The plane began to pull away from the gate, navigating the other planes and people on the tarmac. Ken always selected a window seat if he could, it was the only way he could sleep, resting his head against the window, feeling the constant vibration of the plane. Often he would put on his headset, creating a bubble for himself. He needed to get some sleep on this flight, for he arrived in Hong Kong tomorrow morning and had meetings in the afternoon. That was the hardest part about international travel, the time change.
The woman next to him continued to rest or sleep, he wasn’t sure exactly, so he decided it was a good time to pull out the magazine. Reaching down into the side pocket of his briefcase he felt the glossy smooth surface, grabbing it, he pulled it up into his lap. Looking around quickly to verify that he was not being watched, he opened the cover in anticipation. There before him sat all the words previously written by the magazine. His words and thoughts were not there, his memory easily filled in his part of the conversation.
Are you happy.
Don’t worry, they can’t see this page and besides why are you worried about what they might think.
Why are you unhappy?
Are you saying that those things should make you happy?
I don’t know, why did you want them, go after them, work for them? What inside you wanted them? Why did you believe they were the path to happiness?
It’s okay to not want children.
“Welcome back,” initiated the magazine.
“Hi,” Ken replied, not as shocked as the first time and quite relieved to know he wasn’t losing his mind.
“How are you feeling,” asked the page.
“Super confused, sad, lost, uncertain. Shit, I am feeling a lot of things, it is all so jumbled up inside of me,” exhaled Ken with vulnerable honesty. He continued, “I feel so alone. Today has been full of thoughts, first about my life and then lots of memories about my dad. What’s that about? I haven’t thought of him in years.”
“You are exploring thoughts about becoming a parent. This has made you reflect on your own childhood. Do you have fears about being a dad,” responded the words.
“No, yes, well I guess I have some,” came his honest response.
“Why,” beseeched the paper in his hands.
“Well, I didn’t have good role models for parents and I never want to hurt my children the way both of my parents have hurt all of us. More than half of my siblings are still messed up and unhappy. I understand why my dad left my mom, but, I don’t understand how he could have left us, me,” he let his mind completely flow freely.
“Have you asked your dad,” inquired the words.
“How do I do that, I don’t even know where he lives,” he replied angrily, what a stupid question.
“Is it a stupid question? Don’t you want to know from him, why? Only he can explain, no one else can know his true journey,” calmly responded the magazine.
Ken had to admit the page had a valid point. One of the things he learned more profoundly every day was that no one can understand how you feel, why you do something, nothing, for they are not living inside your body or mind.
“That is correct. It’s the gift and the curse for the human, you have free will,” chimed in the publication, reading all of Ken’s thoughts.
“How do I even go about finding him,” asked Ken
“Isn’t it easier these days to search for people, using all your new technology,” replied the magazine.
“Yeah, I guess I am afraid to find him. What if he refuses to see me or talk to me? What if he’s dead? What if he gets really mad that I searched for him…,” his thoughts began to spin out. It was not the first time he had thought about trying to find his dad. In the past it would come up, but, he would quickly push the idea away, slamming the door on the thought.
“Fear is not always a bad feeling, sometimes it means you are opening up to a new unknown, thus it could be experienced as excitement, not fear,” shared the page.
Ken absorbed the meaning of those words. He had never looked at it that way before. It was true as he reflected on some things from his past – college graduation, moving to Berkley all on his own, marrying Jesse… Yes, fear could be a positive feeling, viewed instead as excitement or anticipation.
“What if your dad has thought about finding you, but, like you was afraid? What if he has felt bad all these years and wanted to reach out to you,” queried the words.
“Hmmm..,” thought Ken. That had never occurred to him. “Wow,” he realized that there were a lot of unknowns, all this time he had just stayed stuck in his judgments and limited perspective.
“Would you like anything to drink or eat sir,” asked the young flight attendant.
Pulled from his engrossed conversation with the magazine, Ken, looked up. “Ummm, yes, can I get a bottle of water and a cup of coffee with cream,” he requested, still feeling full from his breakfast sandwich.
“Yes, I will bring those right over to you,” smiled the young woman.
“Thank you,” Ken smiled in return.
Closing the magazine without even looking down at it, Ken slid it into the side pocket of his briefcase and searched for his earbuds and notebook paper. He wanted time to think and explore all the new feelings. Thankfully he had a long time in the air to just be. Once he landed in Hong Kong it would be a busy schedule, so he wanted to appreciate the time he had.
The flight attendant, Marissa, handed Ken his bottled water and coffee. Opening his notebook to a blank page, he started write. Letting whatever came to his mind flow unto the page. When his dad left, Ken had turned to writing to let go, rage, explore, dream, it was the only safe place he could totally be himself.
It was shocking to him how intense the feelings were about his dad. He had thought after all these years he would be less reactive. After all his dad left his life twenty-one years ago. Doing the math he realized that he was now around the same age his dad was when he left. It had never occurred to him how young his dad had really been at that time. That meant his dad was only twenty-one when he became a dad for the first time. Then over the next twelve years he had four more children, that’s a heavy burden, especially when your wife is so angry and unhappy. That made Ken wonder how they ever had more children, but, it was part of the Catholic thinking to have large families and you did not take birth control.
Ken tried to imagine how his dad must have felt. It had to be wildly overwhelming, feeling like there was no way out. Replaying in his mind some of the arguments he heard his parents have, he noticed for the first time some of the things his dad said that were actually quite supportive and full of desire to make things better. One of the conversations he recalled, his dad was imploring that they go to counseling. His mom had refused, stating that she would never go to counseling, only crazy people did that, and she was not crazy. Ken almost laughed out loud, for he felt like his mom was crazy, not as much now, she had finally gone to a counselor discovering that she struggled with traumatic buried issues from her past. By that time Ken was already seventeen, a senior in high school, so he was already planning his escape to college.
He found himself relaxing, for as he let go of the resentment, hurt and anger, he was able to view his parents from a different perspective. Being a grown man now, he was keenly aware that life was not simple, it came with lots of pressure. His heart seemed to open, like a blossom opening to the warmth of the sun’s rays, his parents had done the best they could. Yes, they made a lot of decisions that he did not agree with, but, there was no way he could completely understand why they did what they did.
To be continued… 18