This is the story of a dilapidated large notebook. It has lined pages each of which is numbered on the top outer corner; and it is under a hard cover whose edges are curled in opposite directions – exposing fuzzy pulp pressed into the hard veneer. Facing different directions, courting, parting – like the owners of the book, but not after sharing a twenty year history and leaving nostalgia prints cover to cover – words are as indelible as the ink in which they are scribed.
This is also the story of the dilapidated large notebook that symbolizes the word TELITA, coined by the owners of the book. They met during their sophomore year – she at the heels of the greatest heart break of her life and two just moons away from serious illness – he, as his usual carefree self which armored his inner tormented poet. They recognized a kindred spirit in the other and collected their writing in that odd book, which he had started many years ago. A bookkeeper’s gift to a young boy, who liked to write.
They promised each other : “The Essence of Love Is Truthfulness Always” and that was how they greeted each other - their code for “I love you.” The book became “theirs” so it contains some of his poems transcribed in her handwriting, which, depending on her mood, could be upright or slanted. But it's always neat and delicate – even through her most emotionally up-heaved days.
Then around mid '70s some of her own poems begin creeping in among his. Because she started replying to him in poetry, every word labored over for the perfect nuance. That was during the year she convinced her Old English professor to let her print ivy leaves creeping up his office walls – the same delicate ivy leaves that decorate the edges of some pages of the dilapidated large notebook. The notebook was covered in thick, dark purple paper then – probably by her – to protect it. Years faded the purple to a shadow of itself.
As the story continues, two other voices enter and are sheltered and nourished in this dilapidated large papa book. Voices like images – frozen in time on a movie slide. . . The younger voices are those of a male and a female. Progression of pages echo their angst, wonder, sadness, despair, rebellion, defiance or denial. These pages are interspersed with poems from a father as he empathizes with his daughter and his son while he is fighting to keep his promise to let them be. His dedications are not meant to be displayed - they are his intimate, personal, noble feelings. It is impossible not to cry at the poems. The intertwining of the father and the children's voices is very heart wrenching.
-To my Teenaged Son-
-To Râna Nuran-
At one point on its journey, this very dilapidated large book - with the faded purple cover - came within a match's strike to being perished. For ever. Like killing an adulterous husband in a second of insanity. Yet the match stick never struck the side of the box that day – or maybe it was extinguished by her tears before it reached its destination. Perhaps, the poet's heart understood while the mother and wife could not. So the book in question was saved from perishing by a miracle. Instead, two or three pages that drew out the most blood were torn out. Jagged edges of departure still show in the binding. The perpetrator of the crime has long been forgiven.
The most climactic point of this story, is the story of how I hold this very dilapidated large book – no longer with the faded purple cover, of course – in my possession today - almost fifteen years later. It's also what started this story rolling. In its wake I am left with an understanding and appreciation of someone with whom I had shared a unique bond.
Last month we celebrated our son's birthday as a “family” - just the four of us. We reminisced about our past life. That's when the little dilapidated book was mentioned, and I remembered a few poems I had inscribed back then. They may be of the saved few. I asked if I could borrow “The Book” for a few days and extract – I mean – transcribe mine to a disc. I have recently lost my entire poetry collection.
He didn't even blink before he said “Sure. I'll drop it off on Monday.”
And that's how I have it - since two weeks now. First few days were a flurry of reading through every poem – and there are hundreds – and revisiting each associated occasion in memory. Like a pop-up story book, words popped up to lay out images. I can touch but not feel, as if the past is partitioned off by a glass window, separating it from the now. I hear or see much that I didn't back then. The unconditional love as well as the presence – imperfect as it was – of a father, through sobriety or confusion; through pride or regret; contentment or happiness – is on every page, between each line.
- Lost Omnipotence -
To my children
When you are a teen and the blood runs wild,
through every vein of discontent -
Parental icons once held as a child
are smashed in a fervor, not really meant.
I will stand as one who always is
and you – who is ever not
The twain shall meet and reconcile
for allegiance is earned, not bought.
On the inclined road of fatherhood
I trudge with declining power
while you who has felt but not understood
dismantles the wavering tower.
In this painful polarity of opinion and thought
growth must take its course
but sadly, at the expense of being caught
in the flow away from its source.
K. Campbell - December 15, 1983
This is the moment I wish to honor and hold to the light, because I see the love and affection in his heart which I thought had died. It was always there for our son and daughter. We just did not share it any longer as parents living apart. I used to feel very sad for making life so incomplete for my children, but I've been understanding lately that they weren't all too badly off. Divorce is never an ideal situation, but it's the life after divorce that makes the big difference. The balance between keeping a clear perspective or going off the deep end is very fine, and sirens for the latter clamor louder.
That brings me back to the story of the dilapidated large notebook that's in my possession now. Temporarily on loan. I've already copied the few poems of my youth and reread my children's many times. I went over the nostalgia of snowy days and forbidden love - love shared and love lost. What I am awed by now is the act of kindness and trust he bestowed upon me, by trusting this dilapidated large notebook into my hands, so that I may be transplanted to a different time and distracted after losing my beloved Selim. Someone I thought was no stranger to me, from my next door neighbor, stepped out and reminded that I am not all alone in spite of what happened in the past. We are not together as we were, but we have a family - and we always will.
I have been in a different mind set for a while, and in the process I learned a new kind of caring. It had always been there - awaiting my recognition.
Thank you, Kenan.
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