These are things that persist ... all the doo-dah-life-long-
These are things that loom up and stretch out from the Past.
These are the things that I reflect upon about this time of every New Year dawning ...
They're not all bad.
But, still, they typically have shades of gray.
Even when they might have had a relatively positive influence in our lives. A set of principles derived, a lesson learned, something gained.
They can even have a smell to them.
Fading, or wilted and rotted, roses.
They are beautiful ... if delicately pressed.
They are coarse dust if pressed too hard.
They shimmy and skitter up and down walls in back corners.
They disappear when you turn on bright lights ... or when you shut those lights off completely.
I prefer a dim gloaming, myself.
Showing just a little Shadow.
It'll be fine.
It's what makes you interesting. If anyone's paying attention...
It's Your Past speaking up on your behalf. Why you are what you are. Why things turned out the way they did.
In essence ... it's your 'Essence'.
I had no "Dad" ... most of the time. Occasionally he would prove otherwise, but mostly...
I definitely had a 'father', though.
He co-existed, for the most part, alongside an old classical guitar, in a perpetual self medicating ritual of alcohol consumption and nurturing one very courageous, oxygen-depleting, pack-a-day cigarette habit. He hid himself away in a back room most days. Sunlight may have had it out for him we gathered. We'd hear from him occasionally if we got too loud.
There is more.
But at the risk of writing a novel(!) or accidentally making the man sound evil or that I loathed him (he was not, and I did not) you'll have to take my word on the complexity of the situation for the moment.
In short he could be brash when he was upset and prone to stupid outbursts (physical and verbal) when he was really on a tear. But these were just that: outbursts.
(n.b. - perhaps, in another post, I'll recollect the kinder, gentler moments, too...)
Consistently, though, he was distant ... let's just make that understood.
He is a Shadow now much like all those exhaled clouds of smoke that yellowed the 'TV den' walls. Those vapors that did Museum-of- Science-Display-Case-Of-Horrors type things to his breathing apparatus.
A Shadow, too, in some wrecked cobalt-blue colored automobile.
"Rescuing" himself one night, no doubt. Long divorced. Long unemployed. But not retired. With a failing heart and apparently not enough common sense to call 911.
The result? A once sturdy engine-block hood crumpled into a fifty-five mile-per-hour front-end redesign. A near perfect letter 'U' shape gave the car a bull-horned look.
American automotive prowess blended into a forced osmosis with an even sturdier Oak along Route 119 in Littleton, Massachusetts.
Died behind the wheel probably before actually making contact. Cardiac arrest. Swerved off the road. Met Fate. Proved, or Disproved, Catholicism in one masterful, fell swoop.
Damn near lucky he didn't take someone else with him.
At some automobile accident graveyard.
A blue tarpalin sheet covers the entire car, shroud-like, it is so bloodied and damaged. The same shroud covers this memory.
"You may not want to look. Hasn't been cleaned up yet. It's still pretty bad inside.", warns the Massachusetts Towing Authority man.
'But I have to.'
Brother Mike is there, too.
The steering wheel practically faces the driver side door and is nearly pushed up against the seat-back.
No one lives through this.
'I need to get his wallet on the passenger-side floor. Someone, something, took it from his shirt coat pocket and callously launched it onto the carpet in front of him.'
The stench of gasoline permeates everything. The passenger seat saturated in an earthy, dirt-red colored fuel of a human kind. Something lacerated his throat. He leaned to one side to drain himself out.
Sparkly-green glass shrapnel litters the soaked-through fabric everywhere.
Now mine to own.
Until another generation needs to know.
"Dennis, for God's Sake, answer the phone! It's your Mother! You need to call me! Right away..."
New York City.
Uptown Manhattan, more specifically.
A phone message. Left on my home answering machine.
Another Shadow now, too.
('Damnit, Mom, I'm at work! Why didn't you call me there or just leave a message!? What can be so important!?' thinks aloud in best 'Monday Morning Quarter Backing-style'...)
"Hello, my name is Dennis. I'm calling to follow up on your advertisement placed in our magazine, The Review: Latin American Arts & Literature. I understand you had placed the ad in last June's edition of The Review. I'm wondering whether your advertising needs are being thoroughly met? We want to hear your feedback. Please give me a call back at your earliest convenience at..."
"Dennis. It's your Mother again. Why haven't you called me? Didn't you get my message from earlier? Call me. Please! PLEASE! It's very important."
Tick. Tick. Tick.
"Hi, this is Jo Anne from the So & So Art Gallery returning your call. We're very disappointed in your service. The printer's ink in your last edition? It's all blurred. You can hardly read the copy! Utterly undecipherable! Nobody can read this! Now, I'm trying to keep my composure but it's inexcusable! It's bloody terrible! We want our money back. We won't be using you again."
Must check my messages.
Dial home phone #.
Punch personal code #.
Press check messages #.
"Y.O.U. H.A.V.E. S.I.X. N.E.W. M.E.S.S.A.G.E.S..."
"OK. I understand if you can't answer your phone right now ... but it's about your father. He was killed today. In an accident. A car accident. Your father is dead. Please, Dennis, call me..."
Why didn't you call me at work?
Why were there a half dozen messages on my answering machine when I called home tonight? I told you my WORK number! Call that in an emergency! Call that! Goddamnit!'
All day long: Messages left to the ether.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
"Hello? Is this Jo Anne? Hi, it's Dennis from The Review again. You know what? Go fuck yourself. My Father is dead. Did you get that, Sweetheart? Fuck you and fuck everything about your pretentious Upper West Side art gallery. How's that for composure, you miserable sow?"
Dignity (or, the perceived execution of it at the time): 1
New York City.
Park Slope, Brooklyn, more specifically.
Later that evening.
In my bedroom.
You didn't even hear your roommate on her side of the apartment while you were shouting at the walls.
"Die. My Father is dead. I'm in agony. And this was a man I hardly knew. Please, just leave me alone... so I can figure this all out."
'Why is this so important?', I ask this over and over again, 'If he wasn't there, if you hardly knew this hidden man, why is this act worth so many damned-ably draining troughs of tears?'
Foundations are usually born from these.
The things we reference as guide posts in our time of need as "Adults".
'What would my Father do? How should I respond to this or that situation? How will I ever make it out of here unscathed, unbeaten, un-phased, or simply alive and in one piece? A father would know, wouldn't he?'
I'm still waiting.