The postcard on my freezer door
This is the postcard you might’ve received when you were 11-1/2 years old and your father was in Munich covering the 1972 summer Olympics and there had been a brief period one day the 5th of September actually when you’d thought your father might be one of the people in the Olympic Village that the man on the radio announced had been taken hostage by terrorists except the hostages ultimately turned out to be Israelis who ultimately turned out to be murdered except there’d been a short stretch that felt like a long stretch where no one knew what was going on and your mother was running between the radio in the kitchen and the phone in the hallway and the TV in the living-room trying to find out what the hell what the fuck what the Christ was happening and trying to keep the younger children in the house from knowing anything and trying to figure out how to be a 37-year-old widow with three children and a dog and a cat and a spare bedroom full of feral gerbils and a mortgage and bills to pay and no job and trying to maintain a ramrod spine in front of the neighbours who came seeking information and reassurance and solace and suddenly it became shatteringly evident to you that the world is a savage garden and then the phone rang and it was your father and he was crying but okay and crying partly in relief at being okay and partly in sorrow for the fear and the horror he knew had screamed through that house in Montreal and partly out of guilt that if people had to die he was so glad so thankful so giddy with relief not to have been one of them.
Sept. 6, 1972
Dear Squidge: What a dreadful day on which to celebrate a birthday in this beautiful, old, mortally-wounded city. To describe the despair, the horror here is impossible. All I can say is that even a 41-year-old man who has seen and personally experienced some tragedy feels absolutely empty. The Games of course have been ruined for everyone without exception and I’m sure that the lives of many of us who were only a few hundred feet from the Israeli apartment will never quite be the same. The message contained in the tragic events is quite familiar and very clear: man is the most savage animal of all. But in some of us there is still love and tenderness. Love to all, Dad
All my life — well, since September 1972 — I have kept that postcard. And not kept it away in box or a folder but kept it magnetted up on my fridge because in some way it explains so much about my father and in some way it has given me the strength to put one foot in front of the other when life has seemed shitty or hard or scary . And that is one of the reasons I have put my unrulyness out here for scrutiny and dissection. I have been full of uncertainty but I have done it anyway. Thanks, in part, to the man who wrote that postcard.
Happy birthday to the biggest baddest Bob of all.