5. Young Love

What did I know about what had happened to Allen that brought him to his present state? He had been serious about a girl; serious enough to consider marriage. I didn't even know her name -to me she wasn't a real person; she was a force that impinged upon my son. He was in love. Then, after they had gone together for two years, for no apparent reason, she had dropped him. I conjectured that perhaps she had only wanted a convert and, his conversion accomplished, there was no reason for her to continue the relationship; or perhaps she wanted someone more mature than this starry-eyed kid. I really had nothing to go on, not ever having met the girl. She was obviously different from the other females he had known.

When he was in high school, there was Susie, who kept telephoning him. I remember that ultra-cute, high pitched voice on the phone, saying "This is Susie; is Allen in?" I didn't need to be told, her voice was distinctive enough and reminded me of Betty Boop. It became the family joke and Laura would say when she saw my face "Don't tell me -It must be Susie!" and she was always right. I finally met Susie and she was an overgrown, overweight Kewpie Doll. The only thing that she was interested in, or knew anything about, was the movies. Since I didn't think that Allen had experimented with sex yet, I couldn't understand what he saw in her. I thought that it was the same thing that I saw in our dog: it's nice to have something adore you unconditionally. Anyway, she finally moved to Hollywood, where she belonged, which ended the excitement of those daily phone calls.

Then there was Debbie (all of Allen's girl friends had diminutive names), the girl he had brought up to our mountain. Debbie was in love with Allen and he, apparently, thought of her as a friend. I conjectured on how many casual friendships grows into love and how it was probably better that way; better than being struck by a lightning bolt. By then, it seemed possible to me that Allen had discovered sex, but I never asked him. I think that maybe I should have gone to meet his evangelist, this great love of Allen's life. At least then I would have some idea what Allen saw in her.

Some stray thoughts came into my head: perhaps she was his first good lay; but I really didn't know if female evangelists do such things. Then I thought that, perhaps, he had wanted her to be his first good lay. I had what I thought were the only two possibilities that made any sense. Then, good scientist that I am, I decided that there were other possibilities that I wasn't aware of. At any rate, it was obvious that his rejection by this girl was at the center of his problem. I figured that I had nothing to loose by getting him to reflect on it. I composed a letter designed to try to increase his awareness without hitting him on the head. It was worded in such a way so that he could take it or leave it. I thought that it was parental without being judgmental:

Dear Allen,

I have known for some time that you have been going through a very difficult period. I am going to assume a parent's prerogative and intrude upon it, even though you haven't asked me and might resent my doing so.

I am going to make a guess, based upon very little information. It is likely that my guess is wrong. If so, please ignore it. Treat it as a well-meaning, but misplaced attempt of someone who loves you to make things better. If Shakespeare can have Polonius give advice to his son, why not me?

I sense that you have isolated your inner self from others. I know that you haven't isolated yourself in a physical sense. I understand this as a natural reaction of someone who has given his all to someone else and been rejected. It is a terrible hurt.

In the training of pilots, when one has crashed an airplane and survived, he is forced to immediately go up again, to prevent his fear from being disabling. It is all the more important in life situations to do the same thing. The best solace, when one has been deeply hurt, is another person or, preferably, several people.

It is necessary to trust other people in order to maintain ones sanity and to remain part of the real world. It is a wish of almost everyone to have someone to whom one may give oneself completely. It may not be possible to do so. People who have managed to live well in the real world and trust and love others have learned (most the hard way) that while it is a good idea to give a good deal of yourself to others, it is inviting disaster to give all. I am now capable of accepting all of another person. I know that I wasn't when I was younger. I found myself overwhelmed and frightened when someone offered me more of himself than I was ready to accept. I was terrified when I was shown sides of my father and brother that I wasn't prepared to see. I was even more terrified when I caught an occasional glimpse of parts of my inner self which I wasn't aware of. I still have trouble with this.

Take what you want of the love that is offered to you by others, and give love and of yourself only to the extent that another person is willing to accept it. Trust slowly and give more as your confidence and trust in another increases. Even then, you will sometimes be betrayed by those you love as you may inadvertently betray others -but to avoid trust out of fear of pain is to miss out on what is rich in living. Take risks, but be prepared to be knocked on your ass. When this happens, pick yourself up and start again.

Mostly, do not despair. Your ability to handle life will increase as you grow older. You will find that the pleasures will diminish only slightly, if at all, and the pain will decrease immensely. Barring genuine disasters (not imagined ones), life gets better with age -as long as ones health holds out. I am sure of this, so remember it during those black moments which seem without hope.

Write and tell me how things are and whether my guess was close. You don't have to mail it if you don't want to.

The mountain and I miss you. Visit soon. Love, Pop

I never got an answer to that letter. The closest thing to knowing that he had actually received it was when, a month later, he said, "About your letter: I can't understand why you were concerned. I'm doing fine." The best reply that I could manage was "well, it was just a guess. If I was wrong ignore it."

I really didn't have to say it -he had ignored it. It had bounced off his armor like a small stone. I hoped that it was not a total waste of time and that, in some way, a little bit of what I wrote had had some effect on his thinking. Yet, all of the evidence at hand indicated that it hadn't. Or had he taken my advice and, as a consequence, fallen into the arms of his guru?

As I read what I have just written, I am painfully aware of how fragmentary my understanding of my son is. Although I reared him, I know as little about him as I do about life itself. It feels as if we are separated by an impenetrable wall.

Next chapter

Return to the Beware the Jabberwock, My Son Home Page

Return to Ira's Home Page