, I have seen people get engaged and involved, I have seen people from opposing walks of life come together in protest and I have seen that with my own eyes. Today on the news, I see people in countries all over the world gathering together in solidarity for women’s rights, getting ready to march against this crude excuse for a man, this snake-oil salesman who somehow scammed his way into the highest office in America. I see anger and despair being transformed into a fighting spirit, I see apathy melting away and being reborn as passion, and I am filled with the joyful light of hope.
Do I think the next four years are going to be easy? Nope. Not even a little. And I expect to be angry a lot, I expect that I’ll be screaming at my television on a fairly regular basis during the six o’clock news, and I expect that things are going to get worse before they get better. But, my American friends, you’ve got this. Stay involved, express your outrage when appropriate, engage your local and state representatives and don’t stop engaging with them, stay in communication with each other, and continue to stand up every time they try to shove you back down. They may be the Right Wing, but that has never meant that they’re right, and you’ve shown me over the last few months that you’re going to do whatever you can in your power to prove them wrong, and that’s amazing! I honestly never would have expected it after surviving through the Bush II years. But this guy, your new President, and let’s get this straight, whether you think he’s legitimate or not, he IS going to be sitting in the chair of the President of the United States as of tomorrow, is so divisive that people have just had enough and are finally making their voices heard in tones both loud and proud, and that is how Donald Trump is going to make America great again. Good job, Donnie! Go get ‘im, America!
I decided I wanted to try to write a sad story. This is what came out.
The forlorn looking little boy stood near the edge of the crowded room with tears in his eyes and the old man couldn’t remember if he’d ever seen another soul who seemed so alone.
The little boy stood straight with his arms held tightly to his sides, his small hands clenched into fists, his tousled hair tossed and askew, and his wide eyes set in a thousand-yard stare, clearly taking no notice or care of the teeming masses of moving bodies thronging through the fog around him. He was wearing his favourite pajamas, the soft fluffy blue ones patterned with a thousand tiny dancing snowmen and that had the snuggly feet for extra winter warmth, but he appeared to be feeling no comfort at all.
The old man recognized the boy, and he knew that lost look ever more well than he wished to. A meek but cordial smile appeared on his face as he approached the little boy.
“Oh, dear me, hello little one,” the old man said in a kind voice that gave off the sense not of your wise old grandfather, but rather your grandfather’s cooler brother who is willing to share the tricks and family secrets that your grandfather would never reveal. “I know and remember you well, kiddo, and I recollect you as being much happier than this, so tell me, what’s the matter? Why are you crying?”
The little boy sniffled deeply, his tears spilling over and down his cheeks as he came back to himself from wherever his wandering thoughts had stranded him. “I lost my friend,” he said softly, and dissolved into sobs as he ran to the old man and embraced him around the hips, the little boy’s pudgy face pushing warmly into his soft belly, causing the old man to absently wonder if he’d ever been that short, that small, that young, and concluded that even though it seemed impossible, he somehow must have been. It may be impossible to remember it, but we all were babies once upon a time.
After a moment or so of comforting the child through his tears, the old man put his hands gently around the boy’s arms and moved him back so that there was enough space between them within which to make eye contact as they spoke. There were three roundish stains on the old man’s white shirt, one for each eye and one for the nose, where the boy’s tears had soaked through to his skin, and the old man couldn’t help but feel his heart break for the pain he knew the boy was suffering through.
“What do you mean, you lost your friend? Do you need help finding her?” The old man asked, hopefully.
The tears sprung up again in the little boy’s eyes. “No. We can’t find her no matter where we look. Daddy said she’s gone and that I can’t see her anymore, but I really, really want to!” He finished this by thrusting himself deeply into the old man’s arms and falling once again into a fit of uncontrollable weeping. The old man gave the boy a few soft pats on the back in a vain attempt to give comfort, but he knew he wasn’t helping. This was fresh grief, and as any old man could tell you, the only thing to settle fresh grief is time.
“Do you mean you’re not allowed to see her anymore?” the old man asked, “Or, do you mean…” His voice trailed off as though he knew all the right words to say, but he’d forgotten how to say them.
