That headline says more about the state of the union than any post a political analyst could write.
Category Archives: Oh Noes!
The ScienceWerks team has spent the last 5 days researching better titles for this absolute turkey of a film that has convinced America and the foreign press that it is the second coming of the cinemascope song and dance genre. How did it do this? We’ll get in to that later, today the ScieneWerks just wants to present the results of their research. Forgive the ScienceWerks, they’re not great with design and don’t seem to understand proper text stacking.
We here at Vote Simpson/Hemstead have been rather heartbroken at the loss of Carrie Fisher. She was more than just a princess and a general, she embodied a number of concepts that we would carry with us through our formative years and into our adulthood. She first stepped into our minds at about 3 years old. For me personally, Star Wars is my first and strongest memory. And like so many of my contemporaries, that is how we first came to know Carrie, but we didn’t realize the ways she would impact our lives.
As (Princess) General Leia Organa Solo:
She was our first crush.
She was the first strong female character we encountered in movies.
She stood fearlessly against giants, and not only held her own but often made them back down.
She was relentless and determined.
The villainous could subjugate her, but never break her. And in the end, they’d pay.
As her character aged she became wistful, and a little reticent of some poor choices she might have made, but would not stop fighting for what she believed in.
As I got older, and became a fan of Carrie as a humorist, author, and script doctor I found that Carrie as a human being was all those same qualities I loved about her most iconic character. It’s easy to separate Carrie and Leia, but I’ve found in preparing this that I’ve had a hard time separating what I loved most about these two icons, the fictional and real, because as I knew her, Carrie embodied what I love about Leia, and Leia was only a woman I love because of Carrie.
She will be missed.
I’ve had feelings, or sensations of dread whenever I’d be confronted with a fatty cut of meat for the last couple of months. I felt in my core that a dark time was coming, heralded by a malevolent being who would rain down fire and ennui from his teats. This creature would reek of barbecue and gristle, with outstretched arms and a disconcerting, tight-lipped smile that didn’t mask his grotesque desire to consume the world entire. After months I thought I had uncovered who would be the herald of this evil time.
And then Ted Cruz suspended his presidential campaign and I went back to the drawing board.
More accurately, I celebrated with a bottle of sake and some raw oysters. One less person to challenge the obvious Simpson/Hemstead candidacy. But when I went to sleep I had a dream. A dream of that same sensation of dread. In that dream I saw in the smokey, barbecue teat-fire a face. It was the face of this herald of doom, a long and oddly snouted face for a biped.
And he whispered to me.
“I love you.”
“We’ve only just met,” I said in return, in as demure a voice as I could muster when confronted by such a beast.
The beast mistook my tone for coquettishness, “Soon you will know me, my love. Soon you will all know me.”
I was taken back, and even slightly off-put that the herald of doom was so quick to reveal his polyamory. “Who are ‘you all’?”
Was I jealous? Of the beast that had been tormenting me for months? I didn’t have time to think through my emotional state, for the beast bear down on me with his wide-set and oddly vapid feeling eyes that glowed red like the forge of Hephaestus.
He narrowed those eyes at me and said, “Every beating heart will soon beat for me.”
I was taken back. One, that’s just scary. Two, it’s a helluva great pickup line for a swingers convention.
I stammered my response, “Wh-who are you?”
The beast chewed at something emptily in his mouth and then hissed his response.
No, not hissed. Something else. Something more guttural.
“I am Moocifer, and I am nigh.”
I woke up already sitting up in bed, called the ScienceWerks and described the creature I saw.
Well, here we are. Day 10. I’m so glad this is over and at the same time I’m sad that once again Dad and I are at “The end.” I’m posting this from Dad’s gravesite right now, at the exact minute of the 10th anniversary of Dad’s death.
It seemed appropriate to let Adam32 wrap this up, since he’s the one who picked the site where Dad is buried, and he delivered Dad’s eulogy. He knew without question what Dad sounded like, and he’s the one who sat in Dad’s apartment with his body, feeling his chest go slowly cold and just touching his face and hands and chest, and marveling at how different he felt without those little imperceptible twitches of living skin.
