by Zachary Klein
It’s been about twenty-nine years and change since I last cradled a newborn. Much has happened since—both to me personally and to the world in which I live. I’ve struggled to stay somewhat open-minded and positive in the face of personal losses and still willing to grapple with a globe that seems bent on making all the wrong choices.
But while holding each of my new grandchildren and seeing the light gleaming in Matthew and Alyssa’s eyes, my weary energy slipped away. All was right with the world.
Of course we know that last sentence is blatantly untrue. Unadulterated joy is fleeting, an experience to be savored even as it dissipates into what we know as “reality.” Still, it got me thinking about my own evolution since I had my first child (now new dad Matt) at the ripe old age of twenty-one.
Much has changed—not the least of which, me. Back then I was engaged in social service, but my ideas and attitudes were way different than they are now. I really did believe in “any means necessary” to foster change, wrote people off if their beliefs strayed too far from my own, and actually thought violence was a legitimate tool for revolution. I believed that I’d be a failure as a person and father if I weren’t willing to throw my body in front of a bullet, or use one to create a better society and life for my son.
Fast forward fifteen years when my second son Jake was born. I had my own private counseling practice and while I think the work I did helped some individuals, couples, and groups, I continued to see my ongoing hope for a different, a better world, continue to whither away. In some fashion it was worse than when Matt was born. Then, at least, I didn’t feel as alone. There were larger numbers of people who, in their own inchoate ways, shared my longings. Tough to imagine now, but when Jake was conceived I had serious reservations about bringing another child into our world.
But then, as with Matthew, those doubts dissolved in the presence of little arms, hands, legs and an uncontrollable cowlick. Without quite realizing it, the state of the sphere took a backseat to the renewed joy of fatherhood.
And by the time the “real” world returned, I had changed. Still fiercely committed to social justice, violence was no longer part of the equation. Something important had taken over my heart and I no longer imagined bloodshed as an answer to anything. Whatever “good” born out of violence was bound to encourage its lifespan. Whatever positive change might happen because of guns and bullets would eventually disintegrate through the use of those same tools.
Some might say this evolution is the result of age as mortality creeps closer. Actually, I believe that the “something” which had turned me around has been my cumulative years as a parent. Perhaps it was fear for my own and other people that I loved. Whatever it really had been was cemented when one of Jake’s closest friends who regularly spent nights at our house was murdered after I had sent him to work. Murdered trying to save his boss from a thief. A life I loved for tubes of toothpaste. Never again have I been able to see violence as a path to anything other than more violence.
And maybe just as important was a growing willingness to see people as a whole rather than any of their particular beliefs. I find I no longer tease out and judge a person solely by their political or religious ideas. I want more. I want to connect with a person’s humanity which, I’ve learned, has little or nothing to do with left, right, center or particular opinions.
I’ve written somewhat optimistically about life in previous columns but, for the most part, the posts have focused upon the positives within our culture and society. In retrospect, however, Mari and Vivian have already pointed out the big miss. Which for me means relationships. Despite all my talk about how my books are relationship driven and the manner in which those relationships impact each character, I never connected the dots. Those categorizations have to do with me and my life. Something which I had known but in some strange way forgot.
I don’t know whether the world is better or will be better for Mari and Vivian. I don’t know whether humans have the capacity to ever lay down their arms, stop their oppression of each other, lose their racism, or find a way to care for all. I surely hope so. But I do know that my wives past and present, my children and grand-kids, my relatives and friends, old and new, have enriched my soul. And that enrichment has been what’s made my life worth living.
I also have no doubt if two newborn infants can help me realize what’s been in front of my blind eyes, I’ll learn plenty more from them as they grow. So, thank you Mari and Vivian. You’ve already given me a great gift.
And to Alyssa and Matt, a Lou Reed song title says it best. You’re at…
THE BEGINNING OF A GREAT ADVENTURE.