Mnemosyne: A Love Affair With Memory — Part I–Larry L Franklin

Taken from Franklin’s Prologue

“Shakespeare’s Memory” is a short story by Jorge Luis Borges. While the work is fiction, Borges’ insights into memory are both precise and profound, and as real as life itself. Borges leads us through a maze of discoveries as bits and pieces and chunks of memory begin to unfold.

***

It was an earlier time, late nineteenth or early twentieth century, when three learned men — Hermann Sorgel, Daniel Thorpe, and Major Barclay — gathered in an english pub. They had attended a day-long Shakespearean conference in London; listening to lectures on the works of William Shakespeare. What better place to finish the day. A bar lined one wall, a smoke-stained fireplace stood against another, and several like-minded patrons circled small wooden tables separated just enough for an intimate conversion. The cigars were strong that night, and the dark, warm beer was smooth and plentiful.

The major abruptly changed the conversation when he pointed to a beggar standing outside. Islamic legend has it, he said, that King Solomon owned a ring that allowed him to understand the language of the birds. And a particular beggar, so the story goes, somehow came into possession of the ring. Of course the ring was beyond any imaginable value and could not be sold. Legend has it that the beggar died in one of the courtyards of the mosque of Wazir Khan, in Lahore.

Sorgel jokingly added that the ring was surely lost, like all magical thingamajigs. Or maybe some chap has it, he said with a chuckle, and can’t make out what they’re saying because of all the racket.

Thorpe weighed in. “It is not a parable. Or if it is, it is still a true story. There are certain things that have a price so high that they can never be sold.” Thorpe went mute and stared at the floor. He seemed to regret having spoken at all.

The darkening of Thorpe’s mood and the lateness of the evening moved the major to call it a night. Thorpe and Sorgel soon followed suit and returned to their hotel. Thorpe then invited Sorgel to his room to continue their conversation. It was here, in the privacy of Thorpe’s room, that he asked Sorgel if he would like to own King Solomons ring. “That’s a metaphor, of course, but the thing the metaphor stands for is every bit as wondrous as he ring. ‘Shakespeare’s Memory,’ from his youngest boyhood days to early April 1616–I offer it to you.” Sorgel fell silent as he struggled to find a word.

Thoughts taken from “A Path With Heart” by Jack Kornfield

Blurbs taken from “A Path With Heart” by Jack Kornfield

When we take the one seat on our meditation
cushion we become our own monastery. We cre-
ate the compassionate space that allows for the
arising of all things: sorrows, loneliness, shame,
desire, regret, frustration, happiness.

When any experience of body, heart, or mind
keeps repeating in consciousness, it is a signal
that this visitor is asking for a deeper and fuller
attention.

Concentration is never a matter of force or coer-
cion. You simply pick up the puppy again and
return to reconnect with the here and now.

An emotion-packed tale.

Larry Franklin’s memoir, “Victims Make the Best Birdhouses,” is a blueprint for moving from an abuse victim to a survivor; a place where injured souls can flourish when light is allowed to shine. The story is an emotion-packed tale designed to allow the curious reader to visit a different world.

***

Franklin holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music, and an MFA in creative nonfiction writing. He was first trumpet in the U.S. Navy Band located in Washington D.C. from 1967 to 1971. In 1972 through 1975, Franklin taught music at Southern Illinois University and earned his MFA at Goucher College in Baltimore, MD. Franklin has published five nonfiction books from 2003 to 2022.

The boy with the bent neck and a dog whose tail wouldn’t wag. — IV

Larry, focused and committed, would face the demons that ruled his boy, the boy with the bent neck and a dog whose tail wouldn’t wag. The two of them, Larry and his boy, began by holding hands and becoming familiar with the touch of their skin. The similarity in appearance was unfamiliar. Larry was looking at himself, a young boy living in the past, wile the boy was looking at Larry, the older man living in the present day.

For the longest time, Larry apologized to the boy for his neglectful ways. He wanted to make things right. But not until Larry asked the boy to tell him about his past, about the abuse he endured, did the boy begin to speak. The boy told of a life with an older brother who beat him, raped him, and when finished, walked away with evil is his eyes. He told of being held by his ankles, dangled out the window of the hayloft, and warmed that he would be dropped if he revealed such horrors. He told of a life with a father who because of his own misery, chose to neglect him, but did give him one week of love in the summer of 1949. He told of a father who, when he divorced his wife, kept his older son and sent Larry to live with his mother. There was a car wreck in which the hood decapitated his father and crushed the head of his brother. There was a mother who denied him of a childhood and expected him to take car of her needs, those of a divorced young woman who craved the physical love of a man. The boy’s emotional pain felt like raw flesh burning in the summer sun. That’s what his inner child said.

As the boy told his story, the tear lines running from the dog’s eyes to his nose became wet from a steady flow of tears. Moved by the story, Larry picked up the little boy and his dog, placed both on his lap and held them for hours. Tears that began flowing down Larry’s face dropped onto the little boy and his dog. Something magical happened. The boy’s neck began to move. The boy looked up at Larry and said, “I love you.”

“And I love you,” Larry said. As their faces took on a smile, the dog’s tail began to wag. Gone was the boy with the bent neck and a dog whose tail wouldn’t wag.

(Parts I through IV spin a tale about the healing of Larry’s inner child. When asked by his therapist to contact his inner child, Larry was unable to do so. By writing in third person and in the form of a tale, Larry was able to complete the healing process.)

