Eventide an antique mirror loses
Its pure light. Its silver painted back cracks
And peels away in brittle black patches,
Leaving the glass pocked with purple bruises.
Reefs of cloud storm across the Western frame.
I observe their curtain draw the day closed.
In the dimming light, the evening's first star
And a tall fan palm in the vesper sky
Wait for moonrise and silent sigh your name.
I think in wonder, I am objectionable. Everyone says so. My mother and father told me I was an objectionable boy. My early friends in school and college, too, objected to me. Eventually, they wanted little to do with me. My first wife thought so. You're an objectionable man, she said, sobbing or raising her voice or declaiming defiantly on occasion. In my professional career, my associates quickly set me aside, because I was wrong about everything. My second marriage, a success for both me and my wife, brought renewal of my fallibility. My adoration of my wife is not a shield against her deep accusation that I have absolutely no common sense. Lack of common sense is not charming, but imperils the world. My children objected to me, though they love me. I dedicated myself to them as their primary parent, but my devotion did not protect me from their tangential critiques. In my public life, the familiar tale repeated itself. People I knew only as civic acquaintances would soon tell me or inform me through intermediaries that I offended them. They set themselves apart from me. Years ago, when I was in graduate school, a friend told me the source of my objectionableness. You're too much, he said. "Too much" was his exact phrase.
Though made aware often that I am too much, I do not understand how I could be so. I am enthusiastic and throw myself passionately into projects and relationships. How should commitment offend? Contradiction seldom seemed to expand my self-consciousness. I have often been reminded of my childhood experience of being told by my parents that I had done something wrong. Looking back at events, I know that I manifestly did what my parents said I did. I did often leave my chemistry set in a mess of dispersed stinky potions and spills. I did distribute my father's carpentry tools around the workroom in an abandoned project. In my child's consciousness, however, I was unaware of having done so. I exemplified the cartoon, where the child responds to his parent's question, who did this?, by pointing to that anonymous spirit, " 'I don't know who' did it." I have walked through much of my life with this patchy unconscious consciousness.
To my perception, I go about my life more or less like everyone else. I earn a living at a career, or should say, I did, since I am now retired. I set up households, created families, raised children. I joined my community in civic endeavor. I worked at honesty, at duty, at good faith. I tried to see principle and guide myself by it. I cultivated friends, revived dormant friendships, felt gratitude when friends supported me. I was mystified how some apparent friendships should lapse under pressure, grieved at the loss of friends. Now old, I grieve at too many funerals and am surprised by too many obituaries. I listen to testimony. I do not understand how this person on his journey should seen objectionable, while other persons, in not dissimilar lives, are remembered as treasures.
I stand by myself, nonetheless; but I believe my condemnations. I have accumulated them, a wardrobe of unseasonable clothes I cannot discard. I was conversing with a neighbor, a decent, hard working man with a wonderful family. We were sitting on his front porch. I forget the context; then I said, my failures--my failings--are more important than my successes. My successes are packed in storage boxes. I couldn't easily find them. He was surprised. You have done so well, he protested. I did not want to argue with him, but his compliment seemed distant and pertaining to someone else. I am no closer, I am no closer.