Thursday, October 23, 2008

In The Chains of a Metaphor

Two interests my father and I shared were politics and short wave radio. My grandparents told me stories about finding out the truth in Nazi Germany from the BBC and from countries not yet under Nazi occupation.

Before the age of the internet, short wave was the magic way to cross borders and hear from the other side. When I was growing up, I listened to the BBC, Radio Havana and Radio Deutsche Welle. The intermittent static made me feel as though I were flying through clouds.

After my father had a serious stroke, he and my mother gave me his short wake radio. My happiness at owning something that had given my father so much enjoyment was tempered by sadness that he could not use the short wave himself any more.. Even using a telephone was beyond my father's stroke battered skills. Although he remained articulate in German and English, he had completely forgotten his Italian. French and Latin. In addition, he became severely depressed, emotional and weepy. It was like a complete personality change.

One day, my infant son yanked the cord on the short wave , bringing it crashing to the floor. The radio was silenced. Thankfully, it did not fall on my son. I was still saddened that the radio had been silenced. I tend to surround myself with mementos of my past and my family. The silent, broken receiver reminded me of my father sitting in sorrowful silence. The metaphor deepened my melancholy. I reminded myself of a watch belonging to my father that I had destroyed as a child. The memory lent my sense of loss a sort of symmetry. By absorbing my loss silently, I was repaying my father's kindness in forgiving me.

The harshness of comparison haunted me. A radio with its inner workings was silenced. A human being with uncharted but massive brain damage was not silenced, but seemed like many to be a different person. I could not escape the comparison.

A couple of years later, I was working in the kitchen. I moved a clock radio with a vent on the top of it on to the table where I was working. One of my children took a cup full of flour and poured it in top of the radio. The fine flour worked its way into the vents on top of the radio. I pulled the plug out and shook as much flour as I could out of the disabled appliance. A few fours later, I plugged the radio in. FM worked in an impaired state. Stations came in, but not as clearly as before. Only a few of the stations on the high end of the AM dial still came in. I fiddled disappointedly with the dial. I recognised one of the stations. I listened. I couldn't believe it. Instead of WABC and WMCA, I was picking up Radio Deutsche Welle. I tuned the radio some more and listened to the BBC. Somehow the flour had changed the calibration of the radio so it was now picking up short wave instead of regular AM stations. Although the sound quality was mediocre, the radio became a curiousity.

In creating a short wave out of a simple clock radio, my children had created a new metaphor for my father's illness. Just as the radio was picking up a new range of radio frequencies, so too was my father picking up a new range of an emotional and spiritual spectrum. In both cases the new range of frequencies was hard to tune and to listen to. The dial on the radio did not match what was being broadcast, and my father's expectations of himself did not match what he was feeling and experiencing.

When I contemplated the broken radio, I stopped seeing the soul as an invisible cloud residing in the body. I started seeing it as a frequency being tuned in by a physical receiver. The radio as a metaphor was "repaired" when it was broken the second time. As a result, I saw myself differently as well as my father. In breaking the first radio, my son had defined how I then saw the relationship between body and soul. In breaking the second radio, he created a new analogy that was far more satisfactory in explaining the nature of the spirit and our relation to it. Not only was I listening to sounds from far away. I was listening to an inner voice that had become distant. Sphere: Related Content

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

well, you were thinking about another time still in your mind.. you never had alot of cash, but you love your kids...the angels love you more than you know, when there's no place to go on the radio, on the radio, broken radio