Here’s the eulogy Adam32 delivered at Dad’s funeral, and Adam42 would deliver today.
I’ve had 14 years to prepare for today. 14 years ago Dad went in for a cancer surgery that he told me he very well might not survive. That was all I knew. I didn’t know what kind of cancer it was, I didn’t know what his prognosis was other than dad telling me it was very rare and thereby less survivable. 14 years and countless surgeries, ailments and ding dong ditches at death’s door later and I can tell you with no uncertainty; 14 years of near misses doesn’t prepare a person for a phone call saying “I think he’s gone.”
I’ve felt I knew my father well. I’ve spent nearly half of my life helping care for him in one capacity or another, and learned all the ins and outs of the way he thought. I could predict dad’s reaction to every situation, and provided him things before he vocalized that he even wanted them. Yeah, I knew dad probably better than any other person on the planet.
And then he died. Tari and I found pictures we’d never seen. I read letters I’d never read, and I’ve heard stories from so many people detailing my father’s life away from me. Before me. This was a man I’d never met. He was full of life and laughter. He was the person everyone unanimously said could be counted on at any hour of the day or night to help a friend out. Lose your job and sitting at a bar at midnight drinking your lonely sorrow into oblivion? Call Bob. Not only would he come buy you a drink and sit until sunrise listening to you vent, but he’d drive you home, put in a good word for you for a new job, and still make it to work himself by seven. These sort of compassions I’ve heard over and over again. Need a ride? Car broken? In jail? Call Bob, he’ll fix it. A man who laughed and smiled and wasn’t crippled with disease or crushing fear.
I knew dad would give anything for Tari or me, but I never got to see my father strong enough for that selflessness to extend to anyone he called “friend.” For me, if I was asked to describe in a single image the visage of my father when I was growing up, the painting would be of a paunchy, bald silhouette slouched back in a sturdy wooden chair shrouded in a dense cloud of dirty orange, nicotine-soaked smoke glowing in the afternoon sun; a half-finished suitcase of beer holstered on the floor beneath his left arm, a half-dozen cans spread across the table, and the nasal, shrieking voice of Tom Leykis thundering loudly enough to drown out any attempt at conversation. That was the dad I knew growing up. His advice ranged from the practical, “be careful on the roads when it starts raining. We don’t get a lot of rain down here, and the drainage is bad on these streets, so that top layer of oil on the road starts floating and it’ll make the road slicker’n snot.” To the seemingly clinically paranoid, “Don’t wear shoes with white on them, because people in LA will stab you at any hour of the day for shoes with white on them.” Dad’s twilight years became a cautionary tale, a game of worst case scenario against the outside world, hermited in a dark condo next to the flood control. A condo that Tari and I spent countless hours trying to convince him SHOULD NOT be redecorated with chocolate brown carpet and burnt orange paint.
But the truth is, that wasn’t my father. Dad was a carefree, slightly thuggish boy, convincing his brother to swallow a life saver on a string so they could yank it back out and repeat ad nauseum. My father was a serviceman, fixing radios and playing practical jokes in the Air Force. He was an ambulance driver, rushing the helpless, and an occasional loaf of bread he’d mistaken for a severed head to the hospital. He was a beautician, full of charisma and charm and really great at an updo. He smiled all the time and made the ladies giggle. He was a garage door repair man, and so good at his job that even twenty years after he retired from the business, we’d still get phone calls asking if dad could come fix their doors. He was a postman, walking or driving the streets of the city he’d called home since the 50’s, and so loved by those people he served with, that today’s congregation is almost as thick with his friends from the post office as it is with family.
When I think about it… I could see who he was, if I had just looked. Every career he’s carried had one thing in common; he helped the helpless, even if it was in a small way. He kept pilots communicating, he carried the weak to help, he made you feel beautiful and special, he made the simple task of parking your car easier and more secure, and he finished off his career doing the same thing he started with, he kept people connected.
