Roger sat at his dining room table. and invited me into the room with him. He is hard of hearing, favoring his right ear and crediting the hearing loss in his left, to a stepfather with an overzealous fist. Luckily, he is an easy talker so after a couple repetitions of a first question, he lets loose a torrent of stories. Each one has the sort of grim hardship of an early Disney film.
He is a man of contradictions which he seems to easily make internally consistent. He is an obviously vivacious man but his life has been marred by illness. From polio as a child to COPD today, he has been ridden with physical hardship that seems to ride on his back like a small child on his father, more inconvenience than strain. His career too, wound from watchmaking to lock breaking, as he went from the man that made valuables to be stored in safes, to one whose longest profession as a locksmith consisted mostly of cracking locks that had miscarried their intended purpose.
His worldview showed the same marks of duality as his physical history. He felt weighed on by fear of just the type of people he once was as a misguided youth.
I asked him about his stint as a burglar
There was an odd tension in this view of the world that seemed drawn differently from different vantage points in his life. Even his view of the American Dream itself felt pulled taught by tensions in his life versus his expectations.
I asked if he had the American Dream for himself
In a way, he embodies the tension we all feel as we go through life. The challenge of containing and making sense of contradictory multitudes is not often as well managed. That may be our lot as a country as well. Learning to make sense and unity of the same contradictions in our national life.