Paul Haeder, Author

writing, interviews, editing, blogging

Gulls Swooping in and Stealing Ice Cream

for Makenna

by Paul Haeder / September 11th, 2022

just read stories how gulls
shape shift wings
anticipating bailing out, bombing in
after French fries on a pier
behind-the-back Dairy Queen
thievery

a child is like the shape shifter
she’s one person, one flight
wing early in life, then wings
change for higher heights

she’ll glide high over father
or in times of trauma
swoop in like a falcon
she’s there one moment
and gone, grown up

estranged by winds of time
adulting they call it now
shiny things away from parents
like crows picking through
jewelry, buttons

a child sometimes soars
away, long journeys like albatross’s
eons gone, over seas and oceans
as the parent loses hardy feathers
father not able to stoke and turn

left with tire-mashed Big Mac
or parking lot Skittles
while child is in full adulthood
able to drag air, lift body
make unhuman moves
hoping one day she
never loses wing power

Seagull eating french fries. (SWNS)

always eyeing the big bag
of caramel popcorn
some silly kid with green
hair holds right there
for easy gull pickings

while father hops on
one good leg near the
waste bin, proud of
daughter gull, sad for time
long gone in those old
winds of his youth

Estrangement

There are so many Meet-up and Facebook groups that attest to family estrangement. Mothers who have lost contact with sons and daughters because of legitimate family dynamic concerns, but mostly because of unknowable reasons.

There is this decoupling society has engaged in for five or six decades. There are so many single mothers, so many children of divorce, so many kids having babies. There is so much infantilization mixed with brutality. There are so many ways a man might stay a boy, and a woman might turn into an unfeeling mother.

However, I have talked with folk in their 70s who have not heard from sons and daughters, and part of that estrangement includes grandkids. One person has been on the outs because she dared question the innoculation Covid-19 thing deemed by corrupt government and Big Pharma as safe. Even just asking for an outisde play date with two grandchildren, these heartless adult offspring turned the older woman and her husband down. Not a reason for estrangement.

Here, some typical basic psycho-babble about what to do if one is estranged from offspring:

Remember that shutting a person out is a response to anxiety and a family that is overly entangled with one another. Your actions or lack of action didn’t cause this. Cutting off is a way people manage anxiety when they don’t know a better way. The love and caring is there; the ability to solve differences is not. You did not make your child to turn away. That was her decision. It may have been a poor one, but it was the best she could do at the time. Try to get your focus off of her at least 50 percent of the day, which will make a difference.

Your pain is real. Be mindful and compassionate of it, but don’t allow it to define or overwhelm you. Put the focus on what you have control of: your own life. (source)

Then, the basic five tips:

Five Tips When Estranged and Cut Off From Your Child

1. Get Support

2. Don’t Cut off in Response

3. Don’t Feed the Anger

4. Listen to Your Child Without Defending Yourself

5. Focus on Yourself, Not Your Child

The reality is that over the course of the past 20 years, American society has tripled its screwed-up reality. Atomizing of town, family, state, school, workplace and family. Then, the hyper me-myself-and-I selfishness in this constant self-exploration, the big issue to seek self-esteem to the max, at the expense of relationships. There is a cancelling in American society that goes way back, and we’re talking a hundred years, maybe. What you can and can’t talk about, rarified and real.

Then what other education are we/they getting? K12 has always been insipid, tied to turning students into automons or compliant or wicked managers. Here John Taylor Gatto, in a Truthout article recognizing his work upon his death:

“Traditional education can be seen as sculptural in nature, individual destiny is written somewhere within the human being, awaiting dross to be removed before a true image shines forth. Schooling, on the other hand, seeks a way to make mind and character blank, so others may chisel the destiny thereon,” —Gatto, The Underground History of American Education

Much of Gatto’s writing is focused on the basic yet often overlooked distinction between schooling and education. At the heart of his work is the simple yet radical suggestion that mass schooling, a 19th-century European import to the U.S., is not the modern manifestation of the ancient concept of education but, rather, its diametric opposite.

In his magnum opus, The Underground History of American Education, Gatto traces the material roots of mass schooling back to the economic and ideological demands of a burgeoning industrial capitalism in Europe. Against the narrative of mass schooling as a noble attempt to educate the starving, backward masses, he exposes its true motive as a glorified daycare system for the children of parents newly coerced into wage labor.

