Thursday, October 09, 2008

Treading Water in a Sea of Sadness

I guess I'm known as a fairly upbeat, cheerful guy. I try to be an upbeat, cheerful guy. But lately, sadness seems to have me by the ass.

It seemed to start just before I flew off to work last time. My break at home had been abbreviated, because I'd stayed extra time in Louisiana to help out with the evacuations for hurricanes Gustav and Ike. I usually give Dylan two days warning before I leave for work, but we'd had a great time for the mere week I'd been home, and I suppose I was thinking that I didn't want to put a damper on the time we had left. The evening before I left--I had to start driving at two in the morning to make it to Sacramento--I told Dylan that I'd be leaving before he woke up.

Sheesh, I was an idiot. We were out by the barn, and Dylan and I were talking while I unloaded hay from the trailer.

"You're leaving tomorrow?" The look on his face stabbed me. "Yeah, Punkin', I have to leave tomorrow." Usually, Dylan is fairly stoic about my pending departures. He might get a little teary, or he might just give me a hug and calmly say, "I'm going to miss you, Dad," before going back to whatever he was doing. (Sometimes I chuckle when he's like that, and mentally finish his response with, "Don't let the door hit you on the ass, Dad.")

But this time, Dylan started crying, and crying hard. I sat on a hay bale with him in my arms, and held him for a good fifteen minutes while he cried.

It killed me. As a baby and a kid, Dylan has probably cried as often as any normal kid, but seldom has he ever cried for very long. It really shook me that he was so upset. When he finally quit crying, I looked in his eyes. "Dylan, when I'm away, I think about you and Mama from the time I wake up until the time I go to sleep. Do you feel it?" He took a deep breath. "I think so," he answered.

The drive to Sacramento the following morning really, really sucked.

And then I found out about Debby. Debby writes one of my very favorite blogs, Life's Funny Like That. She has a wonderful ability to relate the poignancy, tragedy, humor, and beauty of everyday life. She writes a newspaper column, and seldom misses a day of posting to her blog. She does that while holding down a job, taking care of her family, and being active in her church. I think she's a treasure.

Folks like Debby really make me feel humble. I mean, gosh, if I go to the bank and the supermarket in the same day, I need a nap.

Debby recently learned that she has breast cancer. I've often pondered the distinction between on online friend and the sort of friend that's actually seen and heard. If there is a distinction, it now seems meaningless. Debby's situation has shaken me no less than hearing such news about a seen-and-heard friend. I've never met her in person, but to me, she's a shining soul. I wish I could give her and her husband Tim a hug.

I want to be positive, I really do. But damn it, sometimes life really pisses me off.

I've focused on sadness a lot lately. I saw an obviously homeless man cross the street yesterday, as I took Dylan to school. We were singing along to "La Grange," by ZZ Top, waiting at a stoplight. I was pondering whether I'd go to hell. That is, I was wondering if I'd go to hell for singing along with a song about a whorehouse with my son.

Then I saw him crossing in front of us. He couldn't have been older than nineteen. He was someone's son, but he had no home. It stabbed me.

Sometimes I envy folks who seem to simply ignore sadness. I can't. I feel the need to face it. That way, it won't devour me. That way, I keep the hope alive that someday, somehow, it will all make sense.


Debby said...

Gees, Hal. Thanks. You can't get caught up in only the sadness. Really. I can honestly say that there have been so many blessings for me on a daily basis. Truly. Today, my friend came, and we were talking about how life spins around on a dime, sometimes. The thing is Hal, I tried to explain about the blessings, and I found that I did not need to. I glanced across the room, and there was a buck right there, in the road at the end of my driveway. We both were shocked to bits. I've never seen him before. Seriously. Look for the will find them. They're everywhere. I've got some posts coming up that highlight this (the pre-post feature has been a great help during this time). Give Dylan a hug, and teach him how to find blessings!

Hal Johnson said...

You're amazing, Debby, and once again, you humble me. That's a good thing.

Kelly said...

I'm not sure really what I can say (and you may be thinking "so don't say anything!), but I wanted to give you both my support and encouragement.

Hal, sadness is part of life. Don't deny it, but don't dwell on it. Think of your blessings instead! That's always good medicine!

Debby... prayers and hugs for you as you deal with your diagnosis!

Pam said...

Hal, what can I say? To Debby: You're in my prayers!!

Broke my heart when you told how Dylan cried when you had to leave this last time, Hal.

Kelly's right. There is so much sadness in the world, so much all around us on a daily basis if we pause to look. But, we can't, as has been said, get caught up in it. What we can do is what we can, each day, to brighten someones moment, to reach out and give a hug when a friend or child or co-worker seems down.

We can smile at strangers and pray for all those we know who are suffering or struggling in some way.

Sadness really is a prat of life. We might not truly appreciate the joy without it.

Redlefty said...

I've been in a weird place myself. And with the economic issues we're not the only ones!

I bet your reunion with the family will be fantastic.

Mary Paddock said...

Aww. Dylan's tears got to me and I couldn't even see them. Poor little guy.

I don't think I appreciated what I had until I went through a period of depression a few years ago. Suddenly, every tiny moment of happiness, every blessing, meant so much more when I did find it.

Bob said...

Hal, there's nothing worse than having your little boy cry and feeling there's nothing you can do about it. But you did just what he needed -- held him tight and respected his feelings. So many times when mine were younger I would find myself saying, "Don't cry." Well, they needed to cry! That's why God gave us tears.

I've been lying awake nights thinking about the economy. It's stories like yours, however, that keep things in perspective. The best things in life really are free.

Sadness is an emotion. I think God gave us that too.

Great job as usual.

And love and prayers to Debby.

Roland said...

Hey, Hal.

jeanie said...

Hey there Hal - so many little things can throw me off kilter, and these days it seems to be more often right now the off kilter things crop up.

Here is crossing everything for Debby and more moments when a hug or kiss from Dad or Mum will still make everything better.

Algernon said...

Debby's a good teacher! And I'm sure Dylan "feels it" when you're off working.