Yeah, yeah—another new year. Another old year packed in moth balls. Ring in the new! Bells and whistles, toasts and firecrackers… idiotic resolutions and mawkish nostalgia.
Actually, 2017 was unique for me. Bought some land to start a farm and contracted to have a house built. Got my son successfully out of college—and without debt. Found that my complex publishing ambitions could be easily accomplished, in large part, through Amazon—and am about to bring out my sixth book as the final day of December wears on. Acquired a Twitter account, as well as my first faithful follower (everyone tells me it’s a “must” for publicity).
Also extraordinary amounts of misery and hardship. Still fighting through a severely strained tendon in my knee, and had close run-ins with several afflictions that I was able to treat homeopathically. Watched my son go through three jobs once he decided to give up baseball—the result, mostly, of being lied to during interviews. (Some things never change.) Continue to do battle with various investment firms to get my retirement in order and wrest control of my accounts from stifling bureaucracy—and to think that this is the private sector!
The Center for Literate Values will officially die this evening at midnight. Amazing how many people want me to keep parts of it up and running on a fixed income—people who aren’t volunteering a dime of their own money. Some things never change.
A fall semester safely in the books that trespassed on my academic freedom (thanks to electronic technology) more presumptuously than I’ve ever seen, and with every sign of continuing. But I’ll be gone after one more round of this. I taught my classes my way as ’17 wound down, and I’ll begin ’18 the same way. Go ahead and fire me—make my year.
All in all, 2017 was one of the most productive twelve-month cycles I’ve ever lived through—and also one of the most traumatic and draining. I haven’t described the half of it. What I really need is for it to go away now. The Year Eighteen gets me out of my professional prison to think and write freely as long as my time on earth continues. It will bring me to a place where green vegetables other than cactus grow. I’ll have a home where my son may come to visit over Christmas and not be counting the days till he can escape the deadest terrain north of Hell.
And maybe I won’t feel that chasmic gap in my life when he leaves—that abyss just after Christmas. Maybe I won’t have to ask myself all the old questions any more, the ones I’ve pondered since he left home for college five years ago. “Why does this tear your heart out? You don’t want him to stay here, do you? What would he do in Tyler, Texas? Compete with other realtors for a small share of a small market, trying to make enough loot that the snooty locals deign to notice him—that their daughters deign to go out with him—and probably turning into a drunkard under the shadow of all the Baptist churches? No, we want him out of here. That’s what we’ve worked for all these years. You don’t want him a child again—and you don’t want to be the bigger fool you were yourself twenty years ago, when you were trying to raise him. Isn’t it your own life as it has come to be, though, that makes you weep as he leaves? Not so much because he isn’t in it day to day, but because bringing up a child no longer distracts you from what you actually do. Isn’t it that you can no longer avoid seeing what’s right in front of you? Isn’t it the nullity that remains after that fresh gust of youth withdraws—the awareness of having sold out for almost nothing to a profession that itself sells out everything you believe in by double the amount each year? The bitterness… the nothingness… isn’t that what you can’t face?”
Well, I won’t need to face it any more in a few short months. I will proudly be able to say, to my son or anyone else, “This is my home. Welcome. This is my food I grow, the forest I walk daily. These are my thoughts about the world. You are welcome to any of it you want.”
A new calendar is just another piece of paper. But a new life… now that’s something to toast, if only with myself in silence.