Skip to main content

For Dad on Father's Day


Yoshio Matsuoka 1918 - 1978

Neuroscientists now tell us that memory is a creative and plastic artifact subject to our own willful and inadvertent influence, the most powerful of which, I think, is the compulsion to understand things as coherent narratives.  But judging from what I hear from friends, associates, and regular ol' people on the street, most people's parent-narratives are about as plausible as their religious ones.  We keep our fathers and "Our Father's" in tiny little self-serving boxes.  And come to think of it, I guess most of us keep our own selves in some tiny boxes too.  Not saying this is good or bad or whatever.

I was disturbed not too long ago when I experienced what I thought might be the initial signs of age-related mental diminution when I couldn't remember something.  Actually, I could remember the actual events, but what I couldn't remember was the relationship between two events.  And it seemed to me that the events were related.  I just couldn't remember in what way the two were related.  The relationship between the two events competed with what seemed like a huge assortment of other events that I felt obligated to keep a grip on simultaneously.  It literally felt like I was losing my marbles, as though I was holding a big double handful of marbles or ball bearings that were slipping away because my fingers had become smaller or less dextrous.  I have always prided myself on being able to hold a lot of mental marbles.  I think of myself as someone with long and dexterous mental fingers, better technique than many -- maybe most -- people.  So this experience was a bit distressing.

But really, as we grow older, the number of marbles under our responsibility grows and the reasons between the relationships between many chains of marbles break down because the narratives were created by others, or because the narratives themselves no longer serve any useful purpose, or because the narratives were seriously inaccurate and malformed to begin with.  So I've been releasing the artificial relationships between a lot of events/memories, and letting false chains dissolve.  I'm even doing that with my own life narrative.  Rather than occupy a series of linear remembrances, I now exist in a spicy bouillabaisse of current and past events.  Younger Dougs come by and drink and smoke.  There are precious moments here experienced unmoderated by temporal perspective and full of the ardor and terror of being.  It can be a little intense but I sip it like good wine.  It is as good for the heart, I think.  

As these experiences become more immediate, my viewpoint ascends to a different place. It's as though I were a distant entity with an assignment of "being Doug."  The height of this perspective is unsettling at times even as daily experiences become more vivid.  This perspective may just be a result of contemplations pursuant to angioplasty and the prospect of sudden death.  And yes, the effect might be somewhat unreal and over-dramatic.  But heck, we all have to live our lives within our own skins.

Oh, and anyway, my parents.  The point really of all these words is for me to report something about them.  At a certain point recently, I decided to release them from their parental responsibilities and just let them be who they were, or who they still are in the Big Bouillabaisse.   The narrative models I had created of them were comically dwarfish and deformed and not even close to being real. 

How could that artifact of memory, imagination, and fantasy that I called "Dad" accommodate a real human man's life of joys and torments and secrets and private moments?  And what reality or lack of understanding or intention or absence of intention should require his thoughts and actions to serve my desire to make sense of my own life?  Can you imagine the indignity of being forced to perform in some puppet-show narrative over which you have no control even after you thought you had passed into the safety and privacy of death?

So I dismiss them from my service, both my parents, and especially this Father's Day, my father.  I can see him happily scampering away like a dog suddenly untethered from a post in the yard.  I can tell you for certain that it's a lonelier world without "parents" and those people I had interacted with in my imagination for so many years are now so much more mysterious since their lives are unknown to me.  Like the cars on the street they make inexplicable moves over which I exert no influence at all.

Yoshio Matsuoka -- born 1918, died 1978.  This very day, I release you without condition from the indignities of your indenture to my narrative or to any narrative -- even your own.  You're free, man.  You're a free man.

H. Doug Matsuoka
19 June 2011
Makiki, Honolulu

Comments

  1. You are an awesome writer. The soul of your writing is very moving.

    ReplyDelete
  2. as we grow older, we begin to see that parents aren't just parents, but people. this is a lovely essay. thank you for sharing with someone else who is losing her marbles and learning to be ok with it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. So kind of you!

    ReplyDelete
  4. well framed essay, Doug! mahalo for posting! (again)

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

HCDA creates their own anti-homeless police at HAR hearing

While no one was watching, the HCDA (Hawaiʻi Community Development Authority) held  a Hawaii Administrative Rules hearing that creates their own anti-homeless police force, and (incidentally) raises park fees by up to 500%. The affected parks are at the intersection of Honolulu Council Districts 4, 5, and 6, (Trevor Ozawa, Ann Kobayashi, and Carol Fukunaga respectively) but none (or their staff) were present today. These laws were made without any oversight from the public or their elected representatives.

Who knew that such sweeping changes could be made without the oversight of any elected officials? And after one decision making hearing that is accountable to no one? If the Honolulu City Council had to rule on such changes, it would require three full council hearings, and opportunities for public participation at each.

My own interest in attending the hearing was to get some kind of hint as to the mechanism the City would use to curtail First Amendment rights in Thomas Square afte…

What The City Doesn’t Want You To Know About Thomas Square

[This article was originally published by CivilBeat on July 21, 2016. I'm reprinting it with video clips. Doug]

The City of Honolulu plans to close Thomas Square on Aug. 15 for six months and re-open it in February 2017 as something completely different, according to its master plan. Although city officials have unveiled grandiose plans concerning a drastic makeover, there are a number of troubling things they are trying to keep under cover:

1. It will no longer be a public park. The master plan calls for Thomas Square to be transferred from the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation, where it is a public park, to its Department of Enterprise Services. What is it? The department runs the Blaisdell Center, the Waikiki Shell, the zoo and the public golf courses. By way of a memo dated April 28 from the city’s enterprise chief Guy Kaulukukui to the state’s head of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, the city asked the state to make changes to allow a change of purpose for…

Eric Seitz: Pro bono is a crock

At yesterday's "Justice in Jeopardy, Expanding Access to Justice in Challenging Economic Times" at the UH Richardson Law School, Dean of Harvard Law School Martha L. Minow pointed out that one in five Americans now qualify for civil legal assistance because they are within 125% of the Poverty Level -- a record high in the history in the county. As the demand for legal services grows, the available resources continue to diminish, leaving most without the "equal protection" of the law.

I checked out the breakout session on pro bono because I used to work for Hawaii's pro bono referral service, Volunteer Legal Services Hawaii (VLSH).

These days, most pro bono services are not attorneys representing clients, but short informational sessions at legal clinics. Moderator Robert LeClair asked attorney Eric Seitz what he thought of this turn in pro bono services.  This is what Eric said:

"Well, let me start out by saying that I've always thought pro bono w…