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!