Monday, April 6, 2009

Guest post by Ezra’s Daddy: The Anti-Midas Touch

What is the opposite of the Midas touch? Of course, I’m talking about King Midas, the man of folklore who turned everything he touched into gold. These days, I feel as if I have the opposite of that. I’ll call it the Anti-Midas touch. Everything that I touch turns to crap, to junk, to garbage— use your favorite word.

Everything seems to occur in groups. Good things seem to happen in groups of two, three or four. So too do bad things, tragic events, incidents, bad news, you name it. I have also found that every number of years, perhaps every few years, sometimes five to ten, there is a flashpoint, a turning point in my life that helps to define my life or career, and charts the course for everything that follows. In 1984 it was living with a Japanese family in Tokyo, and being accepted to college. In 1987 it was being verbally and physically harassed by an inebriated alumnus at the college football game. In 1989, it was my first job after college. In 1996, it was my first job with a nonprofit organization. In 1997, it was my guest appearance on MSNBC—for two hours. The next year, it was traveling to the UK and speaking at Oxford, Cambridge and a dozen other universities on behalf of Amnesty International. In 2000, it was starting law school and meeting Ezra’s Mommy.  

I believe that either that defining moment breaks you, or it makes you stronger and helps you find your destiny. I remember those words were told to me about 12 years ago by a client of mine, while I was working in New York as a community organizer, you know, sort of like that guy in the White House in his earlier years.  

Anyway, on a serious note, one day I was in the office when this woman came through the door in tears. She told me that she was picking up her daughter from school, and was sitting in her parked car, waiting for her daughter, when she was approached by some police officers. There was a verbal exchange, and suddenly she found herself handcuffed, called filthy names by the officers, physically accosted, and taken to the local police precinct. At the station house, she was forced to strip search down to her underwear in front of the cops (male and female), and was locked up behind bars. She was released after several humiliating hours. This was this woman’s defining moment. She did not fold or flounder, but rather was able to find her destiny and prevail.

Back to the Midas analogy. I can’t help but think that losing Ezra is one of those defining moments in my life that has made me, and will continue to make me, a fundamentally different person. It has been the single most traumatic experience in my life. It seems that since Ezra’s death, a number of bad things, and a full array of both major and minor annoyances, have happened to me, to us, in bunches. They seem to pile on each day. To be honest, some good things have happened, but it seems that far more bad has happened than good. And the bad things are that much harder to stand because Ezra is not here.

It is bad to have to be annoyed by trivialities when you have just buried your son. It is hard to grieve properly while going through a job search, and it is hard to be excited about career development while you are in mourning—and in a recession. It is tough to be told you’re overqualified—and feel as if you have to apologize for it— after you’ve been taught your whole life to do all that you can do— to go for everything, be the most that you can be, and the best at whatever you choose to do. It is frustrating to feel as if you are getting a lot done yet still spinning your wheels, and that everything you do at the moment in life appears to be for naught. It is rough to feel as though you are shouting in a room full of people and no one is listening, and everyone is ignoring you and whatever it is you have to say. It is that much harder when your boy is lost and you can’t find him, except for that picture on your desk, that pendant around your neck, that lump in your throat, and that feeling in your heart. And it is harder when you’re constantly told that the loss of a baby is especially hard for the mother.  

This past weekend was the citywide Philly Spring Clean-up Day. Ezra’s Mommy and I were volunteering in our neighborhood, helping the local community development group with the work on a new garden. I was pounding away at old bricks with a hammer, breaking them down for use in the garden’s pathway. Ezra’s Mommy was helping to lay the bricks. As I was breaking the bricks with the brick breaking team and channeling my inner chain gang member (or stonemason, not sure which), Mayor Michael Nutter, the mayor of our fine city of Philadelphia, visited our group. He came there to plant a tree in the new community garden. He approached me as I was pounding away, shook my hand and asked me: ”What are you doing?” I thought to myself, “I haven’t the faintest idea!” After I explained, the Mayor planted the tree and posed for some photos with the group. As he was leaving with his entourage, I said good-bye to him, and we gave each other the Obama-style fist bump. It was a surreal experience, even more surreal because it was about the fourth time I’ve shaken hands with the Mayor, but the first time while breaking bricks.

