Sunday
Feb022014

Because

By Joseph Riippi


Civil Coping Mechanisms
February 2014
978-1937865221


 

I want my grandfather to come back to life

I want to ask him some questions.

I want to know about the war he fought. I want to hear the stories he never told.

I want to read my grandfather the story I wrote about the time he pounded a nail into a cedar tree with his bare hand. I want to tell him how my cousins and sister and me still talk about it when we get together.

I want to know if that really happened, that bit with the nail, or if it was just one of memory's tricks.

I want to tell my children about the lake house my grandfather built with his bare hands. I want to tell them how he hammered nails with his bare hands and crushed huge spiders between his fingers. I want to tell them how he would do cartwheels when he was excited and couldn't contain it. I want to tell them how he would sing when he was angry and wanted not to be. I want to build a family that would make my grandfather do cartwheels for miles.

I want to sit on the lake house porch and pour a beer and clink a glass with my grandfather alive again. I want to lean back and breathe lake air and look out at the mountains and listen to my grandfather tell his version of the nail story.

I want to know what he was like before he was old. I want to know what he did the night before his wedding. I want to hear the war stories.

I want to know what he meant at the party for his and my grandmother's fiftieth wedding anniversary, when he raised a shaky hand in a salute and said, It's been a long war.

I want to know if that was a joke or if he was confused and thought it was an actual war he was in, if he got all of us family confused for soldiers.

I want to know what it's like to fight in a war. I want to know what it's like to have no choice but to go and fight. I want him to explain it to me.

I want to tell him about the last time I saw him, when he was dying and I was eighteen and he confused me for my father. I want to tell him what he said to me. I want to ask him if he meant what he said.

I want my own last words to count so much.

I want you to understand why I am writing this.

I want you to listen to me.

 

I want you to understand how I want so many things.

I want to be heard. I want to be remembered. I want to be happy as my grandfather was.

I want to be remembered as happy and loving.

I want to be remembered as gracious and kind and a wonderful writer.

I want to have presence, like a great actor on a bare stage. I want to have prescience. I want to have stature. I want gravitas. I want grace.

I want to learn how to cartwheel.

I want to learn how to sing.

I want to live heroically.

I want to know how many people my grandfather watched die in the war. I want to ask him how many last words he remembered.

I want my family to be proud of me. I want my wife to be proud of me.

I want to have a party on our fiftieth anniversary, and I want to say something like, It's been too short.

I want to think of something better than that to say.

I want my wife to live a happy and joyful life.

I want our children and their children to be happy, to live lives remembered joyfully in songs and in stories with great love and loud laughter and pride in their surnames.

I want, really, the same that you want.

I want, badly, for you to love me.

 

I want, on our fiftieth anniversary,

for my wife and me to spend the day telling family stories of our adventures. I want my grandchildren to know everything about me.

I want to pound a nail into a cedar tree with my bare hand.

I want you to understand what I'm trying to say here.

I want to know if you're hearing me.

I want this explained back to me because I don't know, not exactly, what I'm trying to say.

I want to look back on my life and remember it happily and lovingly and proudly, and if I have to remember my life differently, if that will make me happier, then yes, I want to remember differently.

I want to remember doing cartwheels through Italian mountains alongside my grandfather in a war. I want to remember singing away our anger at enemies during firefights. I want to remember singing at God in the aftermath. I want to remember cowering and trying to sleep in wet trenches.

 

I want to relive crawling

under a blanket as a child. I want to relive the smell of the fabric and carpet.

I want to feel safe.

I want to relive getting tucked tight into bed at night. I want to relive picture books and board books being read to me. I want to relive skinning my knee on the driveway and my mother's fast running.

I want to relive Christmas mornings and birthdays. I want to relive bicycles and summer vacations. I want to remember having always done the right thing.

I want to remember harder, and by harder I mean I want to remember better, more sharply, with more specificity and clarity and sense. I want razor-edge thinking like for cutting up filmstrips.

I want to remember smells and tastes simultaneously, sounds and sights simultaneously, faces and names, feelings and emotions, a greatgrand mess of sense. I want remembering to be like reliving. I want to relive what I've lived through already.

I want to relive my wedding as a guest. I want to relive my first bike crash as my father. I want to relive my first taste of ice cream as the woman who scooped it. I want to relive my first smell of wet grass clippings. I want to relive my first smell of dirt, of gouda, of cookies baking. I want to relive every embarrassment and triumph. I want to edit the past like the draft of a novel written from memory.