Dad’s most tragic sin was the distance he kept from the people he loved. I think everyone here has a story they could tell about dad’s isolationist tendencies. Some moment they’ve bumped up against that thick headed and stubborn wall dad erected around himself. To my sister and I, the dad we came to know these last fifteen years was something of a paradox; at once hungry for affection, and fighting it at every turn. He was so afraid of dying in a convalescent hospital alone that the two months he was in one following his hip surgery I don’t think he got a good moment of rest.
But dad, you didn’t die alone, and you weren’t in a convalescent hospital. You were home, in your bright and sunny apartment, able to keep an eye on the city you’d called home for half a century through windows that ran the whole of the wall and looked over the valley. And the people who made sure that everything you needed was tended to. Willy and Christian, two men of such compassion that they refused to sleep anywhere other than on the floor beside your bed so that you would never be alone and that anything you wanted, you would have immediately.
The Sunday night before he passed away dad had a great night. He was lucid and he could speak well enough for us to understand him. He made jokes and laughed. We listened to Ray Charles and told stories for hours. The man who lived the last 30 years in such fear and trying to figure out how you were going to screw him was gone. I thought he was really loopy from the medication. He was so full of unabashed laughter. But now, after hearing this last week of stories, I don’t think it was the medication. I think, for that three hours, I got to meet my father for the first time. I will always see those three hours as the last and greatest gift he gave me.
At the end of the night he finally asked for something I think he wanted to ask for his whole life. He he said, “Do you know what would be really great? If someone could just hold me.” So I did. And for about fifteen minutes dad just patted the back of my head and cried softly until he fell asleep. Dad passed away on a Sunday morning. After the divorce, Sundays were the days that Dad, Tari and I would do something together. He’d always have us call him at 8 in the morning to make the plan for the day. Dad passed away at 8:15. We would usually meet at 11 to do…. whatever our plan was, almost without fail. The mortician arrived for dad at 10:50. Dad had one last Sunday adventure for me. He left us at at time when he wasn’t alone, but wasn’t surrounded by his family or the people who had come to care for him, it was the only way he could protect us.
So what have I learned from the lessons of my father’s life and his death? Well, I don’t think dad’s done teaching me, but so far I think I’ve learned as much from dad’s mistakes and shortcomings as I have from his strengths and soul. Here’s what I’ve learned, I hope I got them right
• Live life without fear. Fear steals your life quicker than any death.
• Love without compunction
• Experience everything you can in life.
• Tell all your stories, or better yet, write them all down. The narrative of you is a book someone will want to read later on.
• Listen to all your parent’s stories, no matter how many times they’ve told them or how bored with them you might be.
• Always be available for a friend, the best things to be remembered for are being that dependable rock of a person and being a great listener.
• Laugh unabashedly. Laugh at everything. No matter how sad a situation is, there’s something funny in it. Find that funny, it’s so much better than being sad.
• And perhaps most importantly, be careful on the roads when it starts raining. We don’t get a lot of rain down here, and the drainage is bad on these streets, so that top layer of oil on the road starts floating and it’ll make the road slicker’n snot.”
I miss you too, Dad. And I love you too. Happy Anniversary. Today I’m going to play extreme croquet with the guys who came to your funeral, and then I’m going to my very first quinceanera. And then I’ll be having a really cheap beer and a cigar with you in the back yard. We’ll watch a little Laurel & Hardy, and we’ll listen to some Ray Charles and Frank Sinatra. And then, before I go to bed, I’ll finish up with perhaps the most trite and overplayed father/son song in history: Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s In the Cradle.”
Around day 03 I was talking with my girlfriend about the experience of this endeavor, and I mentioned in passing something that was bothering me a little, and now bothers me a little more and more every day I write these posts. My memories of Dad are slipping.
I’ve talked with my mom since starting this and she’s offered me some insight from her perspective. And that’s one of the great things about the community of family, we can share stories and perspectives and keep our memories honest. With how reclusive my father got in his life, it rarifies the number of people who can offer those insights, so I’m seeing more and more value to this series as a way to keep my memories of right now honest. But there’s something worse than that.
