If I told you about all that went on, you would never believe the things that happened since I saw you last. So much has changed since the days when we lived at 277 Merrick Avenue. First and foremost, I no longer drag my feet when I walk. I open my mouth when I speak instead speaking through my teeth. I keep my hair short. I read a lot. I write a lot too. Most that knew me then never seem to recognize me now. And that is a good thing. It means they never really knew me.
The world is so much bigger now than it was then. A lot has gone on locally and globally. Locally, everything is different. With the exception of a few face-lifts and new construction—almost everything looks the same. The streets are still named the same. Stores are different now and most of the ones you would remember are long since gone. The spirit is gone now. The sense of civic responsibility is different. No one seems to care and everyone wants something for nothing. The dignity is gone. The value of a man’s word is no longer the value of a man’s word. We are losing more to the generations of access. Everybody wants but nobody wants to give.You can see it in the decline of our society. We are no longer civilized, Pop. Our communities argue about everything but they do nothing.
During my last drive through our old town, I passed by the schools. They used to look so big to me. They seem so much smaller now. I suppose the elementary school, the junior high and the high school were so big because I was so young and small. Or maybe the schools appear smaller because they no longer intimidate me. This proves something. This proves I have grown. It proves that I am not a small boy anymore. This also proves that I am capable now. I was capable then too but I was too insecure and intimidated to know it.
I know this bothered you. This bothered you the same way I dragged my feet when I walked and spoke through my teeth bothered you. I still struggle sometimes. I tend to feel small when I believe the old lies from when I was a kid.
Globally, the world is still as big as it was. However, I am learning more and more that we as humans are infinitely small and getting smaller by the day. Perhaps not in size, but with all the world’s advanced technology and know-how, we are socially and economically heading in a downward spiral. To tell the truth, it scares me. I wonder about the problems tomorrow will inherit.
I was thinking about the old VCR in the den. You remember? I was thinking about the time I tried to teach you how to use it. If you thought technology was difficult then—you should see it now. We have cell phones now. Everyone—and I do mean everyone—has a cell phone. Even homeless people have cell phones. I’ve seen it. Last I saw you, we barely had car phones.
The computer world grew to be more than you ever dreamed it could be. I did my Christmas shopping without leaving the house this year. Everything happens with the click of a button now. Shopping like this seems less personal though. I find that part a little sad. I sort of miss the way a sales girl smiled when I paid for my gifts. I think it added to the spirit of the holidays. It added to the excitement of exchanging gifts. I can’t say I miss the crowds. And I can’t say I mind the convenience of pushing a button and all my shopping is finished. I can only say I miss when the world seemed a bit slower and friendlier.
Technology is lightning fast—except for checkout lines at the supermarket. Checking out at the registers with a credit card has become a 10-step process. If I remember correctly, back when I saw you last, credit card purchases were still giving carbon paper receipts.
I have moved since the days on Merrick Ave. I lived in Garden City. I lived in a studio in Maspeth Queens with a girl. The studio was a basement apartment in a house that was owned by the girl’s family. I moved back to Garden City after an embarrassing phone bill accidentally went to my girlfriend’s mother instead of a separate bill that was supposed to come to me. I suppose an 800 number that translated to 1-8oo-FAT-GIRL was somewhat of a deal breaker in this case.
I tell you love is a strange and elusive thing. I never felt it or knew what it was until I was much older. I had to fall a few times before I knew what it meant to stand. I had to be brave before I understood what I was afraid of. Also, I needed to see beauty to understand what it truly means to feel alive. And I’m alive now, Pop.
I really am.
Like you, I had to go through downfalls. I still make my mistakes. I have mood swings. I feel frustrated more often than not. In my own madness, I reach a point where I want to run away. That’s the funny thing, Pop, I want to run away more now as an adult than I ever did as a kid.
I moved away from the old town a few months back. I moved to a place away from all those yesterdays and the memories I could never seem to shake. I have a mountain in my backyard. I have deer walking through my property. I have skylights on the roof and a room at the top of the house I call, “The Writing Loft.”
There’s an old cemetery across the street that dates back to the late 1700’s. The street is a quietly long, winding road, paved with blacktop and yellow double lines running down the center. I have my share of evergreen trees and a few maples on my property. I have a spreading maple near my front door, a U-shaped driveway with a mailbox at the entryway. I have a small windmill over the spot where my well-water comes from. I have a few special rocks placed around the property—an old slice of petrified wood from the Petrified Forest and a limb from a tree that dates back for more than 100 years.
I have people in my life that I wish you could meet. I have things I wish you could read and stories I would love to share with you. I have a shaven head after a charity event I ran with one of my oldest friends. He and I go back to grade school together.
Do you remember that time you told me how painful it was to watch me live the way I was? Do you remember that day on the boat? You told me it would be easier if I died than to watch me slowly kill myself. It seems unfair that you never had the chance to see me as I am now.
If I told you about all that went on, you would never believe the things that happened since I saw you last. But something tells me you wouldn’t be surprised. Something tells me you would tell me, “I always said you could do anything you want to do.” You would tell me, “You could have been anything you wanted to be. You just had to set your mind to it.”
I did something with myself Pop. I just wish you were here with me to see it. I wish you were here with me to work the smoker when we have barbecues in my backyard. I wish you were here to sit on the deck with me and look at the mountains. We could talk about the days we went fishing or the time I caught my first flounder at Shinnecock Canal. You could tell me stories about the old wooden lobster boat and the days you took it out from the piers in City Island.
I wish you were here to help when Mom passed. At least she’s with you now. She missed you something awful. I’ll have her grave completed in June. After that, I won’t go back to the cemetery anymore. I don’t like it there. The cemetery is where dead people live. The cemetery is where people go to say goodbye. I can’t do that.
There is more I need to say to you Pop.
I guess I’ll have to say it when I see you again . . .
Whenever that may be.
See you later, Pop,
I love you!