The blankness came back into the little boy’s gaze. “I don’t know. They don’t tell me. And when they do tell me, they don’t tell me the truth. And when they do tell me the truth, they don’t tell me all of the truth.”
The old man’s heart wept and all of his sympathies went out to the small, lost, and confused child before him. He knew what this was now. He knew where this was going. He looked tenderly at the boy and waited for him to continue, knowing that the first step to excising an internal hurt is to bring as much of it to the surface as possible, and the only way to do that is to talk.
“You’re talking about Patricia.” The words tumbled out of the old man’s mouth bluntly with numb emotion, but the little boy’s eyes looked up at him with a fresh clarity of understanding all the same, like a dog in a desert who realizes that drinking dirty water is better than drinking no water at all.
“They took her to the Big H building, the hospital,” the little boy replied, pronouncing the last word slowly and carefully, recognizing that he had the penchant to pronounce it ‘hopsital’ when he got too excited or spoke too quickly, the word being so new to his vocabulary and his young tongue still unpracticed in shaping its sounds. “Daddy said that she would only be there for a few days before we could play again, then he said that Patricia’s daddy said it would be a week, and then today he told me that she’s not going to come home at all and I don’t know what to do!”
The old man’s heart melted like a candle whose wick was a neutron bomb and this time it was he who pulled the boy in for an embrace, a vain attempt to give succor to a confused child who couldn’t even begin to comprehend the misery he was currently drowning in.
“I’m not going to tell you that I know how you feel because I know that won’t help, but know that I do know, and that what I’m about to tell you comes from a place beyond grief, from the experience of surviving the worst of the worst and learning how to smile again,” the old man spoke the words gently and quietly into the little boy’s ear and felt the trembling in the child’s shoulders and chest subside enough to let him know that the boy was listening.
“This is the worst you’re ever going to feel, and this is not the only time you’re going to feel it. I wish I could say that it was, but it’s not even close. And it’s just as horrible each and every time. Sometimes it’s more devastating than others, sometimes it takes longer than others, sometimes it will strike you numb, and sometimes it will drive you insane, but the one true dependable constant in life is that you will lose people, not even always to death, and it will hurt every single time.”
The boy drew back and gave the old man a look that said that the old man was clearly a crazy person if he thought his words were coming anywhere close to doing anything to help make him feel better.
“I know, I know,” the old man said tut-tuttingly with a gentle smile, “and you’ll think I’m even crazier when I tell you that the hurt you’re feeling is a good thing because it shows that person left an impression in your heart, and that’s vitally important and imperative to what you’re going to need.”
“What I’m going to need?” the little boy asked in a tone loaded to the brim with curious trepidation.
“Yes,” the old man said warmly, then leaned in conspiratorially and quietly added, “what you’re going to need, because, I’m going to tell you a very big secret.”
The boy moved in closer again and gave a small smile for the first time, saying, “I like secrets.”
“Of course you do,” the old man chuckled. “Everybody likes secrets. Until they don’t. Not all secrets are good to know, but this one is. This is a secret you’re going to like.”
The little boy looked up at him expectantly.
“You may have lost your friend Patricia,” the old man said, “but what if I told you that not all of her is truly gone?”
The little boy’s face gave a quick indication that he was puzzling this over, and just as quickly revealed that the results were not good. “But she is gone. Daddy said she’s never coming back. That she can’t come back! Believe me! I tried to convince him otherwise, to let her come over and play, but he said that he couldn’t, and he explained it to me, that gone is gone and dea…,” his small voice cut off, unable to finish that ever so short but ultimately ever so ugly final word of his sentence.
“Yes, that’s all true, but just because her body’s gone doesn’t mean that she’s all gone.”
The little boy looked first confused, then frightened. He whispered, “Do – do you mean she’s a ghost?”
The old man’s cheeks reddened with amusement as he tried to stifle his laugh; he should have expected that question, but he hadn’t. “No! No, not at all. I don’t believe in ghosts. Not that sort of ghost, anyhow. Do you?”
“Sometimes,” the little boy admitted, “but Mommy said that’s okay because I’m just a kid and I’ve got lots of imagination.”
“Well, your mother’s right, and you know what else? It’s good that you’ve got a big imagination because that just so happens to be the other thing you’re going to need.”
