The Cat’s in the Cradle

My son (who is no longer on Facebook and thus can’t be embarrassed by this anecdote) is not overly-affectionate. As a child, he was a hugger, but by adolescence, a side-armed squeeze of the shoulder was the most I could expect as the Christmas party or hospital visit wound down.

I make this observation not as a criticism, but rather as an acknowledgement that people process emotion differently. Did I miss the little boy who would climb into my lap and wrap his arms around my neck, holding me in his embrace until my heart had re-filled with love? Yes, of course. But I wouldn’t trade him for the insatiably curious, determined, good-hearted young man he has grown into.

That said, about six months ago, after my last serious hospitalization, his hugs began gripping tighter and lasting longer.
Today he came to see me for his final visit before returning to college.

We’re both determined to see one another when he returns for Christmas break at the end of this year–but planned this visit ‘just-in-case.’

He sat down next to me on the bed and wrapped his arm somewhat uneasily around my shoulder. I was so stunned by the unusual gesture that I didn’t know what to do. For a moment, two decades dropped away, and I was certain that–were I to turn and look at him–I would see the churubic face he wore as a toddler instead of the guarded but angularly handsome face that is his now.

His arm on my shoulder made me feel so warm and complete and full of love and I’d just begun to move my hand upward to grasp his when, overcome with the weirdness of it all, he withdrew his arm as I stared at my shoes, too stunned by unfamiliarity to react in a meaningful way.

We talked for a couple hours afterward. It was a good visit. He’s a good man and a good person.

But the whole time I couldn’t help but wonder what it might have been like had I managed to reach up and clasp his hand in time.

You have to act in the moments. They’re all we have.

In Dreams

I just awoke from a dream. In it, I had been strolling lazily through a crowd of friends and family and strangers. We were all gathered under and around a sort of tin-roofed pavillion, that sat on a concrete pad, in a lovely green park by a river. As I was walking, an instrumental track of Ray Lamontagne’s “Jolene” began to play, and I began to sing. My voice reverberated under the pavilion, and it sounded beautiful –much more beautiful than when I actually used to sing the song.

Soon, people stopped chatting and milling about, and everyone began to listen to me, my voice booming out across the crowd. When I was done, the crowd went wild. People cheered and applauded and patted me on the back. My friend Ruben Gonzales came up and hugged me.

“So good to hear you sing again, brother! I always loved how you did that song!” He said.

“I can still pull it off sometimes!” I replied.

The crowd gathered ’round, and people hugged me, and I felt warm and loved and complete and whole.

Then I woke up, and my heart broke, because dream-Brian is a liar, and he does this to me frequently.

I can’t still do it sometimes, and I’ll never do it again. Neither can I run along the dusty trails of Area J, in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, ticking off easy miles on effortless jogs –another common lie he weaves for me in dreams. Nor can I sail boats, or stroll city streets, or cook lavish meals.

Most cruelly, Gloria will never reappear and whisper in my ear that it has all been a bad dream, and that she still loves me –a little fantasy that dream-Brian likes to trot out a few times a month.

I don’t blame the guy. Dreams are the only venue I have to experience normal human activities, and it only makes sense that he would continually return me to the things and people I have loved best. I know he’s not trying to break my heart. But, still, every time I wake up from one of these lovely little lies, it does.

It isn’t the dying that’s hardest, it’s the disability. It’s the loss of identity that occurs from having abilities and activities and relationships stripped ruthlessly away, until there is hardly anything left of yourself, and you are left alone to try and find a meaningful path forward in a life now devoid of meaning.

That’s the hardest part of all of this.

I don’t believe in any sort of heaven or afterlife, but if there is some part of my consciousness that persists, I hope it is in the reality I’ve concocted in my dreams, where I run miles easily, sing songs to rapturous applause, and feel the warm embrace of love once again. That is all the heaven I’ll ever need –a dream from which I don’t have to awake.

The Langoliers

I’ve been serving my first stint in Facebook jail, so that has given me time to do some sprucing up around the blog. I updated the theme to match my house, fixed how posts were displayed, and updated the ‘About‘ page. It was an afterthought of jumbled text, and I wanted to clean it up and make it concise, but still information-rich. Ya know. For my eleven readers.

Part of what I wanted to do was link to my music on the web, but I didn’t want to belabor it, so I was going to choose a single representative site. I did a quick search of my name, trying to find the best site to link.

And it was like I’d never lived. Half-a-dozen scattered links over the first few pages of returns. My music all but erased from the digital Rolodex.

As late as last year, it wasn’t hard to find. If you had Googled ‘Brian Holbrook‘ then, the first few pages would have contained links to my albums and singles on Pandora, Spotify, Amazon, YouTube, etc…

It was kind of a comfort to me. I would tell people, “At least my music will live on after I’m gone.”

But nothing lasts, really –certainly not this library of imaginary ones and zeroes.

It made me think of that old Steven King story, The Langoliers, and I imagined my digital past being ruthlessly munched into oblivion by laughable CGI.

It also got me thinking, though, that the only way to outrun the Langoliers was to stay in the present and not get trapped in the past. So, that’s what I’m going to do. It doesn’t matter what last year’s Google might have shown, it only matters what I do today.

So, I’m shifting gears a little bit here on the blog. I’m still figuring out what I want this thing to be, and what I want to accomplish with it, but expect more informal, short entries about my life, health, observations, poems, and even music. I’m still going to write the more long-form essays, but I also want to focus on a couple other things, not the least of which is more frequent, diverse, and shorter content.

More to eat, but in smaller bites, for future Langoliers.