Old House In Virginia

Maybe you want to take photos of the paintings to show Liz, see if she might like them, my mom says, as we walk on worn wooden floorboards. The house smells old, slightly musty from the never opened windows, old like the Chickering grand piano that sits in the living room. We can’t even give it away, my mom says. It is from 1910 and apparently has an affliction that no piano doctor can cure, age.

I go into the basement where I used to play Ping-Pong, lift weights, hit the heavy bag. Only the netless table remains, labeled boxes piled on top. I see my name on some, peer inside to find yearbooks, faded inscriptions urging me to have a great summer, get laid, get psyched for high school. I look through old photo albums, take out my iPhone, snap shots of me with bangs, wearing polo shirts, my dad on a Honda motorcycle, send them to my wife. Cute, she texts back.

At night I tuck my son into bed, where he sleeps in my old room. My desk is gone, the mirror where I adjusted ties, gone, the wallpaper where I scribbled a girlfriend’s name, stripped off long ago.

Outside I amble along with the robins, squirrels, and chipmunks, everything so green and quiet compared to San Francisco’s flamboyant tech-savvy noise. Anonymous, I walk like an old man past young families, past houses where I used to eat ice cream, where I watched the Redskins on TVs with antennas, where I threw water balloons. Summer sun, the light is the same, the humidity, nothing has changed, I’m strolling through 1986.

Then I look across the street, stare at Howard and Dorothy’s former house where I used to rake leaves, both dead for years, my parents tell me. Back inside, my son is excited, shows me the time machine that he is building. I give him a kiss, I love it, I say.

My Son, My Teacher

Social Pragmatic Communication Disorder, just saying it makes me feel as alone as my son. I’ve become an extension of his brain, a place to store all his esoteric knowledge about hummingbirds and basilisk lizards. I try to pretend the repetition is normal, the constant cataloging of information, but I find myself inundated, overflowing with facts I’d rather forget.

His world exists in paper animal masks that he meticulously designs and colors, then wears, embodying each creature. I time him running around our block, his peregrine falcon wings flapping off his seven-year old imagination. I vacillate between fully joining him, wearing the mask he made me, and living in fear that he will never change. That tension between what is and what I want, exists always.

Meditation has helped me navigate parenthood. The breath only knows one moment, this one, now. When I detach from my dreams of him playing basketball and having abundant friends, I get lost in the beauty of his being. His seconds in space are unencumbered by my expectations, he is free.

My son has become my teacher. I no longer dwell on his future, schools he will attend, careers he might explore, that is gone. Instead, I’m with him, all of him, in this very second.

Where Does Technology End?

Not until the screen in the hand becomes a screen in the head. Think inserted microchips storing relevant information, foreign languages, memories; as we go from unofficial to certified cyborgs. Apps to meditate, take pills, track the dog’s walk. We don’t know how to be free anymore. To just close our eyes, breathe in, breathe out. We need the screen to tell us when and how. Efficiency, the better way, more exact, controlled.

We sell it to each other, make ourselves dependent on it, use it to alleviate boredom, to entertain, to advertise. We text, rarely call, occasionally FaceTime, an image of person, flat on a device. But do we need it? Is it natural? Is it a tree? A sperm touching an egg? A summer rain shower? No. It is a bragger, a consumer of hours, a window into violence, a distraction from what truly is.

Where does technology end? Not until virtual reality is ours, all the time, as we become surrounded by curated unreality. It is our gold, our diamonds, our oil, extracting time and synapses, the new rich. I say no, watching the cursor blinking on the screen.