Last Saturday I spent the afternoon helping a nine year-old boy begin to make moccasins. He is a great kid who is learning to track animals and wants to wear the moccasins to “fox walk” in the woods. I had made moccasins and mukluks a long time ago and I knew I could help him. As it turned out I think I was the one who most benefited.
I noticed during the day how observant he was. I noticed when I talked to his mom how he would disappear out of the room sometimes and suddenly we would discover him watching us. It reminded me of myself. As a boy, I was always watching. Trying to learn. Trying to understand whatever it was I longed to know more about.
He and I talked about a lot of things. Sometimes he got fascinated at my stories and opened his mouth and stared at me. He would put down the pliers and the leather needle and just listen. For awhile he did this after each stitch. He drew me into my stories even more because he paid so much attention. I had to bring our focus back to the next stitch each time. He was hungry for one-on-one time, stories and sharing. I recognized that hunger. It is a hunger that still burns in the boy part of me.
It was the next morning that I woke and couldn’t get back to sleep after 4am. I kept remembering this boy quietly watching. Soon I found myself sobbing for 90 minutes from the boy inside of me. I remembered watching my parents the whole time I grew up. I never saw them once hold hands, kiss, hug, or touch each other. Not in eighteen years. I always wondered whether relationships were real or fake. Was it an act? A role you are supposed to play? Part of me wanted it to be simply real, true natural friendship. But I never saw healthy touch. Not once. No physical expression of love. I knew something different must happen in the bedroom but what was real to my heart was what I could see. Laying there in the morning crying I so wanted my parents to show me.
Grief leaking that morning from the deepest wound in my life. I questioned myself a lot growing up. What was wrong with me? Am I really a man? Painful tears at my self love. True intimacy was a empty blank spot on my map of life for a long time. I was lost. I didn’t find my way into intimacy until well into adulthood. I worked in communities where healthy intimacy was modeled by peers. Sharing shoulder rubs was a daily exchange. It could all be real. Nothing less.
Suddenly I found a second wind of crying. Like the boy listening to my stories, now I was the little boy so hungry for Dad to pay attention to me. How I wish my Dad would have come told me stories where I would forget everything and listen. I wanted his attention. I knew the hunger in the eyes before me as we made moccasins. Every second of giving him attention was healing the boy inside me. Sure enough, 4 am the next morning that trapped grief was freed. I look forward to the continuing the moccasins.