Thanksgiving

I just read where a mother, Bridget, says she almost decided on divorce the day before Thanksgiving. Her husband had just gone out the door with a sixpack to hang out with his guy friends, leaving her with the turkey and the kids and the cooking. Her husband doesn’t know who the kids’ dentist is, never makes summer camp plans or arranges child care, never buys toilet paper, never fills out all those damn school and Girl Scout forms, never clips baby fingernails, never figures out how to keep everything going through sudden snowstorms, strep throat, barf, and the mysterious moods and phases the kids go through.

I see from her what my project is about. My father did all of that and my mother couldn't handle it. Meanwhile he also brought in a lot more money than she did. A lot. I've done the math. I don't think my mother and my court ever did. He was the husband and father Bridget wants. My mother had Bridget's solution but wanted Bridget's complaints instead. She used a careless gullible court to kill off my father for me.

So that's two questions, and to me one matters a lot more than the other.

My advisor Mr Cionte says I keep dodging the central question of what happened in my court case. I keep digging into my father's beliefs and my mother's beliefs and wondering why they didn't fit together, or why they ever hoped to. Now from this Bridget I see why, and I think I have a good reason. I think it's the right way to go, the right question to be asking.

One question is, how could my mother use a court that way, against everything the court is supposed to be doing for me? The other is, did my mother want the complaint in place of the solution? Did she want resentment in place of love? Maybe she was better at resentment? Maybe she had more experience with resentment?

Also jealousy? She was jealous of him and me. You think that can't happen. Wrong. Oh so wrong.

I think it hurt my mother's pride with her mother and her sisters if she couldn't complain of every woman's complaints. Her family holds to old rules that have always half-worked. They don't look for better ways. They don't trust themselves to come up with anything better.

I see something about my mother's family, but I see even more about my mother. I always thought my mother was the leader in her family, bringing them into the future. My father said that. He wanted me to be proud of her. She was the oldest child. Her parents never went to college. Two of her brothers and sisters never went to college. She was the first. She got a Master's degree from a technical college, not the kind of college where you go away and live and party for four years. That had to be hard. Her degree was in psychiatry, which her family never really understood or trusted. She trained for a kind of work that got voted away in a political change. They wouldn't vote the taxes any more. Her family stopped thinking she was the future. They started wondering what was wrong with her.

Her father was a laborer on bridge projects. Her mother looked after the kids and the house. Her father handed over his paycheck every Friday and went drinking with his buddies. Her mother managed the money and the kids and schools and doctors. Her father was just one more of the kids. He did what he was told. He was a bad kid who had to be watched and kept on a short leash. To my mother he was more like a big brother than a father. Maybe she never knew what a father is, and didn't see a father as any big loss to me.

No wonder it didn't work between her and my father. My father was nothing like her father and I don't think she knew what to do with him. But she knew police and courts and used them to kill him off.

When my father was little they had family meetings where he and his sister were encouraged to speak up about what was or wasn't working and what they would like to see. My father expected my mother and me to be equal partners in the family. I don't think my mother could respect that in a man. A man should bellow at times for show, like the walrus at sea world, then silently go where he's told. The wife lets him pretend to be in charge but he's not, not even for the car and the yard. When something goes wrong it's his fault, but until then he should stay out of it. She turns to him if someone outside the family needs yelling at, but she tells him who to yell at and what to yell. He's the well-trained guard dog. He's also a tomcat, if you don't watch him. He'll eat his kittens and wander away to make more.

Does my judge at court think the same way? Better laws can't fix that. Laws are just butcher paper. The butcher doesn't cut meat with butcher paper, he only brings out the butcher paper at the end, to wrap your remains so you don't drip on his floor.

Mr Cionte says whoa, I'm thinking of family law. There's more to law than family law, and family law might be the worst of it.

OK, but why do families get the worst kind of law? Family law treats a family like small claims, like a crumpled fender. A child's future gets less care than a fender because law has a chance with a fender but not with a family or love or a child's future. Family is where kids learn love, and law cannot do anything with love or for love except crush it or poison it. You might fix a fender by hammering it, but can you grow a sprig that way? Family law is already a contradiction, right from the start. Nothing good could ever come from it.

Maybe no one wants to pay taxes for that kind of court, for the kind of people who go there. Those people wouldn't know justice if they saw it. Justice would be wasted on them. So my court has too much work and not enough money and cuts through families like a sawmill, making a few sizes of plank and mountains of sawdust. No, like the smelter in Madame Gasket's chopshop, or the furnace at the end of the last Toy Story. I was mad at my dad when we watched that one. He had worked with his Hong Kong client all night, over the Internet, and he fell asleep for the ending, the conveyor to the furnace. I started to yell at him to wake up but I saw his closed eyes shining. He knew. You think a little kid would feel worse but no, an old parent who has seen a child leave home, and helped them pack away their childhood. The child goes off to a big future, the parent goes home to an empty one.

A court like mine is a loaded gun left lying in the open in every home with small children. Touch that trigger and you never get the bullet back. My court can make any disagreement permanent and fatal in fifteen minutes or less.

Lawyers and judges make more for making your troubles worse. Law leaves everyone with less. Law pours you one poison to cure another, like the top doctors who bled George Washington his last night. Medical science has come a long way since then. Law has not. Law is the sewer where you dump things you don't care enough to know about. Law is a toxic dump where nothing grows, just one cancer against another. Don't let anyone you love go near the law, starting with yourself. Stay with love. Love is the slow hard work of growing something crowds out those cancers, leaves them less room, less opening for them to get started.

But I've lost enough of my life to the law, and all these questions about law. I'll tell that story and let someone better with more power fix it for kids in the future. Almost the same thing happened to my father over fifty years before me. Medical science advances, law does not.  If medical science can cure us of cancer, maybe it can cure us of law. Unless only love can. If one cure takes decades the other will take longer, but let's start, can't we? Then I want to be done with all that, law and complaints and resentment. I knew love once and I want that back. Starting with how my father and mother loved each other, and what went wrong.

Maybe everyone my age says this. We mean it but then we lose it. Maybe my mother felt this way once. How did she lose it? And the big question: Did my mother resent him more than she loved me? Can that happen? Can there ever be a good reason for that?

Because I never want that to be me. It might happen to me but it won't come from me, no matter how many good reasons I get. You can love without any reason to love, with every reason not to love. I've seen it. If you have a reason for love it's not love, it's something less. Only love is its own reason. Love gives all the reasons to everything, and nothing is anything without love. That's what I want to know about, for my life from here. The kind of love no court or law can kill.

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