With the destruction of the commons in Europe, self-sustaining production systems and their accompanying home-based education practices were obliterated in the quest for profits derived from the labor of a new industrial proletariat. Children who used to learn practical skills by working alongside their families and communities were forced into monotonous factory work with the advent of the industrial revolution. After child labor laws were introduced in the 19th century and extended in the 20th, the state had to find something to do with these unoccupied working-class children. (source)

There is that group-think, that disempowering, that consumeristic mentality that K12 schooling creates. There are all the massive experimentations going on the past 70 years with un-educators determining what should be taught, how, why, and when. The siloing of society, the so-called specialization in some professions, all of the dedicated time spent watching TV and scrolling the black mirror of the smart phone, all the wasted effort of schools to put the round peg into the round hole, that too has added to this time of estrangement from parents. The warehousing of old people — those with no big bank account — into care homes, and then the older generation doing their own thing in this sick :65 is the new 40″ crap the marketers kept jamming down our throats, that too hasn’t helped bring people — families — together.

The fake empowering of cancelling out any bad mojo or bad this or that in one’s life has also allowed for more parents being estranged by sons and daughters.

It may look like the average family in USA, per the Amazon Prime and Netflix-Hulu perverted plot lines, is doing okay, or is somehow fairing okay, but the reality is we have generation gaps, racial gaps, ethnic gaps, gender gaps. We have LGBTQA+, and fake wokenss, and this persisting radical conservatism in this society. Rampant schizophrenia, you know, the supposed party of the anti-war crusade, supposed youthful vigor of launching an anti-authority ethos, well, that’s all flipped and tripped around:

In 1923, the British novelist D. H. Lawrence offered a grim assessment of America and Americans:

“All the other stuff, the love, the democracy, the floundering into lust, is a sort of by-play. The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted.”

Nearly 50 years ago, surveying both the wreckage of the 1960s and centuries of archives, the brilliant historian Richard Hofstadter acknowledged that

“Americans certainly have reason to inquire whether, when compared with other advanced industrial nations, they are not a people of exceptional violence.” (source)

One can imagine that the Covid shot, the confinement, the Trump v. Democrats fighting, all of the Proud Boy and BLM shots across the bows of all those families add to the the issues tied to estrangement. These estrangement support groups are mostly women, single mothers in many cases, who had “to be it all” for the family, and so, the children of divorce lash out at the disciplinarian, the care-giver, the mother figure, and all the work a single mother has to do to keep both ends of the candle burning, to do as much to be both parents, that takes its toll.

But now, in this time of schizophrenia, this bombardment of propaganda from ALL aspects of young people’s living, it has created mass confusion. Not a drop out mentality always, but a desire to be away from the broken family, the broken parent, the mother demanding too too much, or the mother who failed to give one hundred percent attention to the child.

Here, Gabor Mate, who I have referenced in the past tied to what trauma is, and how addiction is a very broad aspect of the human condition. Mate talks about that parental-child estrangement. Additionally, Dr. Gabor Mate’ discusses the multi-generational effect of stress on a child who experiences traumatic emotions from their parents, beginning with pregnancy.

And a documentary, Erasing Family, but tied more to the court battles of child custody, etc.

Are you a child who has rejected or is rejecting one of your parents whom you once had a loving relationship with? Are you being kept from one of your parents? Do you believe your parent is faulty, dangerous, did not fight hard enough for you, deserted you? Do you have one wonderful parent and one rejected parent? Have your parents been involved in a family court battle which increased the hostility and stress in your lives?

YOU ARE NOT ALONE. YOU ARE NOT AT FAULT!

Erasing Family is a documentary exposing the effect on children and their parents when a broken and adversarial court system pits parents against each other, emotionally and financially bankrupting parents and families.

YOU NO LONGER HAVE TO CHOOSE A SIDE!! The only way to learn the truth is to spend time with your rejected parent. No parent is perfect. They are doing their best to love you from their own perspectives and unresolved trauma’s.

THERE IS A WAY TO HEAL YOUR RELATIONSHIP! It will require courage and effort, yet will release you from a prison of faulty or misrepresented perceptions. Most importantly you will be free to love and be loved again by both sides of your family.

Friends and family members who are witnessing this: Show these children the Erasing Family documentary trailer. Encourage them by speaking the truth about how their rejected parent loves them. Unresolved parental and family emotional cutoffs results in generational mental and physical health diseases.

