The things we remember. The things we forget. Four years later and these things will float in and out of my head from time to time, like sitting on the back deck in the warm sun and watching a butterfly glide by, strange reminders of memories, the polaroids of the mind. Four years later this day sticks with me, i can't shake it, i don't want to shake it, in fact i cherish it, i keep it warm and safe deep in the recesses of this heart because i need it there, need it for reasons unexplainable to anyone other than me, for that novel in my head that is my life, the novel Bob Wilson told us we're all writing all of the time. Maybe the silver lining is i tend to write some of that novel in my head down. Four years... and the things i remember always bring a melancholy smile.
How is it that what should be the darkest of days can be so bright? Sitting on the edge of a hotel bed, a single faint light cutting through my room's darkness, looking at my feet and taking a deep breath, one of many i'd take that day. It felt like i was the only one awake in the whole hotel and i quietly moved about my room, brushing my teeth, gathering my things, bag over the shoulder, water bottle in hand, the startling brightness of the hotel lobby followed by the icy cold of 4:45am on the shores of Lake Erie. There is a distinct cold to my hometown, a lakeshore Rust Belt cold that becomes familiar to the inhabitants even after they've been away. Walking gingerly through a blacktop parking lot scanning for ice, slipping slightly and freezing in a still sleeping city.
There was that pre-dawn Rust Belt darkness as i pulled up to my father's place that day, i still smile at the fact we were both telling each other to be careful on the icy steps, our conversation as we drove through a quiet and just awakening city, the wandering around the halls of the just opening Cleveland Clinic, getting my dad checked-in an situated. I remember watching my father slip into sleep as we waited for his surgery to begin, how we clasped hands as they wheeled him out as i told him i'd see him tonight. There was the hallway bench and the brilliant whiteness of the morning as the sun reflected off the snow. And there was that moment, standing and talking to the surgeon as this grown man struggled to hold back his tears. I remember the patient kindness of the nurses as they closed down their section and helped move my dad to recovery later that evening, they had their own families to go home to yet they were gentle and sweet as i bumbled and shuffled through a fog of emotion.
I remember being too tired to sleep and too hungry to eat. Opening the door to my father's apartment, flipping on the light, then falling onto the couch. Watching the Cavs and wandering around the place like i was lost, this place that was his home, that he let his wayward and wild son crash at when he rolled into town, this place that would be my home for the next month and how that month would be one of the most serene and enjoyable months of my existence even amidst all the dark clouds that hung heavily about. I didn't realize then but it was a final goodbye, not only to my father but to the city where i was born and raised, one last go round before i walked away forever because though my mother still lived there this city and my attachment was most definitely tied to my father.
And so here i am, four years later, waking up to a cold and icy day, a day where i'll coach my boy Disaster in a basketball game, where i'll talk to the I-mac about emailing coaches and finishing homework, a day where i'll sit and watch the Super Bowl with my youngest son like my father did with me when i was a kid (the older one watching it with his friends as the long goodbye continues), not because we have some particular interest in the outcome but so that we can hang out, spend some time together in the increasingly busy lives of the growing boyos.
I miss Pops... i tell him that all the time, i tell him he'd be tickled to see his boyos, the I-mac would be four inches taller than him now and his boy Lil Mac (Pops' nickname for Nick Disaster), with his skinny, giraffe like legs would soon be speeding past him too. I know he'd laugh at my tales of the boyos, about the challenges of a certain father of a teenage boy and his foul-mouthed little brother and i'm sure he'd chuckle and say, "damn? that reminds me of someone i knew". There are times when i wish he was around so i could ask his advice but then i remember that he taught me everything i need to know about handling this parent shit and so i just do what he would do, i sit back and think on it, i think about how he might have handled it or better yet did handle it with his rather rambunctious young son and take it from there.
Four years later and the hurt is gone... if that is possible? I feel honored that my father wanted me to be the one to take him, i still harbor some feelings about not being able to spend that last night at his place (a post for a different time), talking and hanging out like we once did but that has nothing to do with him. He could have had his brother or my big sis take him but he wanted me to do it, it was my job, as his son, to do this and yet it wasn't a job at all. He was most comfortable with me, knew i'd be the most relaxed even in the most un-relaxed of circumstances. We strolled into it knowing the deal and understanding we were putting our money down on a long shot but sometimes that's just what you gotta do. Hindsight being what it is i understand the Longest Day has taught me about living, about dying, about love, about handling whatever might be thrown at you because in the end we can handle whatever is thrown at us... even death.
So now it's my job to impart this wisdom or knowledge or whatever one wants to call it to the boyos. That if all goes as planned it will be their job to bury me... hopefully under a small tree near the ocean so it can use the organic part of me to grow... and if they ever feel like talking they can visit that tree or better yet just look around and know that my energy is there... not in the form they knew but still hanging about. They will understand you only go around in this form once and to make the best use of it that you can... run, play, work (maybe just a little) screw, sing, dance, laugh, smile, cry, think and most importantly love. Cuz in the end that's all we got. I love you Pops.... wherever and whatever you are...