Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Twenty-Five Years Ago Today

Twenty-five years ago today, I worked a shift at McDonald's. I don't remember a lot of details about the shift, although I believe I got off early.

I remember that part, because I considered for a brief moment going to see Dad at the hospital. I can't emphasize enough how brief that moment was.

It seems to me someone from the family stopped by the store to let me know they were going to see him that day. It seems to me they were trying to give me a subtle hint to go see him.

But that may be the revisionist history part of my brain at work.

The last time I saw Dad alive was the day he went to the hospital. I won't bore you with the details (too late), and not just because many people had done the angry young man thing before me, and many have done it since, and most of them did it way better than me.

Short version: I honestly felt I felt nothing for the man.

I was driving down what I think is called Public Street in Center, but my mental name for it is "the-main-drag-that-isn't-Highway-19". I looked up and saw Wade flagging me down not far from the grocery store. I slowed down and rolled down the window. He walked up to my door and said, "Dad died."

I don't remember my response. I imagine it was a stupid question of the sort that always gets asked at these times. I just remember going home, not knowing what to do... not understanding why I felt anything. Mostly I was just being an 18-year-old going a little crazy, if you get what I'm saying.

After about five minutes (or maybe several hours) of trying to figure out what was wrong with me that I should have actual feelings for this man I'd resented for years for his terrible sin of being so much older than everyone else's father, I had to get out.

I headed to New London to my "other" parents (I've had so many sets of parents, and--not counting Say--I'd guess Les & Paulette were set number 4... Mom and Dad being 1, Mike & Judy Couch being 2, Tom & Toni Vanskike being 3...) and had a bit of a freak out, trying to figure out why I felt anything at all.

Yes, folks, loving me is the same as signing up for the occasional freakshow...

I remember eventually heading back home. Then all the stupid rituals were going full force: people bringing over food, seeing people I hadn't seen in years or even knew were still among the living (I didn't know my aunt Lois' first husband was still alive... nobody ever said anything about him), and figuring out that Glen was somehow a cousin on my father's side--which made why he was always at Auntie's house a little more clear, but was generally upsetting to realize I hadn't known he was a cousin for over 18 years.

Of course, the fun went on past the 16th, but I won't dwell on all those fun stories here. The important part is how I had the perfect chance to learn my lesson about being aware of how I feel while people are still alive, and failed miserably... and continue to do so to this day!


Purple Cow said...

WOW! You sure know how to shock people! Death in itself is shocking as it brings us in touch with our own mortality. But you don't spare punches in this post. I lost two friends recently, too, (coincidently remembered them in my last post just as you were writing this)...If you ever get around to it, read Irvin Yalom's "Staring at the Sun". Very interesting book about learning from death and dealing with our feelings surrounding it.

TAKE CARE! Chin up and keep walking!

Robin said...

Most teenagers resent their parents for something. You resented your dad for being older. Truth is, if it hadn't been that it likely would have been something else. Mark Twain said something about believing his father was the stupidest man he'd ever met when he was 17 and couldn't believe how much smarter the old guy got when he turned 27. The thing you were denied was the chance to know your dad when you were in your twenties and able to appreciate him man to man. The relationship changes. They are still your parents but ~ usually ~ they no longer feel the need to parent you and it settles into a friendship and that is really wonderful.

However, you are right in the fact that you are missing out on something wonderful if you are still unable to achieve intimacy with anyone in your life. You should tell your friends, family, etc. that you care about them and appreciate their friendships or whatever relationship you have them. You said it yourself. You learned a painful lesson about mortality and unfinished business with the people that you love. The next time you go to funeral, and all the times after that, do your best to make sure that the deceased knows how much you cared.

This was clearly a painful blog to write.... even more painful to live. I just don't want you to ever have to write another one. One should be enough for anyone.