I’ve looked at photos of Dad while I’ve been researching this, and I don’t remember him looking the way he did. Usually they are closer to end of life photos, where his appearance changed a lot, and quite quickly, but it still took me back a few steps to see photos of my father that looked foreign to me. I’m glad I have these photos, so I can keep my memories of what Dad looked like honest. But there’s something worse than that.
I’m beginning to forget what Dad sounded like. Well, let me be more specific; I have his voice very clearly in my head. I could pick it out of a crowd of a thousand people. But there is no way to know if my memory of my father’s voice is accurate or not. Dad’s voice as I remember it could be only a piece of what he sounds like, with the rest filled in by some generic, catch-all male voice, like one of six preset character voices in a video game. The scary thing is a voice can be discussed amongst people, but the nuances of it that make it real are specific to the listener and impossible to describe.
I have lots of 8mm film of him, but that has no sound. I’ve got precious little videotape of him (he died before the tapeless formats became the norm), and of that videotape, it’s becoming more and more difficult to find a camera to play them.
I know that somewhere in my garage, on either an 8mm or hi-8 tape is at least 2-3 seconds of my father’s voice. And that might be it. There might be some of his voice on the originals from my sister’s wedding, but I don’t have those anymore, I gave them to the couple. I don’t know if they have them. I’ll need to ask. But this is the thing that is most terrifying to me, that I’ll lose what Dad really sounded like forever.
So please, if you have footage of your parents and grandparents, capture it digitally. Save it on a durable drive. You’ll want it someday. Some day you’ll be as thirsty for the sound of someone’s voice that you’ll drink even a syllable over and over again.
And for the love of all that’s holy, if your children or grandchildren want to videotape you, don’t tell them no. Don’t get self-conscious that you have wrinkles, or the twitch of Parkinson’s disease, or less hair than you used to have. The gift of you being you in that moment is something that they will treasure far after you’ve passed on and have no more ego to defend.
I hope I find even a sentence of Dad’s voice.
P.S. This is the photo of Dad I mentioned earlier that gave me pause.
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.
“Let me ponder this simple question, am I a good friend.”
That’s the question I was left off with last night in my mind. Am I a good friend? On paper I would probably say no. In reality I would say, “to some.” There are at least as many out there who hate me as who love me. The number those two opposites share, and even the sum between them, is nothing compared to the number of those I’ve met regularly who hold me with zero regard. When I was Adam32‘s age, that realization would have devastated me. To Adam42 it’s simply a matter of fact, and needless to change. I do wish I was a better friend still, that’s a trait we share, but the taxation of life’s responsibilities, and the toll of age and experience has left me on a budget of spirit.
Adam42 has to look back at Adam32 tonight and try to glean in the most unbiased way possible whether they could be friends if they met today.
I’m playing my own version of Looper, but instead of going back in time to kill myself, I’m going back in time to see if I’d want to strangle myself. And I’ll try to make this brief, because yesterday went on quite a bit.
Adam32 and Adam42 share a sense of humor. Adam32‘s is maybe a bit more carefree and enthusiastic than Adam42‘s, but they’re still fundamentally the same. I think they’d feed off each other in that way. But it’s also possible they’d hate each other for stealing each other’s jokes and making each of them feel like they’re not funny. Then they’d get self-conscious, and then they’d just have to leave.
Either is possible, honestly.
This question is one I thought a lot about after I finished last night, and throughout today, and it’s something I don’t know if I have an answer to give to you.
I’m sorry, that’s a lie. I do have an answer to give to you, but I’d like to avoid it as long as possible.
Adam42 takes issue with Adam32.
Adam32 was tired of being at the beck and call of his father. Adam32 wanted to be free from all this so he could pursue his life. Dad was hard to deal with. We got into some absolutely furious arguments over the course of his illnesses. Especially when he started getting some paranoid dementia. Adam32 was ready for this to be over.
