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Sawdust

March 2, 2019

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Motivation and outcome dominate our lives.

Desire, hope, fear launch us. Results, products, even experiences become our memory. In between aspiration and realization is a place that is often ignored and forgotten.

But, in the dim time of my growing up in MidCentury Suburbia, those inevitabllities are often all I remember. Playing football involved blood. The stress of a hard life left cigarette butts everywhere in our house. And their acrid bite of remnant smoke amid the empty Vat 69 Scotch or Bacardi Rum bottles that were churned out of our bar every week.

Last week, a son and I helped make logs into flooring. Making trees into lumber creates sawdust. As we helped the sawyer cut the planks, the tiny particles of removed wood were launched into the air, float for a time, then fall making a pile of sawdust.

Of course.

But before the cut it was desire that saw that a log could stay in our home after a disease killed the tree we loved outside it for 35 years, and after it is cut, dried, milled, installed and finished the outcome of a frozen, dead life, held in beauty, will be undeniable. For us, it will be manifest memory.

But the sawdust of our cutting has, now, probably washed into the ground, it’s reality just transitional.

The damage of a decade of my growing up in a place of anger and regret makes the rest of life a respite, but bent. Living with the damaged was rendered in fleeting things too. Screaming judgment of inadequacy, failed expectations, lost hopes, amid the innocent and the broken who created them rose in the air like sawdust, fell into each of our lives, and now exist as memories. Incoherent recollections of fear and pain are just that, memories, as 3 of us five are dead, and no one else was there.

Denial can help in the short term, but the sawdust is never gone – like the blood of my broken nose is cleaned off, the scabs wear away, the body heals, but the break is there for me – not in the bump, but in the blood that flowed. And flows in my memory.

The empty bottles of my childhood live on as collateral realities. Those empties were put back into the cardboard boxes of the cases they came in, then left for the garbage man at the bottom of our driveway – before the time of recycling. Those bottles were spent facts, unlike the glasses so well cleaned by my mother before we had a dishwasher, reused to transfer a lifetime of booze from bottle to our family.

The incidentals of recollection are yet great with me in daily life. Unlike the terror of sleep, where the motivations and outcomes are made fresh and current in undesired replay, the cigarette butts, the stale air that their creation made, often amid the smell of veal cutlets frying, ticks a trigger tinge of emotion, – an unspecific sense, ancient and incoherent.

I see the spent life ended by my sibling not in the stats of her life: those were broken before she could create them by the ravages of our parents. I see the life I never knew in the sawdust of a survivalist. The hoarder reality of control by complete negligent. A life of obsession on what was within, the core that survived the damage a mere decade inveighed upon the next 50 years, and is left to the detritus that enveloped her daily life but was completely unseen. Innumerable boxes and bags, heaped and layered, filling the spaces of the place my sibling ended her life in.

I work most minutes that I am not asleep, surrounded by outcomes and motivations – necessitated by the inadequacies so starkly brightlined by the lives of my family. I know it is folly. The love of those who love me belies the fear and damage of the family that created me, but the sawdust of my milling is with me, every day.
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