The boy looked up into the old man’s eyes with great expectation for the secret that was about to be revealed.
“You see,” the old man continued, “That hurt you feel in your chest when you think about Patricia, even though it doesn’t feel good, in its own very particular way, it is good. Because that pain is a spark, a tiny little light going off in your heart, and that twinge is not only the love you feel for Patricia, but also all the love you’ll miss from her now that she’s gone. Which sounds not so great when I say it out loud, I’ll admit, but there’s more!”
Thinking of the Patricia again caused the little boy’s eyes to threaten water again, but his curiosity remained. “More?” he asked.
“Why, yes! Of course there’s more. There’s always more. Which is a secret in itself, but not the one I’m going to tell you about now,” the old man said with amusement and almost lost his train of thought, but quickly managed to find the track again. “Now, that bad pain that I said was actually sort of good, that spark, it actually has a job. It does something. That spark belongs specifically to Patricia, and every time it flares it sends a message to your imagination, and from there they get together with the most important thing you’re going to need out of them all.”
“The most important thing of all,” The little boy said with a sense of awe and a hint of wonder. It could have been a question, but it wasn’t.
“Memory,” the old man said, giving the word all of the reverence and importance it deserved. “You see, as long as you keep that spark in your heart and allow it to drive your imagination, then you can use it to see and spend time with all the people you know, all the people you’ve ever known, and all of the people who will ever touch your heart. It’s really quite an amazing gift, when you think about it.”
The little boy had heard what the old man had said, and more, even thought that he understood it, and although his tears seemed to have gone back to wherever unspilled tears go when they’re no longer needed, the consternation in the little boy’s eyes still betrayed a longing that showed he hadn’t quite grabbed onto the concept as much as the old man had hoped.
“I know it’s hard to believe, especially coming from as young a perspective as you are,” the old man said, trying to reassure the sad child, “but, it’s true. You see, I know that this is strange, but right now we’re dreaming, and do you see all of these people around us? These are all of those people. Everyone we’ve ever met, from the pediatrician who delivered you into this world, to the new doctor I met just the other day.” To which he then added in a slightly more sardonic tone than he intended, “Old men meet a lot of doctors.”
The little boy looked out into the crowd, noticing them for the first time as something more than a muddled mass of moving grown-ups all hurrying about their ways like grown-ups always do, and thought he might have recognized his grandfather among them. He said, “So, if I can feel that spark in my heart to…”
“Ignite your imagination,” the old man helped.
“Ignite my imagination, then I can use my memory to see Patricia? Like, not actually see her, but sort of see her all the same, only just inside my imagination? Just inside my head?”
The old man smiled warmly at this success. “Precisely!” he said with a nod and a smile. “And what’s more, you can even talk to them if you want to, and sometimes, and this is the really great part, with the right mix of imagination and memory, in some ways, they can even talk back to you!”
The little boy backed away at this, frightened by the concept. “I don’t want my dead friends to talk to me!”
The old man recovered quickly. “I don’t mean that they actually speak to you, but sometimes, in certain situations, you kind of know what they would say, or how they’d react, and that can be both a sad and beautiful thing.”
The little boy pondered this for a moment, then said, “Sort of like if I was building a sand castle fortress for my army guys, Patricia would tell me that was stupid and that I should build a palace for her Barbie?”
The old man laughed with delight. “Sure, that’s one way. Or sometimes, for me, if I’m about to do something stupid, I can still hear Mama’s voice giving me a stern warning, but it’s more than that. Sometimes, often times, late at night, I’ll talk to my wife. I mean, I’ll have full conversations with her. I knew her so well that I know what she’d say to everything, like she was such an important person in my life, and we’d spent so much time together that she became an actual part of me. I don’t hear her voice out loud, but she speaks to me all the time. Just like sometimes you’re going to hear Patricia speak to you, and tell you that your sandcastles are stupid. Which they’re not, by the way. You can always buy a house for Barbie, but toy soldiers need a fortress to either defend or attack or else they simply have no reason to exist.”
“That’s exactly what I told Patricia!” the little boy agreed excitedly, to which the old man replied, “I know.”