Adam42 wants to slap him in the mouth.
Adam32 would avoid seeing his father sometimes because it would just be so depressing. Adam32 would screen phone calls from his father later in life. Adam32 found excuses to not go see his father after he moved to L.A. because he hated seeing how much Dad would degrade from visit to visit, year after year.
Adam42 wants to punch him in the nose.
Adam32 is the person who mentally drafted a version of his father’s eulogy that was all about how crummy his Dad was. Adam32 is the person who pissed away countless hours that he could have spent with his father. Adam32 is the person who decided to put Dad on hospice.
Adam42, or at least some part of Adam42‘s lizard brain, has a hard time forgiving him for that.
Don’t get me wrong, it was the right decision. Adam32 was absolutely correct to put his father on hospice, and Adam42 agrees with the decision. Adam42 harbors more resentment over the hours Adam32 wasted not seeing his father that Adam42 would nearly kill for. And the worst part is that Adam32 didn’t even get it. He was selfish and immature. He was focused on the short term and was blind to the long term. If he knew then what Adam42 knows now…
Adam32 was focused on escapism. He didn’t have a solid job, was behind in his career, was overweight, and felt he wasn’t worth much in general. He wanted to chase girls, play with his friends, and feel like a grown up. It was a feeling he didn’t have much. He’d lived a good deal of his 20’s at his mom’s house, picking up odd jobs where he could, but generally being unemployed. He watched all his friends get jobs, apartments, relationships, CHILDREN, and still he was in a bit of a vacuum. Dad was increasingly becoming the antithesis of escapism. Adam32 had periods of resentment. Not long, but real.
I understand everything Adam32 went through and did, and I understand his reasoning. I just wish he had been a little more prescient. I would love to have had the time he tried so hard to shed. We come at this picture from such opposite corners, I don’t know if we could find common ground.
The quote at the top of this post says that the author is stitched by the thread of absence, threaded through the needle of himself. I’m equally stitched by the thread of absence, but the needle is isn’t me, it’s Adam32. The scars I carry from the puncture wounds of his stitching, pressed through my flesh by way of his short-sightedness, I will carry the rest of my life.
I don’t hate him. I understand him. But I don’t know how well I could tolerate him. I would want to grab him and shake him. I’d slap him hard across his cherubic cheek and say, “I know this is hard, but I need for you to pull your head clean out of your ass and look at the long game here. I need you to not take this for granted.”
I also know he wouldn’t listen. He’d take it to heart, but he ultimately wouldn’t listen. And I can’t change that.
The absence of Dad is the thread, and Adam32 is the needle, however, maybe I can look at this a different way. A thread and needle are used to stitch up a larger wound. Perhaps the larger wound was my immaturity. Maybe the last painful throes of an evolution partly delayed by the unrelenting ravages of cancer. Maybe I should be glad I have those scars.
Maybe, just maybe, I’d react in an altogether different way to Adam32.
Oh, I’d still slap him in the chops, and I’d shake him angrily because he needs it. But maybe I’d also grab him and hold him. Maybe I’d tell him this fucking sucks all the way around. Maybe I’d give him permission to cry into my shoulder the way he cried the last time he saw Dad alive and his dad said in an almost unintelligible voice, “I hate this.” And he answered back, “I do too.” Maybe I’d tell him I forgive him for the time he wasted, but I’d love to have taken a day or two off his hands. I don’t know if we would have ultimately been friends, but I think we would have taken each other’s calls.
Or at least called back reasonably soon after having screened one another to voicemail.
Why haven’t I been putting quotes on pictures of Dad since day 01? See? I’m really flying by the seat of my pants here. I’ll probably go George Lucas the others though, and insert photos when all of this is done. Side note: It’s bugging the living Hell out of me that there’s a typo in the above photo, but I’m racing the clock to start crying, so I gotta just let it go. I’ll probably fix that later too.
