Monday, October 12, 2009

Living Alone – Robley Wilson Jr.



Robley Wilson Jr.

Born 1930 -

I really enjoyed this brief story. I was also happy to research Wilson and discover a bit about him. He had, and it seems that he continues to have, a wonderful writing life.

Wilson attended the 7th Annual Literary Festival at ODU back in 1984. Well, I was 12 then. I suppose I could have read some of his work when I was 12 and attended the festival as a devoted fan, but I doubt that I would have taken away much.

He was the editor for The North American Review for 31 years. What a life that must have been. How I envy those who are able to live on reading and writing.

“Living Alone” and what it gave me.

I’ll line it up to what I was going through in 1979 and perhaps through this you will see why the story touched me and what it allowed me to reflect upon.

In 1979, I was 7 years old. Things in my little world were going quite well. I was in school, 2nd, grade, my sister and I just survived a horrific bicycle accident and most of my memories from my life forward are starting to solidify themselves in my brain.

Concerning the accident.

My sister and I were sitting in a contraption called a “bugger”. It is a seat that attached to an adult bicycle that had 2 wheels and allowed the adult to pull the children. (Think Asian cart contraption) We were facing backwards...and without helmets...and the center of gravity was pretty high. This was a new offer to those aging hippies who loved to scoot around on their bikes - and despite the safety precautions my father took, it wasn’t safe enough. At a high rate of speed, he hit a speed bump exiting a parking lot and he flipped the bugger.

My sister and I were buckled in with a flimsy canvas strap and drug a nice distance on our heads. I think my sister got it worse than I did. Blood, crying, screaming...general chaos all around.

Writing about this at this age, has allowed me to reflect on how my parents must have felt, especially my father. He must have been terrified.

But, this story did not cause me to think about this accident, only the mention above caused the reflection which in turn lead to the need to write a bit more at length about it.

On to what the story did for me. Unknown to my sister and I, during this time 1979, my parents were quietly laying their plans for the divorce. It would be a few short months later that my folks would sit us down and explain to us that mommy and daddy still loved us, but not each other. Daddy would be leaving. Daddy would be living alone in Philadelphia.

– And there you have the connection.

I often wondered about my father and his life alone. This story shed some light into what it must have been like for him. He had no cat as did the main character of this story but a pair of birds. He lived in a small apartment in Chestnut Hill, commuted to Philly daily – even weekends- spent hours at his work, and did god knows what else.

I wondered who he spoke to alone in his little apartment. He didn’t have 2 kids there to entertain, a wife to nag him or to love him. He was alone.

As an innocent child, I felt sorry for this man, my father living alone. I don’t feel sorry for him now. I still have a lingering anger. An anger that emerged recently, as in the last couple of years, as the thought of a man leaving his two young children...for work.

And you know what, shit on them...all of them, those hippies...unable to work it out. Divorce was the “in” thing to do in the late 70’s early 80’s. Thanks a lot guys. You did a nice job on a good section of my generation.

I suppose I should be thankful for these stories, as they allow me to stumble through my history and face old ghosts. To be angry at my father. To see that I am a stronger and more compassionate man than he is. To love my wife and to stick by her come what may. To face the world and to accept the challenges.

Score 9 out of 10.

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