C’est La Vie
When my cell rang last Monday night, I was a little surprised at the display on the caller ID, because it wasn’t my birthday. It wasn’t Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, or even Mother’s Day. I was just in the process of making dinner, same as any other random weekday evening, as far as I knew.
I listened, mostly. Generally, that’s all anyone can do whenever she talks. Usually, she barely takes time to breathe, much less to allow for a response, but if you can manage it, you might be able to slip in a half-interested “hm-hmmm,” every now and then just to let her know you haven’t fallen asleep or left the room (even if sometimes, I actually have). This time, though, there was a greater sense of urgency about her rambling, almost as if she were in a hurry, which made her dragging out the process of getting to the point a bit more excruciating than normal, and I had to force myself to consciously resist the urge to put the phone on speaker and set it down. I had to find out what she wanted.
When she finished, I thanked her for the information, and went back to my routine.
After we’d eaten supper, watched a bit of TV, and Chiclet had showered and headed to bed, I said aloud in no particular direction,
“My Father is dead.”
I don’t actually remember what Homebuddy’s initial response was. I followed up in a bit more detail, relaying the few sensible snippets of fact I’d painstakingly sorted from the discombobulated babble Mother had driveled through the phone. Wait, no, actually, he wasn’t really dead, in fact… not completely, not yet. He’d been pronounced dead at the scene when he was discovered alone in his apartment, face down and unconscious, apparently not breathing. He was taken to the hospital and placed on life support after he’d gasped for breath as paramedics struggled to hoist him into the emergency vehicle. Mother said she’d called everyone she knew in her church group, and they’d have a prayer vigil going all night long. (Not surprising… I’m fairly certain she’d do the same thing if she really wanted a new pair of shoes.) She wanted me to know that it wasn’t over just yet, in case I wanted to pray for him too.
Somehow I’d managed to let her say it without choking. Pray for him? Me? This may not be over yet, but it will be soon. I'm sure I could just hold my breath until then.
Called the folks and told them, mostly so they didn’t find out later and end up feeling hurt that they didn’t hear it from me… not really sure why they’d want to know, but just in case.
Mother called again Tuesday night. No change. I didn’t hold my breath quite as well this time… I nearly got dragged into a ridiculous argument. I felt my ears getting hot and hung up before it could escalate.
Dammit. I hate doing that. Guess I’m not nearly as stoic about this whole thing as I might would have thought, or maybe as I imagined I should be.
Called Mom. She reminds me that I’m not crazy, so it’s good to get another perspective.
Mother called back Thursday night. Still no change. Dillon’s going to pull the plug tomorrow.
Apparently, he’s an uncle. Turns out there were a few. I never knew, though I suppose it doesn't really surprise me... never knew a lot of things about the man. I learned a bit about his background… his father died when he was only 7, mother remarried and had three more children, then husband #2 walked out on them only a few years later… something of a picture of the man starts to form.
Mother gives me a phone number for my uncle, says I should call.... Michigan? When did he move there? 12 years ago? Not really sure what there is to be gained from talking to this total stranger but, I guess, he shares some undetermined portion of one quarter of my bloodline, though, I don't really know what that amounts to…
Mother… Mother… MOTHER! You have to let me go if you want me to call him…
We've never met or spoken, but I believe my Mother may have told you to be expecting my call...
I guess you could say I'm technically your brother's next of kin...
Talking to Dillon is... surreal. He has a pleasant tone and demeanor, and I genuinely liked him almost instantly, but it's hard to know what to feel. He has a history with my father that I can never know, and yet, my history with him is one I can never tell. To each of us, there are two very different men in our lives who bear the same name.
Dillon doesn't know about our past. He didn't ask, and no one told him. He loves his brother, and I couldn't see any reason to diminish his impression of the man. He knows that my father didn't abandon his family... he knows that he lost us, and that something that drastic doesn't happen by making all the right choices.
My uncle apologizes for the circumstances under which we are "meeting." Nothing to be said or done about that. We exchange a few niceties, and a bit of general get-to-know-ya basic history... how do you sum up the last 4 decades in a few minutes? What highlights of your life do you share with someone who doesn't know you at all, but has a legitimate interest in wanting to? What do you ask about the life of a man who is responsible for your existence, but you've spent the last quarter of a century trying to forget?
There are no easy answers.
But I listen. And I learn.
Was my father still drinking? Really? Never?
I guess people can change...
Dillon walks through the process... he'll go in at 10am, sign all the paperwork, and they'll turn off all the machines. It shouldn't take more than 15 minutes.
I can begin to feel my face betray me. My temples pulse, my eyes narrow. My jaw sets, almost as if instinctively to steel against a quivering bottom lip... my nostrils flare, holding back a sniffle. And then...
What the...? Are those tears? Am I crying??
By the time Homebuddy arrives, I've completely lost my grip on any sense of control. I don't even entirely understand why.
Homebuddy isn't the best at handling emotion, but he has been around this particular block more than once or twice.
He told me,
Emotions can't be "logic"ed. They can't be reasoned with, they don't need to be sorted... you don't even have to understand them. You just have to experience them, in your own way. There's no right or wrong way to how you go through this. Just let yourself go through it naturally however you do, and know that you will get through it.
I took Friday off work. The phone call didn't come at 11, or 1, or 3. My "new" uncle touched base with me by 5. He hasn't forgotten me... it just isn't over yet... still. He is gone... there's nothing of him left, but ...it's just a matter of the mechanics shutting down now. Fifteen minutes passed, hours passed... days passed. Yeah, I guess he was always kind of stubborn like that, come to think of it.
Dillon, tell me... was my father a good man?
I don't know how this will end, and I don't know what to make of all of it...
But this I take away...
Know that no matter what happens, life goes on.
So, dwell on it. Or don’t. Feel it. Or not.
Scorn. Weep. Rage. Sleep. Whisper. Scream. Race. Sing.
But when you pray, however you do it, move your feet…
LJ Idol | Season 8 • Week 1 - Topic: WHEN YOU PRAY, MOVE YOUR FEET
This submission has been brought to you though an association with the online writing community forum, LJ Idol.
If you have enjoyed this entry, please feel free to speak your piece, share the love, and pass it on...