Monday, September 26, 2016

Happy Birthday, Pop

How old would you have been? I'm not even sure. 81? 82? Where were you? Your waning years were filled with invisible movement. You all but died in on me two years ago in that drab room. I drove down 14 hours straight to say stay, then when I saw you, to say goodbye. But you punked us, didn't you? I went back home and you got better. Lawns were mowed, meals half-eaten, cigarettes smoked end to end. But inside, only now, looking back, can I even begin to imagine the new struggle you had to take up. You smiled like never before, joked with all of us, you, weakened from climbing from your own grave.

There were many things I despised about you. I despised them in the way only a child who wants his father's approval can. I hated that you didn't understand me, and I felt less than for failing to understand you. Your ways seemed strong and right and solid, and they often fell at my feet, too heavy for me to lift. Your depression made you angry. I remember your deep voice at the breakfast table. I remember my mother's placating tones. Lying in that bed, I wracked my brain for what I must have done to make you so angry. I remember forgoing morning cartoons because I did not want to leave my room and face you. I had no desire to make myself a target. I already did that during the week at school. Later I would discover you had hit your thumb with a hammer; it had nothing to do with me. Your state of mind made silent mountains we all had to climb. Too often I saw you as a dark abyss where no one would want to be.




But I will always admire your spirit, Pop. When things were good, they were good. You shared things with me. I learned how to change the oil in our '73 Duster, the importance of spark plug gaps. Saying what you'll do and doing what you say. The best part of honor, you taught me. You provided, and we never went without. You didn't even get angry when Ken and I would lose our shit laughing every time you tried to read Twas the Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve like we were the Waltons or something. You pushed us and often just the right amount. Looking back, I now can appreciate the patience you had for the world that got stranger around you as you aged into its future. That strangeness, beginning in whispers from the city, then entering your own town, and finally infiltrating our own home through newspapers and television. In the end, even moving out into the country, you knew there was no escaping it. The future was inexorable, as were you. One of you had to go.

Happy birthday, Pop. I miss you, but you are never far. I carry you forward into this future that vexed you so. It's not so bad. Wish I could have shown you some of it.

Here's something from my time I think you would've liked. Hope you're somewhere good, listening, tapping your foot and grinning ear to ear.