And like that, with this post I’m half way done. Its moved so quickly, and yet taken its toll. I’m far more introspective than my girlfriend would prefer right now, as she’s getting her bits and pieces together for her brother’s upcoming wedding. She could use more support I think, and I try to give it to her, but I’m also quite consumed with sorting out the questions put forward in part 1. But she’s also very supportive of me in this endeavor, and that’s something I’ll never take for granted. But still, I feel like a poor boyfriend.
I don’t think I can answer if my father, Adam42 and Adam32 would be friends without first breaking down how they make and treat friends, internally and externally. I’ve been there for the two Adams, but I’ll have to extrapolate for my father, based upon what I saw of him in his life.
I can’t tell you much about Dad’s friendships. I know I didn’t really ever see him “hanging out” with friends once I was in my teens. Maybe once a month with a work friend, and he only had a couple of those. He spent most of his non-work time sitting at our dining room table, listening to the radio louder than a person should reasonably be comfortable with while drinking a suitcase of beer and smoking a pack of cigarettes.
That wasn’t as true when I was just a boy. I only remember Dad out with a handful of friends on occasion, but rare ones. Usually it was a couple or two that we had known from Camp Fire. Except on Sundays. Every Sunday morning during the pre-dawn our social time would begin. The whole nuclear family; Dad, mom, my older sister, and myself would cram into mom’s 1978 white Volvo station wagon and head the 1/2 mile from our house to the Dana Point Harbor, also known as “baby beach” by the locals. Once there, as the sun was just cresting over the horizon, he’d set up beach chairs for he and my mother, lay out beach towels and tarps to cover a square of rarified beach real estate equal to the size of a bachelor apartment, sit down with a big mug of coffee with my mother, and wait for the friends to come.
And come they would. A gaggle. Maybe, I don’t really know how much a gaggle is, but dammit it seems like a whole bunch without being a stampede. A good 10 couples, some with kids, some without, would start populating the beach shortly after we arrived and staked claim, would drop their chair/towels/coolers down in Dad’s wall-less beach front studio apartment and start gabbing happily. And there we all would stay, us kids playing in the water, while the adults sat on the beach, drank some beer and chatted the day away while tanning.
And I do literally mean “chatted the day away,” we wouldn’t pack up to go home until the sun was hanging threateningly low in the sky. This is something we did every Sunday. For years. I can’t tell you how many, because the first film evidence of my life is as an infant on that beach. I can’t tell you when it ended, because it was so much of my life, but I’d wager around 10.
There were several conversations going on in the community, but always at the center in his collapsible, aluminum-tubed throne (which always seemed to reach just a little taller than everyone else’s) sat my mother and father. Dad could deftly throw comments in to several conversations, sling a half-honest insult one direction, then shift his head a little and offer advice another direction, while tracking a third conversation with his enormous radar-dish ears.
That was Dad, charming as hell. Why don’t I remember seeing him with more people?
I look at his old photos and I see him with groups of people, often being the one sticking out for doing something just a little different from the rest.
By the way, that might as well be a picture of my legs. Throw a 4 inch scar across the left knee and that’s me. Weird.
I think, looking at the places where Dad had the most friends; work, the beach apartment he set up every Sunday, Camp Fire, were all places with structure. From that I’m making the leap to think that my Dad maybe did better with “structured fun.” A place with a set of rules, either declared or implied, with a structured activity and a set in/out time was possibly a comfort to my dad. I don’t know. I could be wrong. Mom, if you read this, will you let me know your thoughts on this? Who am I kidding? Mom doesn’t internet. If someone who knows Mom reads this, can you ask her to read this and let me know her thoughts? Screw it, I’ll call her tomorrow.
As he got older, he withdrew more. Once he got sick the first time, he withdrew even more than that. He reconnected with a number of his old friends very late in life, but so much time was lost at that point, and he could do so little. When we crossed the terminator from father/son to father/adult child caretaker he confessed to me on more than one occasion that he was terrified of dying and having no one show up to his funeral.
But what some people knew and I suspect many did not, is that Dad would drop everything when a friend, even one he hadn’t seen in a long time, called and needed something serious. There wasn’t a question. You were always a friend. And that’s what you do for friends.
