Today is a special day . . .
It was 33 years ago when I stepped onto a bus out of Monticello, New York. I was young and scared. The ride was long and strange. It was Christmas Eve and the sky was gray. I chose to take a window seat on a mainly empty bus. My heart was heavy and my head was full.
I watched the scenery change. The sky was gray and there was snow on the ground. It was a white Christmas, which is otherwise known as a miracle for some.
I sat with my forehead against the plexiglass window. I was numb and at the same time, I could feel everything. I could feel the pain and I could understand the severity of the moment. But there was something that wasn’t real. How could this be real?
How could anything be real when it comes to life or death?
I can remember looking to make a deal with The Man upstairs.
Yes sir, I invited God or anyone who would listen into this conversation. I threw myself on the mercy of the courts, so to speak, and as an exchange, I offered myself as a trade.
I said this because, at the time, I failed to see my personal relevance to the world. At the time, I was destructive. I was a thief. I knew how to destroy and hurt. I knew how to scam or get over, which is not to say that I was a great thief or a great conman. No, I was average at best. Then again, everyone finds a way to believe their own bullshit. This way it’s easier to rationalize your sins. Trust me, I had plenty.
The reason for my unexpected trip was because The Old Man had taken a turn for the worse. He had told me that he was going to be okay. He said that he was feeling better. Maybe he was feeling better Maybe things were going well. Or, maybe fate just likes to throw us a couple of curve balls every once in awhile.
I knew what was going to happen.
Deep down, I knew this was it.
This would be the last time that I’d see my Father.
I knew it. . .
When it comes to times like this, regardless of what you know, you’re never prepared.
Even when you know what’s about to happen; even when the doctors tell you the chances are slim; there’s something so odd, so cold and surreal.
Everything was about to change.
As it was, everything else was changing for me. I was removed from my home. I was taken out of my environment. Now I was going back to say goodbye to my Father. How is this fair though?
It’s not fair, not at all.
But The Old Man used to tell me: real life ain’t fair.
Not by a longshot.
To top this off, I was going home unsupervised. There was no one to babysit me. There was no one who would know. I could’ve slipped away if I wanted to. I could’ve taken it on the run. I could’ve snuck in a drink or at least a cigarette – but no.
The thought didn’t even occur to me. The idea of me leaving or running away was nowhere near the surface of my imagination.
The only thought which came to me is when the bus arrived at the station in Hempstead, I realized that I was around the block from a drug spot.
But other than that – I didn’t think about drugs.
I didn’t think about sneaking a drink.
I didn’t think about any of those things.
It’s amazing though, 33 years have gone by since I last saw The Old Man or heard his voice.
It’s been 33 years since I heard him say, “I’m proud of you.”
Do you know what?
Thirty three years is a long time.
I figured that since this is entry 33, I might as well use this entry to show you another aspect of my life. Since you’re my new best friend and my old best friend and, quite honestly, since you’re the only one here with me – I want to show you this. Better yet, I want to show you everything.
At the same time, I don’t want to relive the loss nor do I want to revisit the feelings I had on the bus.
No, I suppose my reason for mentioning this here is because today is Christmas Eve, 33 years later
I’ve often wondered what life would have been like if he had pulled through and survived. I wonder what I could’ve learned from him. I wonder if Mom and The Old Man would have followed through with their plans of moving down to Florida. He would have bought a drawer-full of funny golf pants. This I know.
However, I don’t know what he would have said if he had seen the things I’ve done.
I certainly don’t know what he would have said when I was arrested again or found myself “back in the mix” so-to-speak.
I suppose he would’ve asked, “Didn’t you learn your lesson?”
He would’ve asked, “Didn’t you have enough last time?”
He would have probably wondered how much more do I have to punish myself –
And like a typical son, I’d have probably answered, “I don’t know.”
I’ve often wondered what it would have been like to know my Father while I was an adult. I wonder about the advice he would give or what it would be like to play cards or go fishing with him.
Just the two of us. You know?
(Like the way we did when I was little.)
I suppose he would have been older and gray. Maybe he would tell me about the days of cobblestone streets or the jewelry shop that my Grandfather owned, which was over by Canal Street.
I’m sure The Old Man would’ve gotten a kick out of today’s technology.
You have to remember, my Old Man was born out of The Great Depression.
I remember when our brand new VCR was a big deal for him.
I could only imagine what he would have thought about today’s smart phones.
He was only 62 when he died.
I was only 17
A lot has happened since then. I have grown.
I’ve learned. I’ve improved and I’ve become who I am now, which is something that The Old Man never had the chance to see.
There are times when memories strike and I find myself wondering what The Old Man would think if he could only see me now.
I say this because The Old Man was not an outwardly emotional person. And me? Well, I can say that I’m not afraid to cry and that for me, all that male ego bullshit and trying to be “tough” is absolutely pointless. But The Old Man was tough.
My Father kept his cards close to the vest. He never spoke about his feelings.
He never dared to show a vulnerable side.
If anything, The Old Man reacted when he felt vulnerable or afraid.
He would respond with anger or frustration.
But not me.
No, this type of thinking almost killed me!
The more I grow, the more I understand the similarities between The Old Man and me.
Also, the more I’ve grown, the more I realized that it pays to educate myself on the challenges of our mental health.
I know what depression is. I’ve learned that you don’t have to run from this.
You don’t have to put on a show or wear a brave face all the time.
There are times when I think about the fights and the arguments between us and I can feel the childish questions that I wished I asked back then.
My Father used to tell me that I would understand more when I grow older.
He was right.
I do understand more.
I understand plenty.
I also understand where his understanding fell short, which is why I’ve chosen to make certain changes in my life.
I’m not sure what he would say if he could see me now.
I don’t know how he would react if The Old Man was at one of my presentations.
I wonder how he would react if he was in one of the classrooms where the students had a copy of my first book on top of their desks.
I often wonder what he would say if he sat in during one of my lectures.
Then again, I wonder if he ever thought any of this was even possible.
Just to be clear . . .
I say this not to put me down in any way. No, I say this because my Father did not live long enough to see me living as a grown and sober adult.
He missed this.
All he saw was me at my humblest times, handcuffed or sick, or in trouble of some kind.
However, the solace I find is in the truth. He saw me cleaned up.
I wasn’t high or sick and when we said goodbye, the last words he said to me was “You take care of your Mother!”
I just wanted to send this out to you.
I did like you said and you were right. I do understand more now that I’ve grown older.
It’s been 33 years.
Or in other words, it’s been a lifetime since we last spoke.
I still talk to you. Although, I’m not sure what you hear or what you say.
I know that we had our differences. I also know that none of this was easy on either of us –
But look at this.
See this here?
This is a journal entry which will eventually be published. If you look, you’ll see there is someone here with me.
This is my witness.
I’ve invited them to see what we went through
(So they can learn).
Pop, I don’t know what you can see but I do hope that you’d be proud.
By the way, they’re going to fly me to Chicago.
Can you believe that? They’re going to fly your baby boy to Chicago to do a seminar on mental health and wellness in the workplace.
There’s so much I wish you could see. There’s so much I want to tell you. But for now, I’ll leave this here.
Everything else can wait until I see you again.