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You Cannot Bring Me to My Knees: A Moment with Bill Reflection
My Thanks to Dylan Thomas
“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
We come into this world kicking and screaming.
I plan on leaving the same way.
“Stay down, Bill. You’re beaten. You’ll only get hurt worse if you rise.”
But what of the pain if one chooses not to rise once again?
The first time was as a fifth grader at St. Patrick’s School in Tacoma, Washington. For whatever reason, and I do not remember now what that reason was, I was in a fistfight. My manhood had been called into question, or there was some grievance that could only be rectified through violence. Whatever the case may be, I was on the receiving end of some punishment. A series of body-blows, a shot to the nose, and I was down. Blood was streaming from my nostrils, my stomach hurt something terrible, and yes, there were tears in my eyes.
I had no chance of winning that fight against an 8th grader. My best chance to live another day was to stay down and say “I give up.”
“Stay down, Bill. You’re beaten. You’ll only get hurt worse if you rise.”
I had to rise, and I did, only to get knocked down again…and again…until finally my opponent grew tired and bored with it all, declared himself the winner, and left for home the conquering hero.
I would do the same thing tomorrow, because that is how I was raised….not to fight, but to refuse to give up.
Man was not meant to exist on his knees.
She comes home bone-tired, aching and chilled after eight hours waiting tables, and a forty-minute walk home in the rain. Oh, how lovely a bubble bath and a glass of wine would be, but she needs to pick up her babies at the neighbor’s house, then provide them with all the love she has inside of her during the evening. She’ll need to make them a meal, then mend their clothes, kiss their owies, and snuggle with them during reading time.
As the evening wanes and the eyes beg for sleep, she will sit at the table shuffling the bills, trying to hold off the collectors just one more day. Clean the dishes, do a load of laundry, then trudge into the bedroom where the three-year old has commandeered the bed, and privacy is just a figment of an over-active imagination for this single mother.
“Get an abortion,” they said. “Find a man,” they said. “Use your head, girl, you can’t raise those kids by yourself,” they said, but that’s exactly what she is doing, and doing as best she can, because she loves them so damned much, and as long as there is a breath left in her, she will provide and love, love and provide, because that’s what her children deserve.
Up at four, feed the hogs, milk the cows, replace the damned fan belt on the tractor, and then ten hours in the fields. Gotta get the crop in before the rains hit, and there’s only one way that’s going to happen…work your ass off, Bob, and pray to the good Lord that the storm holds off till tomorrow.
A section of fence is down in the south forty, the same south forty his daddy plowed, and his granddaddy, and great-grandaddy too, four generations working this gut-wrenching farm, and for what? Government ain’t no help, prices are dropping faster than the temperature in January, and more regulations means more expense and where the hell is that money going to come from?
The bank loan is due again, can’t get blood from a turnip, and this crop just might get them by for another six months and then what? And then what? Real estate man dropped by yesterday, got a buyer right now if you sign on that dotted line, and then what would he do? Work at McDonald’s? Greet at WalMart? Nope, he’s a farmer, from a family of farmers, and whining just ain’t getting that barley in the barn now is it?
So he aims John Deere in the direction of those crops, casting a nervous eye on the heavens, looking for a little luck and maybe some divine intervention.
Not so long ago he was riding high. He had a good job, a wife, a daughter, and his own personal oyster was tasting good indeed.
And then it all fell apart. The job was gone, and with it the wife and daughter. He scrambled. Sure as hell he scrambled, a series of dead-end jobs that kept his head above water, but how long can one man tread water when the waves are crashing and there’s no life raft in sight?
He doesn’t want a hand out, but a damned hand up would be nice. He lived, for a long time, with the mistaken impression that if a man served his country and kept his nose clean, then everything would be all right. Boy howdy, was he ever wrong. So today he walks the streets, from the soup kitchen to a park bench, playing his songs for the unwashed and unnoticed in the bowels of a city that does not care. They do not look at him, for to look at him is to be aware that what has happened to him could easily happen to them.
He should be bitter, but he is not. He should be hopeless, but he is not. He still believes, and he still hopes, and as long as the light of hope shines upon his soul, he will keep trudging through the muck and mire of an existence he never dreamed about when he was a youngster.
Raped at fourteen by a trusted member of her family. Pregnant at fifteen, a mother nine months later, and her destiny had been written without her ever picking up a pen. One moment she’s dreaming of white lace and curtains, and the next she’s scrambling to raise her child and feed the both of them. How’s that for a fairy tale ending?
But it’s not the ending for Maria, and she will not be defined by actions forced upon her. She holds her head high and keeps keeping on, determined that her child will grow up knowing the purity of love. Shit happens and that’s a fact, but giving up can only happen if you allow it, and she will be damned if she will surrender.
BRING IT ON she shouts to the heavens, and she falls to her knees and prays to a God she is certain is still there, despite evidence to the contrary. Help me Lord, she whispers, then she rises once again, kisses her legacy, and tosses aside feelings of resentment and self-loathing, choosing instead to love herself.
You Cannot Bring Me to My Knees
Read the news on any given day. Atrocities against man here, there, and everywhere. Just so much newsprint, but those descriptions are of real people, people who get up each morning beaten down and unable to envision a day where the sun shines and there are no bombs, no beheadings, and no ethnic cleansings in the name of the holy. Still, they rise, and go about the business of existing, and they raise their children, and love their families, and when someone else needs help they are there to offer a hand.
“The indestructible is one: it is each individual human being and, at the same time, it is common to all, hence the incomparably indivisible union that exists between human beings.”
And therein lies the secret for us all, my friends. We all need each other. Our strength as a species is dependent upon our compassion as a species. It is what separates us from lesser species. Our ability to feel what others feel. Our willingness to reach out and help with no thought of repayment. Our realization that what happens to one happens to all.
“Stay down. You’re beaten. You’ll only get hurt worse if you rise.”
Maybe that’s true, but in rising once again, we just might discover what we are really made of.
2014 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)