The boy with the bent neck and a dog whose tail wouldn’t wag. — III

It soon became obvious why Father Ramero had been so upset when they first sat together. Larry discovered his child, a little boy some seven-years old, dressed in scuffed shoes, a faded flannel shirt that hung lower on the left side because the buttons and holes were unmatched, and a cap made of brown vinly, cracked and peeled from the summer sun. The boy’s neck pointed downward at a forty-five-degree angle. The boy had no reason to lift his head. In time, atrophy froze the muscles of his neck. No matter how hard he tried, the child could not move his neck. Leaning against the child’s leg was a grief-struck dog that continually looked up at the boy’s face. Like the boy’s neck, the dog’s tail could not move. This was a dog whose tail wouldn’t wag.

During meditation, Larry envisioned getting on the floor, looking up at the boy, and trying to make eye contact. Only after hours of struggle did they look at each other, but only as strangers. Larry went to Father Ramero and shared his disappointment and concern about the lack of any noticeable progress.

Father Ramero looked deeply into Larry’s soul. “Larry, do you love your little boy?” Silence followed. I’m not sure. I know that I should. But I never thought about him before. I tried to forget him. He represented everything sad and evil about my childhood. If I get too close to him, will I feel his pain? I don’t know if I could handle it.

Father Ramero put his arms around Larry. With some hesitation, Larry put his arms around the Father. “Larry, let’s hold on to each other for a while. I want you to feel the love I have for you. There’s nothing dangerous or abusive about my feelings of love for you. I expect nothing in return. It’s my hope and expectation that you will view my feelings of love as the presence of God. Nothing else could be so wonderful.”

They embraced for a very long time. Finally, the Father asked Larry if he trusted him, and Larry responded by saying “Yes, I love you.”

“And I love you,” Father Ramero answered. “Your child cannot heal without your love. Yes, you will feel his pain, but nothing of value ever comes easily. Go and be with your child.”

The boy with the bent neck and a dog whose tail wouldn’t wag. — II

Without hesitation, the man who we will call Larry, took the woman’s advice. Two days and two nights into Larry’s journey, he reached a small monastery with walls of reddish sandstone that blended into the mountainside. Surrounding the buildings were gardens filled with lush vegetation, donkeys, rabbits, dogs, cows, and several men dressed in brown robes with sandals strapped to their feet.

Under a large tree sat Father Ramero, a lean man built like a long-distance runner with a freshly shaved head. He was in deep thought as his mind visited another time and place.

As Larry moved forward, Father Ramero opened his eyes and a slight smile quickly grew on his face. “Welcome, Larry. I’ve been expecting you. Come, sit , and tell me of your path.”

Larry told Father Ramero about the sadness in his life and about a childhood squandered away by physical and sexual abuse. “Let us sit together and find the source of your pain,” Father Ramero said. “Meditate and let the secrets of your life come forward.” They sat for two-hours without speaking. Larry opened his eyes. He felt sadness but didn’t know why. He looked at Father Ramero and was shocked to see teardrops running down his face. The front of his robe was wet. Clearly upset by his experience, Father Ramero spoke. “I saw the boy with the bent neck and a dog whose tail wouldn’t wag. Larry, your child is in a great deal of pain. You have neglected his needs. Sit with your child, learn to know him, learn to love him. You’re welcome to stay with us while you begin your journey.”

Except for the brief moments needed to eat bread, fruit, and drink some water, Larry spent all his waking time sitting or walking in meditation while his energy was focused on the child within. Silence was only interrupted by the occasional words of encouragement from Father Ramero.

The boy with the bent neck and a dog whose tail wouldn’t wag. — Part I

(I will continue this story in a series of short blurbs. )

It’s a story best told around the campfire under a star-filled sky accompanied by the distant sound of whip-poor-wills; a tale best told about “the boy with the bent neck and a dog whose tail wouldn’t wag.” Some of the details may have changed, but the meaning remains the same.

There was a middle-aged man who, when viewed according to upper-class standards, lived a successful life. Still, relentless pain dwelled beneath his skin and bones. The pain drove him to roam the countryside in search of happiness. He came upon a woman who he found unfamiliar but alluring. There was a quietness about her. Upon questioning, she told him that true happiness could be found at a Buddhist monastery located in a remote part of Colorado. The monastery was occupied by a group of monks led by Father Ramero, a man wise beyond his years. As an inititial test, anyone seeking Father Ramero’s help had to make the twenty-five mile trip on foot over rugged terrain leading to the monastery on the mountaintop.

Everything Buried But Nothing Grew

Victims Make the Best Birdhouses by Larry L Franklin

It is not my job to convince you that I am a victim of physical and sexual abuse. I share my journey, leaving you to draw your own conclusions. While my story is based on what I believe to be true, I recognize the possibility of minor discrepancies in human recall. It is my hope that fellow victims of physical and sexual abuse will benefit from my sharing and become stronger and wiser than before.

A Healing Moment

Victims Make the Best Birdhouses by Larry L Franklin

Trauma is a vampire, but light, as any student of folklore or Freud knows, will kill it. The problem is, when the shell- shocked try to exhume their memories—to bring them into the light—the result can be a death struggle so fierce they may fear it’s them, not the suckling pain that’s about to die.

—Katherine Russell Rich

The Red Devil: A Memoir About Beating The Odds

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