Lately, regularly, I’ve been confronting the concept of Second Childhood.
How jarring, familiar, unwelcome. How “all over the place.”
Childhood seemed hard enough, even though happiness was the presupposed, presumed norm.
First Second Childhoods I witnessed were my two grandfathers’. They were very different “hard men.”
One became aggressively quieter after a lifetime making aggressive, purposeful noise building prisons, hospitals and apartment houses that looked like prisons and hospitals. Retreating into early New York Mets rapture, he renounced all other relations. Only my brother, who was assigned to be near him in order to spell his second wife and occasionally relieve her from the aggressive silence, could reach him.
The other simply added to and built on his native menacing homicidal character. He took no prisoners. Describing him, my father once told my mother that she simply didn’t understand the Jewish criminal mind. I believe this was the closest my father ever came to poetry.
Sadly, I think Second Childhood can also be described as reversion to type. The actor/victim elects no longer to act and move forward, but instead falls back, redoubled in every salient negative quality (twice as angry, twice as mean, twice as sad) relevant to the situation.
It is the opposite of bravery (link).
I have no idea where I am at the moment (I cannot list physical or spiritual proprioception among my talents and skills), except to note that I am traveling on the 6:19 a.m. Keystone from Paoli to New York. I just phoned my daughter. She is on the way to school with her mother. Clearly she is uninterested in hearing from me, but that didn’t affect the smile I felt forming on my face after saying goodbye and wishing her a good day.
Alvin Langdon Coburn, George Bernard Shaw in the Pose of The Thinker, 1906, Carbon print on platinotype.