The experience that day, helping with the community garden, reminded me that sometimes, everything I touch doesn’t necessarily turn to crap. For one day, at least, I was able to forget about all that was before me, all the pain, hardship, uncertainty, fear and sorrow, and just help out and have fun. Just like the old days. And as I look forward to the day when I get my mojo back, I know that Little Peanut Boy will help get me back to that place.


Dani819 said...

Hi, Ezra's Daddy.

From where I sit, you have made many beautiful things. The home that you and Sarah have built together, your beautiful son, a blog that makes me think and expands my view of the world every time I read it, and a world that's a little more compassionate and a little more whole than it would without all your amazing work. Wishing you many more days like the one in the garden, and damned soon.

aliza said...

beautifully written david. i know those defining moments in my life as well and none of them has defined me more either than the brief life and death of my son.

i'll bet your mojo will wax and wane and may even be a whole new mojo, in this new incarnation of ezra's daddy.

so good to hear your voice because it's not just the moms who grieve and mourn their lost babies.

Carly Marie said...

It was lovely to here from you again. What a beautiful post. Thank you for writing x

Hope's Mama said...

David, I think something you touch will turn to gold very, very shortly. I truly believe good things are just around the corner for you - and Sarah of course. And I do hate hearing how people think we mothers feel the loss more. I don't believe that is true at all. We feel it differently, but I know that pain, grief and longing is the same. We made our little babies together, we are in the grieving together.
Always nice to hear from you in this space.

Lindsay said...

I too am glad to hear from you. Good for you for speaking up and letting us know how your life has been impacted as well.
Little Ezra was lucky to have you two as parents. It's great that you guys were helping in your neighborhood. It does feel good to go outside and let out some energy doesn't it.
I think you guys had a beautiful son, and I think your wife has an amazing spirit and big heart.
Love Lindsay

Paige said...

Ezra's Daddy, thank you for your post, and for your perspective. As we navigate this new world, it helps to hear from a dad, and especially one who is so introspective and writes so beautifully. Wishing you peace and love. xo

erica said...

Thanks for this post, for sharing your perspective here. I worry that my husband's grief at losing our son isn't recognized as it should be, even though the loss has been harder on him than on me in many ways.

I hope things look up for you and Sarah soon.

m said...

Ezra's Mommy is a lucky lady.

Your post made me cry, shake my fist, and smile almost simultaneously.

One day, when M. isn't feeling so fragile, I am going to make him sit down and read your words so he knows he is not alone.

Thank you, for helping our strong, strong men know that they are not alone.

Kathleen said...

Hey David, I just wanted to say I was touched by your post and am really sorry that life has been so rough on you lately. I'm really hoping that wonderful things are just around the corner for you and Sarah. You definitely deserve some good news, and I pray it's coming soon.

Cara said...

Hi Ezra's Daddy - great to hear from you in this space.

I fully agree with the re-definition that our soul goes through after loss. You will find your groove again - and you will make astounding things happen with it.

Gal aka SuperMommy said...

David - I see the way you touch your lovely wife and partner on this journey, and I'm pretty sure that there is gold in that touch. The way you two navigate this together - so together - is beautiful and inspiring. Don't forget that. Keep touching the world with your depth and brightness.

Lani said...

we feel that too, so much of the time. you two are so lucky to have each other, i know you know that, but in times like these, we have to keep saying it every day. after tragedy like ours, having a partner that understands and loves you is really the only important thing. we try very hard to realize that every day, every day that we have to deal with the shit in the world.
we look at each other and just know that we couldn't do it without each other. and then we know we can just keep plugging along, minute by minute, hour by hour.
those moments when things seem good are important. we try to find them as much as we can because we know they are so few and far between right now.
thanks for continuing to write- soon you'll be sharing this blog! no more guest spots for you :)

Dalene said...

It's nice to hear from you, Ezra's Daddy. As for life's defining moments, I often think that my son's death is like my personal Sept. 11th. Life before and after is so starkly different.