They shared a companionable silence for either a moment or a month (it was hard to tell as dream-time has the propensity to behave oddly), and then the little boy once again spoke a sentence that should have come out as a question. “You really miss your wife, don’t you.”
“More than any other single thing in this world,” the old man agreed, but then looked into the crowd and pointed into the mist around them, and a beautiful lady with the loveliest smile in the universe became solid and clear despite the fog. “And look at that,” the old man said with a flourish and a grin, “there she is, just as gorgeous as she was on the day we met. That’s another great thing about the gift. When you remember someone you loved, you can remember them at their best. Like that woman there. She has all the love and experience of a lifetime together, but she looks like whatever way I remember or imagine her.” As he said that, the svelte young woman suddenly shifted into a handsome elderly lady, still wearing the loveliest smile in the universe. She blew them a tender kiss and receded back into the concealing smoke of lost memory.
The little boy reached out to hold the old man’s hand. The old man, of course, grasped the boy’s small hand right back as they watched the faces from their life weave in and out of the moving tapestry before them. Sensing that this dream would soon be ending, the old man began to speak, calling out the names and memories that passed before them.
“Look,” he said, “there’s brother Joe and sister Anne, oh, how we miss them so. And there’s Mrs. Wright from the Third Grade! And over there, do you see? There are Mama and Daddy!”
“I see them!” The little boy agreed excitedly, but his voice sounded faded, as though it was spoken from a great distance.
The old man persisted, desperate not to lose this moment. “And there’s Rufus, our German shepherd, and there’s Gina Marchese, the first girl I ever kissed, boy, is she ever a heart-spark!”
The old man could no longer feel the boy’s hand. He was slipping away.
Still, the old man went on. “There’s Auntie Anna, she was always so tall, and you know how much we hate when she comes over because she always pinches our cheeks, and, hey! Look! There’s Patricia herself!”
“Patricia herself,” the old boy repeated in the same voice.
The old man was stunned. Frightened. He continued to look straight ahead, directly into the shrouded crowd. “And there’s cousin Albert Wise. Remember cousin Al Wise? He was always such a cut-up! Funniest guy we ever knew, right?”
“Yeah,” the old man continued, his voice taking on a wispy quality to its cadence. “Cousin Al. He was hilarious. And he had those cousins from the other side of his family, remember? And they had an act. A real comedy act. Played the summer circuit. They were big in the Catskills, weren’t they? Remember?”
There was no boy next to the old man to respond. He was gone.
“Who was I talking to?” The old man asked himself. “What was I talking about?”
The dream was ending.
“Cousin Al, wasn’t it? And his act with his other cousins. The twin kids from the other side of his family,” the old man tried to remind himself, but there weren’t too many straws around for him to grasp. “What did they call themselves again? Al and the Wise Guys? No.”
The wandering souls of his memory had now all receded back into the ether of his mind.
The little old man started to quietly panic. “No, that wasn’t it. Not Al and the Wise Guys. It was Al and the Wisenheimers, wasn’t it? Yes, I think so. That was it, wasn’t it? Al and the Wisenheimers? Or was it Al’s Wisenheimers? Was that it?”
His confusion was mounting. “Wisenheimers? Is that a thing? That doesn’t sound like a thing. Wisenheimers? Alz…”
The little man was tired, lost, scared, and confused. He was awake. He knew that. And he was in a room, but it wasn’t a room that he recognized. He felt like he should know where he was, but he didn’t. He did know that this feeling wasn’t new.
He looked to his left and noticed that there were bars on the side of his bed, presumably to keep him from falling out. On the night-table was a picture of three smiling teen-aged kids, two boys and one girl, all with curly tousled hair, and beaming behind them were whom he could only assume was their parents. The father was a sturdy enough looking fellow, but the wife was a real knock-out, with possibly the most beautiful smile in the universe. He felt like he should recognize the people in the picture, but as far as he could tell they were just pleasant looking strangers. Probably one of those pictures that came with the frame.
But the wife’s smile nagged at him. He thought that he really ought to know who she is. He tried to puzzle it over and figure it out. He concentrated, but for the life of him, he just couldn’t quite connect who she was.
A forlorn look settled upon the diminished man’s face. He wasn’t sure that he’d ever before felt so alone. He was sure he must have.
But he couldn’t remember.