Again, plethora of groups on Facebook, and then, this one, April 25, A Case for Parental Alienation

It’s just not right, really, how family has been broken and parsed and, yep, family is where hatred and bigotry and racism starts, for sure, and the reality is that in American society, there are way too many arrested developed adults getting into the family thing, sort of keeping up with the Joneses, thing. Unprepared for parenthood, and the country is anti-family, when you consider the hell of childcare expenses, the hell that is navigating the education system, and the hell of commercialization and privatization of everything — unfettered, casino, predatory, disaster capitalism.

Family leave? Bereavement leave? Social workers in the schools? The asburdity of psychiatry for young folk? How many influences are tagging young people? How broken are the adults in this society?

Again, all sorts of circumstances around why a child, and adult child that is, would want to cut ties with a parent. For those not involving physical and sexual violence, many cases involve parents that were too demanding, a mother too aloof, or a mother with her own anxiety. Many mothers treat their daughters like friends, confidants.

But estrangement can last a very long time. The lack of mediation in our lives shows up on all levels, including hardcore Democrat and hardcore Republican having no system or coalescing of their shared humanity to share anything in common. The fact is that schools are failing on many levels, some of which are outside the actual school system’s responsibility — the grotesque popular culture, the grotesque comsumerism, the grotesque obsolescence, both planned and perceived. The bizarre wars between the genders, the wars between generations.

We are estranged from community, estranged from sisterhood and brotherhood, estranged from wildlife, true wildlands, estranged from the inner musician-artist-caregiver inside ourselves because this society is so transactional, so deadened to the human and humane needs of people in small and large groups.

Again, Gabor Mate:

The essential condition for healthy development is the child’s relationship with nurturing adults. Hold On to Your Kids, co-authored with the eminent developmental psychologist Dr. Gordon Neufeld, provides insight into the environmental factors necessary for healthy child development, how these conditions are increasingly under threat in today’s society, and how parents and teachers can maintain their leading position in face of the multiple challenges posed by modern culture. (source)

My Case

I am not estranged from my only child, but I am geographically an eight hour one way drive to see her. She is into her own mental-psyche-spiritual roadwork tied to her need for adult therapy. There are all sorts of expectations she thinks I have of her — she should have been, could have been, would have been kind of projection onto me. So, estrangement for me isn’t the issue — she talks to me (not as often as I would like) and she is smart and articulate, and texts and sends emails. She is in/on her journey, and I understand that I may think with all my worldly experience and training and practice I kind of know what it’s like to be in her shoes, but that is not necessarily true. i don’t.

The poem above I sent to her, along with a letter letting her know that I am here for her, and that I want that to be a two-way street. Actually, a highly self-actualized guy like me has a need to be with a young person, for sure. I need some loose ends tied up, and I am seeing the horizon of my life getting closer and closer for sure to the big sundown.

But I know of personally close people who are in the midst of estrangement from daughter or son. It is devastating, since those people in my life are not spring chickens, so having a lack of contact with a child — albeit adult — is really a cold shriveling aspect of motherhood: carrying this child, feeding the child, and being the child’s all-emcompassing caregiver-nurse-confidant-friend-authority figure, and then being cut off is mind-altering. Traumatic. Illogical. Mean.

Yet as the mother, she has to compensate, listen, let the child attack the mother’s parenting skills. An adult child puts all the anxiety and her own misplaced trauma onto the mother. Cutting off is the easy way, the pathetic way, the so cancel culture way. It is emblematic of rot at the core of the American mentality, the core sickness in this warring, superficial, plotting, backstabbing, mean culture. Throw-away society at its most demeaning and hurtful.

Why take it to the next and the next level of complete shutting out? We have the most perverse people in the Biden Administration, fools and undiplomatic, asses and arrogant, shallow and self-important, and we see thousands — just in Ukraine — dying because of the American — and European and Canadian — arrogance and stupidity. Some of that has to rub off on each next and next cohort. Banning books and banning people and banning ideas and banning speech and banning cultures, that is part and parcel part of what seeds this estrangement mentality. We have no diplomacy, no negotiation, no mediation!

Enough said. My piece out in the Friday issue of our coastal rag,

Intergenerational discourse is something we all need

Celebrate Intergeneration Month during September

September’s here, the month that brings in fall. Looking at the national holiday list (that is, celebratory accounting) for September, I notice over 30 “themes” celebrated or commemorated. Here are just a few:

• National Hispanic Heritage

• Childhood Obesity

• Childhood Cancer

• Self-Improvement

• Honey

• Potato

• Pain Awareness

• Intergenerational

• Prostate

Diving into that intergenerational theme, I realize I’ve been intently interfacing with people decades younger than I am. In Waldport, Portland, Spokane, Seattle and Alaska, I have talked with people 30 and 40 years my junior.

