Grace Notes
A hopeful newspaper column ~ by Natalie Costanza-Chavez
Mothers, Fathers, Plus > Bad Guys and Good Guys
Bad Guys and Good Guys

Feb 3, 2012

Grace-Note #27 – ran on 6/19/05

Bad Guys and Good Guys

Forgive me. I must call them up quickly – get it out of the way: the bad guys. They lurk close to our surface, below the skim of our minds, like quick eels they slide away and come back, slide away and come back. We hear about them, read about them, fear them in a part of us that seems only partially aware, but is ready to duck and jab and strike. The tiniest bell can prime us to fight.

It’s an emotional boxing match we are all sick of, the bad guys gloved and ready.

So, into a ring full of bad-guy news, and all too real boogey-man dangers, I throw this column. It’s for the good guys – starting with my dad who can fix anything. He has patched me up through the rip and ride of adolescence, the wandering fright of post-college, the near collapse of broken hearts and lost jobs and engine blocks cracked and pitiful. He has gotten on a plane more than once to come to me. When he leaves, his strength stays because he brought it to help me through. He’s a good guy.

This column is for my husband, the one I never write about because, like raccoon with a shiny rock, I don’t want to open my hand. Picture a mussel, the purple and blue strength of it clinging and thriving on the wharf pilings – I am the mussel; he is the tide. With him comes my children, the salt and wind of my days. And they run ahead of us at the beach, the grounding of my hand cupped, his in mine, together our palms form a bowl and in it we carry a life: his children, our children, gently, like water. He’s a good guy.

This column is for Grandpa-Great who is gone but with me everyday. When I left alone for Colorado eighteen years ago in a car that worried him, he pressed a hundred dollar bill into my hand and told me to keep it for an emergency. Every visit, for years, he’d ask if I still had it, and I’d show him the tuck of my wallet, the bill to keep me safe should his nightmare unfold: me alone, far from him and home. He was a good guy.

And for Nanno curing olives, swishing them through the rocky salt, the brush brush brush against the sides of the bucket. Me, eager and too full of questions. He looked up over olives and salt – but it was also a fishing pole, a bait knife, a hoe, a handful of tomato seeds, a goose call – he looked up and said “Watch. Like this.” Then played my questions out in silence, his answers all movement and lesson. He was a good guy.

And my brothers – my exasperating, smart-as-a-nettle, brothers. When my sons tease me and I wheel backwards becoming as much child as they, what comes out of my mouth is my brothers’ names. I am ten again, with them sneaky and brother-brat perfectly pushing my every button. My brothers play my boys like rhyme, like the perfect nah-nah-nah song of uncles being children because there are enough stern grownups to pick up the slack. They are two of the good guys.

And this is for every good guy. Gene who reads each of these columns and reels me back in when I’ve gone off half-cocked or highfaluting or am simply lost in the lull of words. He is wise and one of the good guys.

It’s for the men herding children across schoolyards, soccer fields, baseball fields, gathering them around books and boards, filling their heads with ideas of what they can be.

It’s for good men getting up from chairs even when they are tired. It’s for the uncle I miss and the one I still have. It’s for the men gone but with us, the men missed but held near, the men who come to us, day in and day out, up through memory, the shadow of them playing our day-walls, our night-walls.

It’s for each and every good guy who holds us safe, loves us deeply and grounds us in a way that feels like home, that feels like prayer, that feels like love. Happy Father’s Day.