I want to remember away the wrong bits. I want to also remember away the bits that don't fit, the bits I don't like, the split infinitives and illogical turns of plot or undeveloped character. I want choices as to how I remember, but I don't want to be conscious of choosing.

I want to read this fifty years from now and not change a word.

I want finality. I want excellence. I want perfection.

I want to know if you are understanding this.

I want to know if you also want these things.

I want to be more specific. I want to be happy, but I don't want to know that I've reached happiness. I want to be surprised by my happiness. I want to be sad sometimes so as to have a comparative kind of happiness. I want a happiness that is so full and so real and sustained it becomes stasis, just how I am. I want to make my wife happy in a way that's higher and hardier than my own happiness. I want a happiness that grows between us, between my wife and me, like a tree in endless blossom.

I want us to radiate happiness and ride on it like waves.

I want my wife to understand me better than I understand myself. I want to be a better husband. I want to be the best husband.

I want to feel as though I've led a full life. I want people to cry at my funeral. I want the children to smile.

I want to die painlessly without regret. I want my grandchildren and great-grandchildren to be proud they've descended from me. I want them to tell stories of how I cartwheeled and sang, of how much I loved and was loved.

I want to feel less narcissistic for writing this.

I want to be honest in writing this, even if honesty means narcissistic feelings.

I want to be a better son. I want to make my parents proud.

 

I want to feel depressed less.

I want to not care about money. I want to not want to be rich. I want to be proud without arrogance. I want to be rich without money. I want to not want a nice car. I want to not want a nicer apartment. I want to be content with what I have. I want to be being honest right now. I want an extra of everything, just in case. I want to be more aware of everything good I already have. I want to say, Enough, and mean it.

I want to sigh satisfactorily at the end of each day. I want to finish each day feeling like a farmer who has seeded a field. I want to watch something grow and blossom so I can say, I did that, this was my doing, and I might feel proud.

I want accomplishment and pride. I want ease and comfort.

I want a job I can do in my apartment, and I want an apartment in the city and a house on an island. I want a getaway place somewhere in Northern Italy with olive trees and fields of herbs, leaves blowing fragrant in river breeze.

I want to learn how to make wine. I want to learn how to make shoes. I want to tell people I am a cobbler. I want to be a chef. I want to paint. I want to sculpt. I want to make sandals. I want to make rocking horses. I want to design decks of cards and umbrellas. I want to carve wooden blocks of the alphabet and teach my children to spell out their names. I want to carve a magnolia leaf from marble. I want to make beautiful things. I want the world to be better because I lived in it. I want the world to be more beautiful because I lived in it.

I want to be thinner. I want to be more attractive. I want to be healthier for myself and for my wife. I want to be a better lover. I want to be a long-distance runner. I want to be a better brother. I want to be a better friend. I want certain people out of my life forever. I want to run away.

I want to not feel guilty about not living close to my family. I want to not feel guilty about having said I want certain people out of my life forever.

I want to know if you know who you are.

I want my family to understand that my choosing to live far away is not because I don't love them. I want to always tell people the truth. I want to always write the truth. I want it to be easier for me to always tell people the truth. I want people to like me. I want to always be the best at whatever I do. I want to not always be so competitive. I want supremacy. I want to not always want so much. I want to not feel like writing this is something I have to do to stay sane. I want to stay sane just by breathing. I want to stay sane without thinking, I want to stay sane without pills. I want to not feel so much like shit if I don't write. I want to not feel so much like shit in general.

I want to not feel so much like shit when I do write or because of what I've written. I want to not write the word shit anymore. I want to not remember that I tried to kill myself.

I want to relive and remember that day and night I tried to kill myself differently. I want to change the before and after. I want to not still sometimes want to die. I want to not think about that, but I want to remember it actually sometimes still so that it makes me appreciate being alive and capable of remembering.

I want to know if anyone else in my family ever tried to die.

I want to know if my grandfather ever held his own rifle to his head during the war and thought how about how the bullet might feel, if he'd hear it, if he'd smell it.

I want to know if his cartwheels were ever just a way of shedding tears so as not to show his weakness.

I want to just fucking say what I am trying to say. I want to not wonder about this anymore. I want to not know if I actually meant to die. I want to move on.

 

I want you to understand how good it feels

to pass a blooming magnolia on your way to work while holding your wife's hand.

I want you to know the love of your life. I want you to marry. I want you to believe the world is a beautiful place.