After he died, I swore that sort of detachment from friends he seemed to carry was something I would never do.
I’ve started several sentences and deleted them here, because I simply didn’t know what the right next thing was.
And then I realized why I couldn’t find the next beat. I’ve been describing myself. I thrive in social situations with structure. High school I would bounce from one group to another, making jokes, throwing casual and half-true insults at people, while listening to what was happening in another social group. I was welcome everywhere. Granted, I didn’t know that then. I felt I was overstaying my welcome, so I’d jump in, be charming, and then either leave or hang back a while.
I have a great number of friends within the Lindy Hop community. But even there still 20+ years after high school, I’m still eager to bounce from one group to another to avoid overstaying my welcome.
At my father’s funeral, a handful of friends showed up. I didn’t expect them. I didn’t even know they knew where the funeral was. They surprised the hell out of me that it would be of value to them to show up to a funeral for a man they never met. They’ll never understand how much seeing them meant to me. I doubt they know that if they ever called and said they needed something, I wouldn’t ask questions, I’d just go. When I asked in yesterday’s post for people to please give me feedback, one person answered. But that person is a friend. A good friend. Her opinion counts for 100,000. On the post before, completely unsolicited, another friend told me to keep posting. That was enough to make this worthwhile as anything other than a personal journal.
But I rarely see any of them.
Hell, Hemstead had a stroke in Washington and I dropped what I was doing. I flew back a couple of months later to help pack up his house to move to Minnesota. But I’ve not been there simply to be social. And this is one of my closest friends. The friend who responded without solicitation I’ve not seen in I don’t know when, and the friend who is the only person to respond when I posted yesterday I see once a year, twice if we’re lucky. And it’s always her down here, never me up there. I’ve never seen their house. Or the house before it. And it’s not for a lack of love. I would walk through literal Hell with these people, but I’m afraid of overstaying my welcome every time I see them.
I pulled back a lot from friends after Dad died, and I focused on my career. I was 10 years behind where I should be, and I needed to move forward with it. I didn’t have the security blanket of a father to help me out if I got in dutch and couldn’t find freelance work. But also, I lost the person I had focused the most attention on for 13 years, and I switched that focus to work.
There are so many friends I rarely speak to that probably don’t know the lengths I’d go through with an earnest phone call needing help.
I don’t know if Dad went through this, but the evidence points that way. Maybe I’m projecting myself onto some anecdotal evidence of characteristic similarities, it’s hard to say alone in a dark room at the bottom of a Maker’s Mark (don’t get haughty on me).
Maybe I’m becoming the person I promised myself I would never let myself be when I saw it reflected in Dad’s experiences. Maybe I’m broken. I don’t know. But I know I can’t go on anymore tonight. I have some thinking to do.
“One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. But to sacrifice what you are and to live without belief, that is a fate more terrible than dying.” – Possibly Joan of Arc (according once again to Brainyquote.com)
Okay let me start out by saying it’s really frustrating that in the “information age” it is so hard to find corroborating proof for an attributed online quote. We’re doing something seriously wrong as a society.
Day 4. When I started this endeavor I was worried I wouldn’t be able to fill 10 days. Now I feel I’ve only scratched the surface and I’m starting to run out of time. I hope I do us justice, Dad. My plan of waiting until the very last possible second to write a loving 10 part essay is backfiring. It’s so difficult to release these as first drafts, without even a cursory spelling pass. But it’s the road I’ve built for myself, so here we go. EDITORIAL NOTE: I’ve had two glasses of wine at this point, and I was a solid whiskey in when writing last night’s entry, they’re gonna be a little more stream of consciousness.
This was a picture I took of Dad on a weekend he came up to visit me at my old apartment. He’s wearing scrubs because he was going through treatment for his third bout of cancer and had a pretty frustrating rash over his torso. He’s got stage 2 Parkinson’s disease at this point, as well as C.O.P.D. and a touch of emphysema. As soon as we took this photo he put a cannula back in in his nose that fed him oxygen from a tank he dragged behind him 24 hours a day. He’s not drinking wine, he’s drinking cranberry juice. And he’s not even drinking that, but we’ll get to that later.
