michael, may you now be at peace: a reflection (no. 68)
at work, just like at home, i get to take a lot of insects outside... i don't like killing them really. i also realize that many insects serve their purposes in the natural order of things (like making honey, eating mosquitoes, etc.). living here in oregon i see so many species i have never seen in my life i just always take them outside.
with that, i always think about if they will survive the elements outside. i'm not really sure how a lot of them survive inside... i am always curious to find where the anthill begins, and where they lead to; where the moths get their food in the house; where spiders go throughout the day to forage, when they are not resting in their nests.
i have also been curious about the little baby insects you see around- when were they born, and in what condition? do the insects cry in birth sometimes like humans do? do they know their mother or father? how do they get around in such a big world, as small as they are?
i'm not trying to make a case for anthropomorphizing insects (or other species); i do know that, like every other species on earth everybody wants respect and nourishment.
and freedom. to fly. to be free from constraints.
it's hard being a parent, i know it is. and as a parent you want to be able to do the right thing, and know your children are going to grow into respectable, independent people. you want to encourage their curiosity, but you also want to protect them. every parent has their own medium- some adapt better than others; and yet it seems as if this line is a commonality between parents all over the world.
at this point i see a child yelling with joy (or even shedding some tears), and i feel as if that's what i want in my life right now.... that growing need to nurture and protect a child. i think i always wanted kids, so i could raise them better than how i grew up. "i'm not gonna yell at them and call them ugly and stupid." back then i had a dire need for validation; i needed to know that i could be worthy of motherhood. that i could prove i was good at something. these days, it's not so much wanting validation than really feeling my nurturing side kick in heavily. i see so many little ones, and it kills me that i'm not yet there. it kills me even more when the parents of these children say, "you are so great with kids, you'd be a great mother." i have been asked a couple of times if i was a mother. i have been around babies so much that at times i can recognize the different types of cries and gestures.
i know that i still struggle with 'not wanting to be like my mother'. i love my mother dearly, and she's had struggles herself. still, i think about how i grew up with her, and i have this huge fear about motherhood. i don't want to resemble my mother in that way.
even though i sense some sort of anger with your mother through looking at your body language over the years (i think this is the experience, from a child to a mother at times); i also see a sense of nurturing and protection with her as well.
granted, you may have seen some of your father in yourself (in terms of genes); however, as i have said before you strongly resemble your mother. i don't see any of your father there, as i do with the rest of your brothers. i also notice that when you are around her, when you are not being the nurturing type you appear more upright, stoic.
as independent of a spirit you were; no matter how independent of a spirit someone is there are things so difficult to escape.
when i see you alone with your father i see the exact opposite. you appear so much smaller, and distant. the little bit of light in your eyes you had has suddenly diminished. your body is tense, and struggling to gain some sort of approval or recognition as a sentient being.
i didn't grow up in your house, but what i see from you is just a request for your father to simply say, "i love you son." just as your father, not as 'the man who raised michael jackson (tm)'. i get it. i grew up wanting to be hugged when i was growing up. my mother always said, "get away from me." what ended up happening was that i most likely became so starved for that i overstepped my boundaries on occasion. i didn't even realize what i was doing until a friend brought it to my attention. it really hurt to hear but i had to acknowledge that there were some things i needed to work on. i think how i relate to people these days is a bit healthier. there are definitely some things i still need to work on. this may take a lifetime. my mother does tell me she loves me now, and it is a nice thing to hear.
has there ever been a time where your father told you he loved you, when you were on this plane? do you know if he ever said it when you moved to where you are now?
did you ever have fears that when raising your children you would end up like your own father?
i can only imagine how often you told your kids you loved them... more times than i can even count, i'm sure.
this is what photographer john wright had to say about you: "my abiding memory is how polite he was - forgetting everything that's gone on, if you were his parents, you'd be proud of how you'd brought him up."
either that old-school southern sort of parenting influenced how you were brought up, or, like me, you were just scared. i spent so much of my life as a quiet kid. even though i did go out and had friends i was always known as the 'quiet kid', where people had to ask me to speak up. in comparison my sister was rambunctious and beat me up almost every day. some of the things i heard your father did to you, my sister did to me. i got the physical (mostly) from my sister, and some of the physical (and mostly mental) from my mother.
so i just stayed quiet, and i was the 'nice sister'.
these things stay with you. i know i'm not always the nicest person (my mood shifts when i am tired, hungry, or some variation of irritable) and i'm not too great at pretending to have 'small talk' or be the nicest person when i am in that space. i do do my best in realizing that everyone has a story though, and what people do want is respect. a lot of people in my experience out here don't demand it though- it's as if they ask permission in order to have it. but that's a whole other story, possibly to do with ANOTHER side of parenting.
nevertheless, how so many of us grow up; it does stay with us.
i keep thinking about the statement i think grace rwaramba made: that you felt your biggest accomplishment was your children. i have to admit, i marvel at your role as a father; not because it's any surprise . i think you've gotten a lot of practise, being around so many children, and even bubbles. but i see how you hold your children, and it's totally different from how you've held all the other children throughout your journey. i see as well, how you marvel at their existence, allowing them to explore their environment, once in a while telling them not to make so much noise during an interview.
it is this quality you have taken after your mother as well: the maternal. i see nothing wrong with a man carrying those 'maternal instincts'. obviously there are things you cannot provide to your children, in the natural course of things, as a biological male. and i wouldn't even say that you've taken on a role as a mother. it seems to me though, that you've raised them with enough of a balance. it's difficult to explain. we're back to the 'gray area' we spoke about yesterday.
i just see that this is something you've wanted to do for so much of your life; it's so clear when i see you with them. i do think it was smart of you to wait when you were older; you had them at a point you were releasing art/teachings that were more reflective. 'invincible' is one of my favourite albums of yours, due to this point. fatherhood was so evident, as well as a number of years of triumphs and losses. 'HIStory', for me, was the realization of this period; the inception of where you clearly, artistically pondered the state of your life in ways not yet seen. it was as if life could be taken away from you at any moment (not necessarily in physical form), and you still had something to contribute to the world. it was as if time was running out for you, and you wanted to be able to fulfill a dream you've had for so long.
the biggest accomplishment.
i'm not even explaining it in the way i really want to, so i hope you understand. i see you with them, and you look so much wiser beyond your years, as they say. i see something in you i hadn't seen before. i see serenity (despite all the madness). i see a maturity that seems to only exist in parenthood. most importantly, i see light in your eyes.
i have thought about what it was like for them, having you as a working father... not just ANY working father, but one who consistently had cameras shoved in his face. did they feel like they had to clamor for your attention? did they feel as if you were being taken away from them sometimes?
and even though you're not physically here with them right now, i know they will retain a lot of the qualities you brought them up with. and they, more than anybody, will know you as just a man; a man who was a father to them. in the end, all those cameras and lights do not matter. what DOES matter is the love you gave to them. more than anything, they were loved.