The Once and Future Foil
Yesterday was a difficult day for varied reasons. The final straw was a simple problem but it illustrated others more important and pointed out a somewhat maligned but major benefit of modern life. After a day in which concern for my son’s welfare, property damage and several levels of romantic complications made me unhappy and uncomfortable, all my Internet related services were down for most of the day leaving me feeling deeply isolated and alone.
Some time ago I wrote a small piece concerning an epiphany about what constitutes a home concluding that it involves people rather than a place, although that was perhaps an over-simplification of a complex concept. I now live far away from where I spent most of my life, from where most of my surviving childhood core family lives, from where two of my three sons live, but it’s the place where I was born and which I’ve always loved, leaving my personalized concept of home irremediably fragmented. Perhaps it’s been that way since I first left the beautiful City of Manizales high in the Colombian Andes at the age of six. There, my maternal grandmother’s beautiful country home and her small but warm hotel were clearly home: something that has never been the case again.
In the United States it was initially hard to establish a physical home because my step father moved us so frequently; I calculate having lived in a dozen different apartments and one house in three different states during the nine years from my sixth through fifteenth birthdays and having attended almost as many different schools. Gypsies had nothing on us (no, my stepfather was not a carnie). That was confusing and had a major impact on molding my psyche, perhaps on one hand having left scars that never healed but on the other, having molded what I’ve always perceived of as an adaptable and creative character, deeply respective of human diversity and with a great capacity for love.
Eventually two places stand out as having encompassed the appearance of home although each was inherently transitory. The first was Eastern Military Academy (now Oheka Castle) which I attended as a student from 1961 through 1964 and at which I was employed in numerous capacities from the fall of 1969 through the spring of 1977, culminating in the presidency of its international division; the second was the Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina, which I attended from the fall of 1964 through the late spring of 1968.
I clearly left pieces of my heart and soul in Manizales, at Eastern and at the Citadel.
When I graduated from the Citadel I lived with my mother in Flushing for several months and then in a wonderful albeit tiny studio apartment on East 81st Street in Manhattan. After I left Eastern in 1977, I resumed the odyssey of my early years, first living in Huntington, then Whitestone and then Glen Cove in New York before moving on to Fort Lauderdale in Florida where I lived in three delightful apartments and one remarkable house (my first) during nine years there, married for the second time and fathered two of my three amazing sons. Then the adventure continued, this time in Hendersonville, North Carolina (but for the birth of my third son a two year folly where I left the accumulated wealth of a lifetime). Back to Florida, this time in Marion County where after a fitful start a trace of stability found me and a concept of home was temporarily reestablished: — a brief stopover in Summerfield, a rented house in Ocala and them my own second house, this one in Belleview, one we’ve kept for twenty years but only lived in together for five (I sense rising stability in this narrative) and which has become an unfortunate focal point in marital termination property settlement disputes. In 1996 we bought a third house, again in Marion County, this one an amazing place, more an estate, one in which we lived as a family until 2005, then as an explosively dysfunctional unit until 2007 when I finally surrendered hope and returned to Manizales. In November of that year I bought my current “home”, a delightful apartment with a panoramic view overlooking the land of my birth.
“Full, cycle?” it doesn’t feel like it. My home is my family and my family is centered on my three sons and until recently, on the late blooming love of my life, all now scattered to the winds.
So back to “home” (the concept), the effects of modern technology and my varied epiphanies. When I lost contact with the world at large yesterday because of a massive Internet failure, I realized that in a sense, modern technology, during a very sad time in my personal story, had somehow managed to link the long sundered elements of my soul and create a virtual concept of home, one that unites many of the people I love: my sons, my Eastern and Citadel classmates, former lovers and future friends. That virtual home brings solace of sorts but not closure. Perhaps until, Buddha-like, I embrace all existence, a real home will elude me.
By now you’re probably dizzy and confused, asking where I’m headed and what this all means; the very same questions I ask myself every day. In a parody on the hit song, I Left My Heart in San Francisco, I have to admit traces of my heart are splattered all over the place, but major components of my soul lie buried in New York, Charleston, South Carolina, Central Florida and Manizales, and that like Humpty Dumpty, neither all the King’s horses nor all the King’s men are likely to ever put them back together again.
In my quest to understand divinity I concluded that like us, it uses all of its constituents, including us, as learning organs, constantly conducting experiential experiments we don’t understand and leaving us, like Charley Sheen’s liver, pondering what happened and why. In my case, the Divine seems to have obtained all the learning experience it could want. Perhaps that’s why it keeps me relatively young and in good health, the once and future foil. Hopefully in the process of Divine education we also learn. I wonder what Divine kidney stones feel like.
 © Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2011; all rights reserved