I had mentioned I wanted to expand upon the idea of friendship in part 3. I’m pushing that until later because something came to me today while I was running errands that I feel should pre-empt that discussion. Why is this so important to do for me? Everyone loses their parents at some point. I’ve got friends who have lost both. Why is this so special or greater than anyone else’s?
It’s not. Loss is loss. It’s tragic and it hurts and it scars the fragile tissue of our emotions. Personally, I felt compelled to blog about my relationship with Dad for one reason alone; when I was 18 I made a promise to help him through his first cancer. That promise didn’t end until the day he died, a couple of years after he was diagnosed with his third cancer when I was Adam32. The whole of my twenties, and by extension the whole of the early formative years of my adulthood, were consumed with my father and his health.
I think I should say a few things about those years, because they will affect two essays; the upcoming essay on friendships and the essay about Adam32.
The years of Dad’s various advancing illnesses, surgeries, and recoveries are, in retrospect, the most brilliant and hated years of my life. I walked a line between untethered, carefree child and dispassionate on-call caregiver. I’ve never laughed as hard, or cried as furiously. I’ve never felt so powerful, and so worthless. There’s so much of those years I lived as fully as I could, and wasted more than seems possible. I met some of my greatest friends during this time, and we’ll get into them in the next essay. I wouldn’t change any of those years, but I desperately wish I had the ability to go back there and live them very differently than I did.
I am who I am by the forceful will of an abrupt chasm born of those vicissitudes.
If given the chance to change those years, I honestly don’t know how I would answer. The whole experience reminds me of a line from Wargames. At the end of the film, as Joshua has played himself in tic-tac-toe an uncountable number of times, he’s learned that nuclear war can’t be won. The friendly, vaguely british voice of the Joshua echoed throughout Crystal Palace and said, “A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.” Maybe this experiment is my version of being forced to play tic-tac-toe against myself until I learn it is un-winnable to try. I wonder if I will learn that by the end of this the only way to find a solution to this is to never look for one.
You know what? It’s not until this moment I’ve thought of the line that follows the quote above. It’s Joshua’s last line in the movie, “How about a nice game of chess?” Joshua offers it as an alternative to the un-winnable game of Global Thermonuclear War. Until his Parkinson’s became too strong a tell, Dad and I used to love to play chess.
*You don’t really have to watch past the first two lines of dialogue if you clicked the link. I have no idea how to set a custom out point on youtube hyperlinks.
I don’t have much more in me right now, this essay has been a bit more emotionally taxing than I had anticipated. But I wanted to leave you with a wider picture of the years Dad and I spent in this chaotic dance. Let’s go back to that day Dad came up to stay with me and we took the picture presented at the head of this essay. Do you remember that I said he wasn’t really drinking the cranberry juice?
That picture happened because I told my father I didn’t have enough pictures of him, and I wanted some. He didn’t like having his photo taken since he got Parkinson’s disease. Then he saw something propped up in the corner of the apartment. He said, “I’ll take a picture with THAT!”
I don’t know if he thought I would give up, or if he wanted to see what would happen next. I like to hope he was serious, and he was challenging me. But whatever the reason, I immediately said, “Okay,” and then sat him in a chair, propped this thing in front of him, and hustled around the apartment to gather all the things I would want to make this picture awesome. This included a wine glass full of cranberry juice.
Once everything was set, we pulled the cannula out of Dad’s nose and I ran behind the camera to snap a photo of my father that he dared, I conceived, and we fired off without a moment’s hesitation or a word of discussion. Because I get my sense of humor from my father, and I’ll never stop being grateful for that fact.
Okay, friendship tomorrow. My friends, dad’s friends, how I feel we related to them. If you’re still here, thank you. If you are enjoying or getting something out of this, please let me know, I’m becoming self-conscious a hair.
Bon Appetite, Dad.