How to shoot somebody who outdrew you

photo by author of his son (3 years earlier)

I knew he was trying to get my goat by shooting me with another stick—pretending it shot rocks, and filling the lawn with river stones for the lawn-mower—but I'd maxed out on imaginary gun-shot wounds for the day. I lost my cool. He cried when I tore the stick painfully and righteously from his hands. I went to cool down in the kitchen. Ten minutes later, he opened the screen door and laid it out for me like this:

"Papa, it's way worse to hurt somebody than to shoot them with an imaginary gun."

He's my teacher. All children are our teachers, but he's mine specifically. He's telling me to turn around my stories. Instead of acting out impulses towards my childhood bullies that have long since forgotten our disagreements, I must re-invent my memories. Replace them with stories of my own resilience and courage in the face of humiliation. Move on, find the compassion that salves all that pain, so I don't take it out on my son. His bullets are only imagined. I'm the one making them real.

Like Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. "All I ever learned from love is how to shoot somebody who out drew you."

In other words, "drop your bitterness, or lose the ones you love."