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I write and live with my beautiful wife, Sandra, and sons (Solstice, Finnegan and Brahms) in a little-big house on a dirt road in a valley in the hills. My secret identity struggles through the grind of teaching high school English to the denizens of Vermont's Northeast Kingdom.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The David Banner Blues

I am a proud father of a son that is suffering from the David Banner Blues. Really, he has a severe form of arthritis that has changed his life and challenged his enjoyment of said life since he was seven years old. He's nine now, and just today the boy had a lot of trouble with stairs. I know how angry I feel when I think of how much pain the universe has dumped on my little boy. When he was little we used to call him the Buddha boy. He is so naturally happy, gentle and sweet. He is giving and thoughtful and just about everything a dad could want in a boy.

Right now, he is an Incredible Hulk addict. I come home from work, and find him curled up on the couch, his eyes drawn from the fatigue of his condition and the energy sapping nature of his medications. He is entranced with watching Bill Bixby trudge across the late seventies in his bell bottoms with only a backpack and a hope that someday a cure will be found. I will sit down and watch with him for a spell, noticing the melancholy sweetness to Bixby's performance and the haunting piano theme. Suddenly, it all makes sense...

Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung explained that heroic archetypes call to us. That myth is the truest religion in the most sacred sense. The heroes journey marks are own search for meaning. I think of all the lost adolescent girls in the confusing world shelling out millions of dollars to see Titanic over and over again, and weeping countless times because of the doomed love of Jack and Rose. This journey tells them that love is real, that it matters, and that it transcends all the pain and limits of this catastrophic world.

Here is my son, angry, frustrated as his peers dart about, heedless of pain and agony, enjoying their nine year old lives. Sure, some days he puts on a grin and tells me he's hulking out and dares a tiny leap up into my arms, after doing a marvelous Lou Ferrigno impersonation with all of his 60 pound shaking might. But then, the arthritis flares up again wiping out all his plans, all his schemes, all his backyard, boyhood dreams. He travels for the third time in a month to the medical center, to be poked, prodded and experimented on, all in the hopes that someday a cure may come.

How could my brave boy not find solace in David Banner's journey? How could he not find hope in Banner's hope of searching for the final cure? I know that as David, in all of his seventies sensitive drifter heroism, exemplifies the best that is in my boy, the best that is in all of us. So I understand; and when my little boy gets overtired and screams and then falls into tears afraid that he has hurt my feelings in his outrage, I understand.

I, too, have my David Banner story. In the early eighties I was afflicted with a kind of fear that is alien to the kids that I teach today. I feared nuclear war, to the point that my nightmares resounded with glowing mist and the blaring of air sirens. In one, particular dream, I was in the midst of a devastated city, hallowed out by nuclear catastrophe, and Bill Bixby wandered up the street, looked me earnestly in the eye and told me it was all going to be all right. I guess, I believed him. I didn't have any nuclear nightmares after that.

I still believe him. I think my little boy does, too. I think there will be a cure, someday, and until then, we have the stories, the hero, to lead us on, do the right thing, and give us the inner-strength to meet their grand gestures with our little ones, especially when the heroic feat is getting to the top of those stairs in one piece.

That's the miracle of story, of myth. That's what I have always wanted to do. I hope someday, that my tales will give someone a bit of that magic stuff to hold on to. Myth isn't a lie, just as the Hulk isn't some cheesy seventies serial. Myth is metaphor, it is alchemical, it acts as the remedy, the panacea for any wound the spirit can endure.

I hope that people continue to retell these stories in ways that will reach us. The makers of superhero flicks should take a page from Bill Bixby's work. Regardless, each of us will continue our own journeys, and occasionally find that perfect story, that elixir for our very souls.

The time for the anti-hero is done. The time for real heroes, however misunderstood and afflicted, is here.

Mr. Bixby, my boy and I both thank you. We hope you are enjoying yourself in heaven.


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