I have deep conversations with some of the houseless rough sleepers in Waldport: guys that are in their 30s who have taken to life outside the “norms” of job, home, roots. Much of what I have discovered is trauma piled onto each individual since childhood. I hearken to Dr. Gabor Mate:

“From early infancy, it appears that our ability to regulate emotional states depends upon the experience of feeling that a significant person in our life is simultaneously experiencing a similar state of mind.” (documentary, “The Wisdom of Trauma”).

I met one young guy at a Newport pharmacy who had dreams of being a marine biologist, but whose poor health limited that aspiration.

I’ve got a book out, “Coastal People inside a Deep Dive,” featuring amazing Lincoln County folk. Many of those I featured were both old and young, and every age in between.

Every day I meet amazing young people in various stages of their wonderful evolutions. Many are living with complex PTSD. Others are working through financial strain. Each conversation with someone younger than I takes me to their spiritual home.

Listening is important in today’s age. Many old timers profess that in the old days we listened more, engaged more with people outside our socio-economic and cultural-ethnic backgrounds.

I’ve had deep conversations with Chuck Ellard, who runs Newport’s Pacific Digital printing. I’ve written about him, and he is featured in the Coastal People book. He’s in his late 30s, just had a son, and moved from Logsden to Seal Rock. He sees himself as a vital member of the community, assisting individuals with their framing needs or getting huge printing jobs from the Lincoln County School District.

A young woman who is working in a five and dime tells me of her dreams of being a writer, and wants to major in literature at U of O. A single parent’s health issues forced her to help pay the bills, so she is in a holding pattern working 50 hours a week. She has a real grace in this derailed point in her life.

I’ve been spending a few hours with a “tree man,” an arborist. Tyler Muth is from Waldport, went to school here, and now this 29 year old has his own tree service business. He is tall and lanky. Think of a bearded young Brad Pitt. He’s an identical twin.

Muth likes climbing trees. He respects the tree and encourages people to keep healthy trees. He uses ropes to climb and small chain saws and handsaws. He knows the species of trees, and he is studying for certification through the International Society of Arboriculture.

We talk about Tyler’s years trying to make it as a pro surfer. He likes hitting waves, and he’s surfed up and down the Pacific Coast. He first competed when he was 12. His business, Dr. Hingewood, allows for some free surf time. He’s worked in construction, and he even did a stint for a mobile slaughter house killing and dressing cows. He tired of that job, as he says it got to him: “I don’t like killing animals. I don’t own a gun. I even had a hard time last week killing a fish.”

He’s done some gnarly jobs up in big timber, and those cuts are dangerous. He knows his back cuts (the third and final cut made on the opposite side of the notch). His business name, Dr. Hingewood, ties into how the portion of a tree left uncut — the hinge — can control the direction of the fall.

We talk about family, and he isn’t married and says doesn’t want children. “My freedom and lifestyle would make it difficult to raise a child. I like my freedom to just pick up and go surfing.”

He’s a businessman with a contractor’s license, and he says he has challenges keeping guys on payroll since many just pick up and take off for other gigs, like building wind turbines or commercial fishing.

He is a self-described tree nerd. I’ve written many stories about arborists, urban forestry programs and the value of trees in places like Spokane and Seattle. Out here, Tyler works with mostly private customers, usually with “nuisance” trees.

We both look up at the aging cypress on the neighbor’s property overhanging our backyard. He sees the canopy, the architecture of the tree, the hidden deadwood and fossilized wood in the middle of the trunk.

That sky — those crows, the giant unruly evergreen, blue herons squawking — gets Tyler and me talking. He’s an easy-going man with keen sense of follow-through. I listen; he listens. He tells me about the time a 14-foot great white shark “sort of just appeared” under him while he was surfing off the Oregon coast.

This is the kind of intergenerational discourse we all need. We talk about how men struggle to communicate and to know themselves.

Tyler goes about life with an even keel, he says, and while he isn’t blind to the world, he tells me that he is not so engaged in huge political debates.

“I keep busy. I love trees.” He relishes climbing, figuring out what to cut, and how to get that cut wood down without breaking a patio deck or his own neck.

We both interject our “almost broke my neck” stories. This is intergenerational communication at its best, looking up at a 100-year-old busted up cypress. 

Paul K. Haeder is a novelist, journalist, educator and author of “Wide Open Eyes: Surfacing from Vietnam,” Cirque Press.

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