Until tonight I knew that lyric as a Ray Charles song. It’s a song Dad would listen to a lot. He’d listen to Ray Charles a lot, not just this song. Ray, Mahalia Jackson, Ben Webster, Louis Armstrong, are you sensing a theme? He loved Frank Sinatra, hated Dean Martin, had an appropriate 1960’s socially acceptable racism in his genuine sense of love for Sammy Davis Jr. But this one song has stuck with me after his death and typifying how I feel Dad thought about his life.
The photo above is from my sister’s wedding. Mom and Dad were 10 years divorced at this point, and this day was only the third day since they separated that they were seeing each other without the presence of a lawyer. It was a wonderful day for us all, and one that we had honestly not thought would ever come.
But that was my sister and I underestimating our mother. It’s a mistake we didn’t often make after the wedding. If you didn’t read yesterday’s post about Mom, for gad sake, go back and read it. Share it. Click the link in it. Share THAT. The woman is a superhero.
I didn’t know what to write about tonight. My girlfriend had a lot of wonderful suggestions, she said to talk about what he would have thought about today, things that make me think of Dad, or things we liked that we both could have shared in. I liked all those ideas, but it was what she said after that I stuck with, “Don’t worry about it, something will hit you.”
And something did.
To start, I answered one of my questions posed in the very first post in this series. Sadly, I already knew the answer. It was obvious, I just had never thought through it before. Would Dad and Adam32 have been friends?
In hindsight, it’s a stupid question to ask. They were, of course, beyond friends. Adam32 is the person my father trusted with his power of attorney. He was the person my father asked the opinions of regarding decisions as serious as to whether or not he should go on hospice or not. He trusted Adam32 with his life, and by extension his legacy. That the question had to be asked shows how far removed from that time Adam42 really finds himself.
Now that I think about it, we’ve really answered the question about whether Adam32 and Adam42 would be friends back on day 06. So that leaves one thing: if Dad and I knew each other today, would we be friends? That’s a tough one.
I can tell you what I can pretty honestly say about what he’d like. He’d be interested in my job. He’d LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE my girlfriend to a point I should be slightly worried. He’d hate popular music, he thought music in the 90’s was, “caterwauling noise,” he’d probably not take to Fun, Rhianna, or Kanye. He’d probably like the popular music return to some gypsy jazz roots, but he’d say that hipsters, “just don’t get it,” and are, “half-assing life.”
He’d wonder why anyone would pay two dollars and forty cents for a cup of black coffee just because it had the word “organic” in front of it, and as much as he’d really love the proliferation of microbreweries, he’d laugh at anyone paying more than a dollar-fifty or a beer. My father was enormously frugal, and when he was alive, he lived his time in an often shocked time-warp.
He once bought a bag of socks for ninety-nine cents. Not a pair of socks, but a BAG. A goddamned BAG OF SOCKS for ninety-nine cents. If you’re younger you’re probably assuming that’s a normal price. Trust me, it wasn’t. Not by a long shot.
Dadn’t thought on the whole matter was, “What could be wrong with ninety-nine cent socks?” The line has become a joke between my sister and I that continues today.
What could be wrong with ninety-nine cent socks? Turns out the answer is, “a lot.” No two were the same size. One of them was, as my father put it at the time, “fits like it was cut for a German Shepherd’s foot,” while another was, “designed with gorillas in mind.”
His grandchildren would have much thicker skins if Dad was alive. The salt he peppered his jokes with became increasingly personal as he aged, I can’t imagine how he’d be now.
He’d be disappointed that I worked so much, but happy I had a job. He’d have spent at least 10 days at my office by now, sitting bored behind me asking, “is this really what you do?” Then I’d show him that I knew how to composite his eyes to be smoldering white-hot orbs and make his Parkinson’s-wracked fingers shoot lightning and he’d be pretty okay with it.
He’d be glad I lost weight, but he’d be irritated I was so weak. He repaired garage doors for years, and had giant Popeye forearms my entire childhood. That weakened when he became a postal carrier, but he was still out walking a route for a full day 5 days a week. The only thing that slowed him down was the cancer and Parkinson’s.
He’d be impressed I have a work ethic. He’d then complain about hipsters and milennials and misquote something he’d seen on daytime television about how they are lazy and self-oriented.
He’d love that I was swing dancing again. He’d make me pick him up so he could go watch us swing dance, and listen to the live bands play every week we danced. He’d come hang out in our room for the duration of Camp Hollywood on the balcony of our hotel room and talk to people. He’d probably also make a few admirers of the female variety, he was surprisingly smooth for someone who had no interest in dating after he and my mother separated.
He’d love my girlfriend’s dedication to an early bedtime, call her a “real woman” for drinking her coffee black, and would probably at some point tell me, “it’s about time.”
My sister’s wedding, waiting with Mom and I while my sister gave birth to his first grandchild, and holding that baby were three of his favorite days. He’d be asking the girlfriend and I when we were going to give him a child so he could decide who makes prettier babies.
He’d let me know I was older than he was when he had me. I’d tell him that Mom had me and he’d tell me to go screw off.
He’d have learned to smoke cigars by this point just so he could sit and smoke cigars with me when he came to visit. (and he wasn’t allowed to have cigarettes anyway)
He’d love that drink scotch but think I’m being cheated by the prices I’m willing to pay for a good bottle.
You know what? I think I get it now. It’s a ludicrous question to ask, would my 10 year deceased father and I be friends? You can’t separate who I am without acknowledging that I’m his son. You can’t define who he was, both good and bad, without branding him as my father. If he hadn’t gotten sick he’d be 82 now, and I have no idea who that man would have been. He doesn’t exist in this instance of the universe.
If he hadn’t gotten sick we wouldn’t have shared the relationship we came to have, which was stronger and more evolved than it had ever been in our lives. We would have found our equilibrium as adults sure, but it would have been a lot more dancing around and not as profound.
By the time he died, Dad and I weren’t father and son. We weren’t even brothers. That sick and old man was in every way an extension of me. An extra-physical organ of my own body. Our co-existence was brief but spectacular.
I was wrong. Adam32, Adam42, and our father aren’t an atom. Adam32 doesn’t exist anymore, and Adam42 can’t exist in the same world as his father.
By the time my father met Adam32, they were a bonded pair. They’re not an atom, they’re quantum particles. When Dad died, it was like one of those quantum particles getting caught on the bad side of a black hole’s event horizon. He disappeared forever, and Adam32 screamed off into space to become the Hawking radiation that is Adam42.
As Hawking radiation I won’t last long either, but life is short, isn’t it? Too short. Whether you’re 25, 32, 42, 72, 92, 102, our spin on this unstable little blue rock is awfully short in the scheme of things. As Hawking radiation it’s also my job to make my presence, and by extension the presence of my lost companion particle, well known. That feels about right.
And as a quantum particle, I exist in a number of states simultaneously. That would mean Adam32 still exists in me. It would also mean I’m in some ways my father, and they both only disappear when I try to observe them. They collapse into me as the devil and angel on my shoulders, familiar and yet far away voices in my head.
I think they probably alternate jobs.
I’m okay with this arrangement.
Shit. I’ve got two more days to go.