Damn, for a moment there I hardly recognized myself.  Another
quirk of fast-time that I hadn't prepared myself for.  You change and grow
as a person very slowly in time, so slowly you never really get a chance
to feel it.  But when you get back to the center of things, it's like a
frigging brick.  BOOM!  Nobody knows what the hell you're doing.

	Today proved that point pretty damn well.  Things moved kind of
fast, and I kept reacting sort of instinctively, just like I have been.  I
need to do a certain thing, so I find someone who might want to do it and
ask them.  I asked Arthur to track down Corwin for me, and he was cool
about it, and only after I first called him did I remember that I wanted
to kill him.  Ooops.  Poor guy must have been kinda startled.  Hell with

	Same with Bart.  I think he really thought I was going to put him
down for a moment there.  I dimly remembered having some kind of problem
with him, but hey, the hell with it.

	In Israel I found three groups of people.  There were my friends
in Amber, whom I loved dearly and wouldn't see until 1978.  There were my
friends in Israel, who I could not become too attached to because either
they'd die in the war, or I'd be dead to them when I left.  Hardly fair
odds.  The third group was my family, whom I love dearly and kept close. 
They are utterly important to me.

	But absence makes the heart grow fonder as well.  It was a thing
of joy for me to come back to Amber and see Laughter and Ariana again. 
Felix, too, especially when the whole extended family got into a bit of a
fracas about Nicholas.  Poor Vivienne was rather put out.  I ordered extra
ice cream for her.

	And then, to find that Bartholomew and Lyss had gone off on some
maniac stunt to bust Dara, met Brand, and stone cold gotten away with it,
although they did briefly lose Corwin and steal the Jewel in the process. 
A bit of a shock, really.  I was glad that they had done it - it certainly
got me out of what could have been a tight spot - but I didn't need the
grief, either.  I gave Lyss quite a scolding, but in the end, I couldn't
back it up.

	I apologized to her over dinner, then went with her to her
quarters, where Bart was not pleased to see me.  I spoke frankly to him,
admitting that we had a history of bad blood, but expressing my happiness
that their family was well, and giving him my blessing.  He was quite
astonished.  I didn't get it for a moment, but again, for him we had been
enemies yesterday.  For me, that was 30 years, three wars, a couple of
long conversations, and a lot of lonely days ago.

	Then there was Laughter, Nick, Shard, and Beauty.  All of a
sudden, I was back in the old big-brother role I have sometimes played to
Laughter, and I rather enjoyed it.  She's a nice girl, if a little
excitable, and we understand each other.  It looks like my advice worked
out for them in the long run.  Odd for me to spend so much time meddling
with other people's relationships and not ruining any lives.

	I sat down and wondered what exactly had changed for me, to make
all this possible.  It comes down to responsibility.

	I used to have a lot to prove.  I was taking no prisoners and
pulling no punches;  winning on my own terms was the only goal.  Forgiving
or letting people off easy was an admission of weakness.

	Thirty years in the desert put me off holding grudges like that. 
There are a finite number of people I'll ever love, and a much lower
number who might love me.  How many can I alienate, just to prove a point? 
It's the sort of thought that only comes of maturity and a little loss, if
only temporary.

	Deirdre and I taught each other the most important lesson in
interpersonal relationships.  If you can talk to each other, really talk,
and really listen, then absence of malice *is* an adequate defense.  We
all do the best we can, and in the end, if we make a few mistakes, we live
long enough for the effects to wear off.  It's another lesson you only
learn when suddenly you realize that your wounds have been healed by time. 
Once you've learned it, though, you don't have time to hold those grudges
anymore.  You hold close those who you can.

	Being King was the final touch.  Now, for the first time, I know
where I stand.  I don't have to prove I'm a man.  I don't have to fight to
be taken seriously.  I'm here and I'm responsible for my people.  That
frees me to be a better person than I ever could have been before.

	It's easy to hold grudges and kill randomly when someone else will
be there to pick up the pieces.  It's harder when everything you do has to
be weighed against the good of your nation.  A lot of my old hobbies don't
stack up anymore.  On the other hand, trying to be a good friend does. 
Amber needs more Amberites and fewer internal conflicts.  If I can help
people get along, if I can smooth the way for a few people to do what they
need to do, I have the authority and the responsibility to do it.  That
sounds much better than just being a meddler.

	So it goes.  I care for many people, but all are individuals.  No
one person is ever quite like another.  If Lyss is dear to me, as she is,
and there will never be another like her, why should I wish to stand in
the way of her happiness?  What sins did Bart commit that I would weigh
more heavily than love of my daughter does?  And what do I have left to
prove by not offering any forgiveness?  Not a thing.  There was, I
confess, a slight sting of pride as I spoke to him apologetically.  I have
borne worse pains.  Pain is not important.  People are important.

	Deirdre, Fiona, Flora, Benedict, Julian, Laughter, Ariana, Felix,
Driscoll, Eris, Vivienne, Beauty, Kimdyl, Nicholas, Nimue, Ariadne, all of
them are what Amber means to me.  It is no mere place, it is the backdrop
for the splendid tableau of the mundane and the bizarre that I have called
home for most of my life.  I have a responsibility to them and to it.  I
should be a small man indeed to allow a few poorly chosen words from
another decade to interfere.

	Deirdre, all that I am, I owe to you.  From the remnants of two
wrecked lives we have created something moral and beautiful.  Whatever we
have done to each other in the past, it is forgotten now.  I am happier
than I have been in my entire life, and I have found a responsibility I
can carry out with excellence and relish.  In my entire life right now I
can see only one spot of tarnish, one niggling flaw: I talk too damn much.

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