Archive for June, 2013

What If Dad Is, Or Was, A Bad Mother

Posted in Uncategorized on June 17, 2013 by michaelcogdill
This may seem to you a radical thought, or three, for Father’s Day and beyond.  It’s meant to rattle a few hearts.  If reading this gets yours to bleed a tad with healing, I’ve achieved what I came here to do.

 
If your dad abandoned, abused, tormented you, the feelings Father’s Day, or any random day, ignites are yours, well earned, born of real life that the Hallmark platitudes won’t sanitize.  They remind us all of the frailty of a human life and the mortality of a dad. 
They remind us, too, of the beautifully self-indulgent, intoxicatingly healing tonic of forgiving. 

 
To forgive him is to acknowledge his failures, his humanity.  It admits to your agony, your hurt.  Forgiving reaches into the fathoms of how cheated you feel when it seems nearly everyone else cheers and loves on a great dad you never had.  The one who can walk on water, and oceans of Old Spice or Ice Blue. Forgiving a father who was not all that expels the longing and the hurt of not knowing the love of such a man. 

Such forgiving is love in magic ricochet.  When you gift it to him, it bounces love in even greater measures all over you.  Take the gift.  It’s well earned.

 Way out beyond the clichés of religiosity, our faiths call for this forgiving.  For it reminds us God is the ultimate dad — so in love with us, He makes the best of the mortal dads look fit for Matchbox Cars or that novelty tie that says Fargo’s a Fun Town.

Turns out God, as a dad, is beautifully unfair.  The ultimate forgiveness gets offered to the lifelong Mother Teresa types and to the Spanky hell raisers whose spindly little faith finally curls up on their death beds.  Unfair, sure. Mike Brady is more fair than that.  But this grace, this forgiveness, is love unfettered by enabling and cliché.  God lets Spanky screw up his life, sure, if that’s what Spanky chooses.  Dads who abandon and abuse end up suffering their own screwed up spiritual warfare.  It’s a war they start, and fight, until they lay down arms and take up actual fatherhood.  On this side of mortality, dads who wound their children fight a war against fatherhood they are destined to lose.  Only when they admit this is there a chance for reclaiming some actual spirit of World’s Best Dad.

I know some of this well.  My dad failed me with drink and, at times, violence toward my mom.  He failed me with the omnipresent fear of upheaval.  He failed simply to be there when all that was required was the presence of him. 
Yet toward the end of his life, my dad and I held the ties of a beautiful relationship.  I am so very blessed by this, and by the memory of him.  His sobriety, even these years beyond his death, is a gift he continues to give to me.  He was an extraordinary man, after all, when he elected to live up to the man he could become.  And I love him, and grieve him, this moment, beyond all words. 

If you’ve known a beautiful dad, bravo to you.  Love on him for life.  If you’ve known true reconciliation with a father who lost his way, bravo, too.  Bathe in the light of that relationship. 
But if today finds you standing at the brink of a jagged void of bad dad memories, peer in, then walk away.  Open your fists and turn from that hole, heart unburdened by the truly divine act of letting go.  Give yourself the mortal gift of forgiving him.  He is not your problem to solve.  Admit this.  Then go. 

 
As for my belief, I walked away in the comforting shade of the spiritual father of us all.  That Father who does not let us down.  I think we ought to send that dad a few whispers of Father’s Day love every day.  Some silent letting go is such a prayer.

And mortal fathers, it’s not about the cards and ties and that Porter Wagoner CD you smiled at nonetheless.  Father’s Day, like every day, is about how you’ll get remembered, and celebrated, on the best, and worst, days of your children’s lives.  It’s about how you create such days for your children. 

About this, dads, only you get to choose.  Will you become someone’s truly beautiful dad?  Or are you good with being remembered as one bad mother?

A Page Or Two of Love, Straight From Honeysuckle Road

Posted in Uncategorized on June 3, 2013 by michaelcogdill

I believe a writer ought to work out loud some. Letting a reader or two peer into the tale even before the writer knows fully where it’s headed turns the writer’s solitude into community. Don’t get me wrong, I dig the quiet alone time with my imagination, but as a writer, I like to be … neighborly.

So, here’s a little hole in the fence of my novel, The Sinners of Honeysuckle Road. This is a love letter written by an 18 year old on the coast of North Carolina in 1968. She writes to her boyfriend, Graham, giving him the note on his 18th birthday as part of a grand public, and private, celebration. She’s soon headed to Duke. He’s just enlisted, bound for Vietnam.

Read this and tell me if it rings with the tonic chords of a young woman so far into love there’s no escape. Tell me if such a letter might help sustain a boy into his manhood, and through his tragedy and elation to come on two shores.

Thanks, ya’ll. And, yes, they’re daringly naked when he reads this. They 18 in 1968. They’re having the big time we all want in our lives, at 18 and beyond!

“My dearest Graham,

You will read this in the presence of a naked girl who will forever wear the presence of you. You strong, beautiful boy, here on your birthday, and on your every day to come, I will love you. I will love the eternity of you.

When we made love in the church and you grew afraid, remember what I said? I believed out loud that many go to altars and get themselves wedded to one another for life. But few get chosen for the rare gift that is their life’s heaven-fated love. I have felt it early. I have felt it, known it, like a charge from the deep. As if stars fell upon my tender womanhood, at my dawning. I’ve dreamt, more than once, that you fell out of the hand of God and tumbled into me. Exploded into the billion little diamonds that stream and haunt and light my blood. They rain into my dreams and flow through my waking, and I have no shelter. No shelter from you. I’m a happily naked girl soaked in the nature of young and gentle man. In the sweet, hard cosmic shower of our good fortune. Soaked in happiness is what I am. Happy that heaven has sent such a storm onto a girl’s heart.

When you take to your bed soon on the other side of the world, where wickedness and being afraid creep around jungles and the thoughts of boys, please read this again. Read it so much you tatter it. For I want you reminded that God made a home for you inside me. In my heart, I will shelter you. A world away, a billion miles off, yet there I am — your strong house by the sea. Door forever open, the air sweetened and salted by fresh-made love inside. I pray this will help carry you through. On the swings and lawn of loving one another, we will romp, always.

See, we are never so terribly far away. We are but a warm, moist thought away from one another.

And finally, please remember this. Many boys masquerade as men, and too few men are truly good. Momma says so, and so do I. She and I think it so lovely that I get to adore one of the rare good men. Tender and strong, with the heart of a kind boy. Please make that last. Make yourself last as long as you can. And when you come home, we will make something lovely of ourselves.

Happy birthday, love. To say I love you is the gift this, your birthday, gives to me.

Across your ages, I am forever your Tess. God knows I am your love.”