I want you to feel what it's like to pass a blooming magnolia and have your body fill up with something like joy, inflatingly, warm and tender like under a blanket in childhood. I want you to know true love, and I want to know what you love. I want to know what it's like to be the one who truly loves you. I want to know what it's like to be the person who knows all your secrets.

I want to know all your secrets, and I want you to know mine.

I want to know the secrets of the old woman who lives in the single-family brownstone on 22nd Street with that blooming magnolia before its stoop. I want to know what she's cooking on those nights we see her through the front window, framed between exposed brick and steel pot racks and basil plants. I want to know how she affords that massive home. I want to know her grey-haired husband's name. I want to know her name. I want to know if I will recognize their names. I want to know if they are famous actors I just don't recognize outside a screen. I want to know if they are famous writers. I want them to be writers. I want them to be people just like me who worked hard and were lucky and kept at it. I want a correspondence with them. I want to exchange postcards. I want to typewrite carbon-copy letters and read them only once they've been forgotten. I want to know if they raised children in that brownstone. I want to have been a child in a five-story brownstone, playing hide-and-seek, skinning knees on so many stairs.

I want to solve mysteries in a brownstone from a children's book. I want to know what it's like to have a child. I want to reread all the children's books. I want to know what it's like to watch a daughter laugh. I want to know what it's like to watch a son throw a baseball in a summer field.

I want to teach someone the elementary things, like paper-airplane building and pencil cursive, long division and duck-and-cover. I want to teach algebra, the different sides of an equation. I want to teach fractions and fractals. I want to teach verb conjugation and subject, predicate, direct object. I want to scan sentences with a red pencil. I want to write sharp paragraphs on a chalkboard. I want to oversee a recess. I want to catch someone falling from a jungle gym. I want to play in the tractor tires. I want to play foursquare and wall ball. I want to play jacks. I want to play quarters. I want to play tackle football in a muddy empty lot. I want to play basketball on a netless hoop with a plywood backboard. I want to climb chain link fences to break into high school stadiums. I want to play two-hand touch in the street. I want grass stains on my knees and elbows. I want grass stains on my jeans and cashmere. I want grass stains on my cheeks and a chipped tooth. I want whiter teeth. I want self-cleaning clothes. I want bedding that smells of dryer sheets. I want a plaid picnic blanket and wine-filled basket. I want to chase grasshoppers and praying mantises up a hill like a poem.

I want to know if mantises are preying or praying. I want to know the verb-root separation between to prey and to pray. I want to prey like a mantis and pray like a grasshopper.

I want to grow very small and ride on a helicopter seed falling from a cedar.

I want to tell you about the time a childhood friend and I climbed high into a cedar tree with pellet guns slung over our shoulders. I want to tell you how we rested in steady branches, how we whispered, Lock and load, like imagined soldiers, how my friend whispered, Fire, and shot that mean old bastard farmer who lived next door in the eye. I want to tell you this didn't happen, that I don't remember the police being called, the crying, the I-didn't-mean-to's. I want to tell you it had been my friend's idea, that it had been my friend's cat that the mean old bastard killed with a rattrap. I want forgiveness for this, too. I want to say confession. I want to hear confession.

I want to tell you how the counseling center in college gave me pills that were supposed to make me feel better and how instead they just made me feel nothing at all, which was actually worse than the feeling I had that made me walk into the center in the first place. I want to tell you how someone called the center to say they were worried about me, concerned for my life, and how the counselor only told me that after everything had happened. I want to know who called. I want to know what they saw me do or heard me say, or didn't, that made them call.

I want to know if I still sometimes do those things.

I want to not ever have tried alcohol. I want to not ever have smoked a cigarette. I want to not ever drink alcohol or smoke a cigarette again. I want to smoke pot, just once, just to see what it''s like. I want to not be afraid that I'll like it too much. I want a less addictive personality, but I still want routine. I want to not write about this any more. I want to not repeat myself.

I want to confess on a highway billboard that I tried to kill myself and failed. I want to confess with light projection on the sides of tall buildings that I ate a bottle of pills but a best friend saved my life. I want massive forgiveness. I want total pardon.

I want to cry so badly right now.

I want to learn how to sing these awfulest things away.

 

I want to confess I've never given it all I've got,

never left it all on the field, never given a hundred and ten percent. I want to give my wife and our children my all. I want to die having left it all on the field.

I want to do everything I can. I want to do my best. I want to do everything, everything, everything, everything—and then I want to do it again and again and again and again.

I want to live and keep living. I want to do more.