Reading Chris Bursk’s matter-of-fact acknowledgment of the sexual aspects of a son’s awe for his father [“A Father’s Kiss,” February 1996] and Ruth L. Schwartz’s sensual appreciation for the body of her ailing woman lover, I know you’re gonna get it yet again from the how-dare-you, cancel-my-subscription set. Such emotional truth and naked tenderness is shocking to some in this time of tired titillation. These works startled me out of my abstract callousness. Please keep on telling secrets and taking chances. I have never seen you do it for a cheap thrill.
Yesterday, my therapist told me that I shouldn’t take guardianship of James, my seventeen-year-old grandson, that I should protect my own interests. I went home and looked at tall, gangly James, and I knew I would be heartbroken if I sent him back, if I gave up on him in order to protect myself. Hadn’t this journey been about taking risks?
Today the February issue of The Sun arrives, and I feel a strong surge of energy. James asks to go to the video store, and, while he shops, I look through The Sun. I find a poem by my friend Chris Bursk, and my heart leaps. Reading it, I hear his voice and feel his friendship.
James and I dash home, where I sit out on the balcony and continue reading. K. A. Kern’s “BIRD” is beautiful and moving. I am also drawn to “The Empty House of My Brokenhearted Father,” by Poe Ballantine. I read Readers Write, the rest of the poems, and finally Sunbeams. I cannot find one word that I do not like. The wind is blowing and the clouds are wonderful — charcoal gray cumuli, streaked with sun.
I go for a walk and my conviction steadily grows. I know exactly what I will do upon arriving home, what phone calls I will make. I feel none of the ambivalence that has burdened me these last four years. I will take legal guardianship of James. He will have a home now. Suddenly, I feel that I’m home, too. And I think how home isn’t a place; it’s when you finally open your arms and accept your ragged life, claim it as a triumph.