23 years ago today, I said goodbye to The Old Man for the last time….
After sitting by his bedside, my mother left the hospital for the first time in weeks. Once they hooked The Old Man up to a machine; we knew he was gone.
My mother walked into the house where she had lived with her husband and family. Each room was filled with energy, and every turn was laced with memory.
She walked into her bedroom, which she shared with The Old Man.
She looked at his drawers that were exactly the same as they were before the emergency room. She looked at his clothing, which hung in the same spots. She looked at his keys and the other usual things. My brother went into his bedroom and I slept on the couch in the living room.
My cousin stayed behind at Hempstead General. He slept there until one of the nurses woke him at 4:00AM.
She explained, “He’s gone,” and then she gave my cousin the gold wedding band from my Old Man’s finger.
“I’m sorry,” she told him.
I have resigned to the fact that dying is part of life. I have resigned to the fact that there is a time; a time, which no one knows when or what day, but between birth and that moment is living. And it is between these two points that we leave our mark.
I have grown since The Old Man passed. I have grown in size as well as understanding, and because I have grown, I am able to recognize that like me, The Old Man was not always old.
Like me, The Old Man had to meander through life. He had to find his way and learn how to live.
The Old Man had to figure and adjust.
As children, we never consider the fact that our parents lived before we were born. My father’s childhood stories were almost words without pictures to me. I never considered that like myself, The Old Man had fears or insecurity.
I knew about his frustrations, but I never knew what was behind them.
In the contained mind of my youth, I saw The Old Man’s word as nothing more than tragic misunderstandings.
What did he know about being young?
What did he know about trying to fit in? Being cool? Or less awkward?
And during the project of my teenage life, I suppose The Old Man saw me as unreachable, or stubborn.
Perhaps his anger was no different from the anger his father felt towards him. And in the contained mind of The Old Man’s youth, perhaps he thought same thing towards his father.
“What does he know about being young?”
The Old Man used to say, “You’ll understand….one day. You’ll see.”
He used to say, “I’m telling you right now, kid. You better pay attention in school.”
But in my infinite ignorance, I thought I could get by—I thought I would always get by, until I couldn’t….
“No one knoweth the hour or the day. Only The Father knows.”
Perhaps, if I knew I would have listened better. If I knew, maybe I would have called more, or done things differently.
But had I known, I might have never learned.
I have been thinking about this life I live and the way fate is choreographed. I suppose this is the reason why awareness takes time
…..it’s so we know how to use it.
I rarely go to the cemetery. That’s where death lives.
On New Year’s Day, I will take my annual walk on the beach at Point Lookout. I will stare at the horizon and listen to the waves tumbling into shore.
Wanna know why? Because that’s where The Old Man lives.
See you soon, Pop