May 28, 2019 In the life of a boy, the age-span of 9 to 11 is the entry point to the ass-hole years. It is too early for self-reflection and too late for parental influence. The mind is developed enough to run the reward versus consequence algorithm. Threats no longer matter. Our posse understood this new calculus and applied a quiet and imaginative resolve to bad behaviors. Only our football coach could reign us in. Unlike normal suburban dad/coaches, Mr. Z was a man not to be messed with. A shift worker at Roebling Cable, he was unshaven, chain-smoking, and heavily accented. He smelled of factory air, raw-onions, and stale tobacco. We were simultaneously in awe and in terror. His coaching tool-kit included a ray-gun stare and strings of guttural threats. (It took us a while to interpret “vuchan yeshalls”.) We won most of our games.
On multiple occasions, I coached boys of this age. Words alone could assert control. Channeling Mr. Z, I developed the grip of death. A hard squeeze of a bicep or collarbone could divert a misbehavior. I was good at it, but recognize jail-time as a consequence for this practice today. More than one young adult has pointed me out to his own child recalling the legend of “the grip”.
Now I’ve lost my grip. Glasses are dropped. Scissors veer off course. Socks droop around my ankles. Driving is a mystery due to an uncertain grip on the steering wheel. Yesterday I tried to open a bottle of seltzer. By the time I found channel lock pliers a canned beer became a better choice. Allison comes home to a debris field. I can’t bend over either.
I’ve also lost my un-grip. This I discovered disembarking from the 6 Train at Union Sq. in Manhattan. Closer to home, this means a bad release point while tossing apple cores towards the trashcan. There is an odd dance while undressing. Clothing remains in my grip while limbs flail, trying to facilitate an exit. Letting go is a problem.
But letting go is what this new life is all about. Ruing the past, and mourning the undoable only accrues sadness and anger. And who needs that shit? Change is simply a process and there’s always a transition zone between what was and what lies ahead. Letting go buys the ticket to the transition zone. A bit of resolve, good humor, and a solid plan gets you to the future. It is no longer independent work. This requires a fierce grip on the people you love. There is no letting go of these loyal and loving shepherds.