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...Til the Fat Lady Sings

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.
     Wait, what?
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… MotherMOTHER!  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…
                 And BREATHE.

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...
                                                                                                                                        ...and thanks for stopping by.


( 26 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 25th, 2011 03:00 am (UTC)
Your format so interestingly goes hand in hand with your structure. The beginning seems so strong, too, with the statements of fact where the reader might expect emotion. Nice job.
Oct. 25th, 2011 03:38 am (UTC)
Thanks. I was going for creating a feeling of increasing disjointedness, to match the process of this experience. I'm glad it came through.
Oct. 25th, 2011 03:34 am (UTC)
Well done. Well written.
Oct. 25th, 2011 03:39 am (UTC)
Oct. 25th, 2011 03:47 am (UTC)
I really like the format of this; it's interesting and unique, and like you said in the comments, it matches the story itself. Good work!
Oct. 25th, 2011 05:18 am (UTC)
Thanks for reading... glad you liked it, and, glad it worked the way I'd hoped it would.
(Deleted comment)
Oct. 25th, 2011 02:00 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much... I'm really glad that came through. There is a lot more of the story that isn't here... I wanted to give that impression without it seeming too fragmented, and for there to be meaning in what was shared without seeming too empty because of what wasn't. I used the space to "hold space" around the untold, and am glad there was enough left around it to matter.
Oct. 25th, 2011 04:26 am (UTC)
may peace find you, or you find it.
Oct. 25th, 2011 05:54 am (UTC)
This seems like an awful situation to be in.

I think even with people we've had to cut out of our lives, there can be grief - not exactly for the person, but for what they could or should have been to you.
Oct. 25th, 2011 02:09 pm (UTC)
You know, that is so true. Homebuddy says that every time a relationship is lost, either through death or failure to connect, what is given up the hardest and grieved the most is the potential you believed in for your future. I don't know that I ever believed there would be potential between my father and I, but, the end of his life marks a certainty that there can't be, and that's another death of its own, that dies the hardest. Thanks for getting it.
Oct. 25th, 2011 06:57 am (UTC)
Glad to see you back, so sorry though that you had to experience this. I'm sorry.
Oct. 25th, 2011 02:11 pm (UTC)
Thanks... nothing to be sorry about, really. This is a normal part of life that everyone goes through... my circumstances are perhaps just a little less commonplace, but, it's all the same piece of humanity. I do appreciate the well wishes, though.
Oct. 25th, 2011 02:45 pm (UTC)
This is so incredibly moving! I hope you can process things so you are at peace. Nice to see you in the competition again and also nice to reconnect!
Oct. 25th, 2011 04:08 pm (UTC)
Thanks. Nice to be writing again.
Oct. 25th, 2011 03:17 pm (UTC)
I may not have particularly cared for the disjointed, broken format of this piece, but I can disdain that while still appreciating the emotional punch behind it and the soul-stripping that must have been required to pen it and set it loose for our perusal. Even without any background on you, save that which you provided here, I had everything I needed to get a glimpse inside your head. It sounds like it was a hell of an emotional rollercoaster.

Thanks for sharing. You've got my vote.

Oct. 25th, 2011 04:10 pm (UTC)
I really appreciate that.
Oct. 25th, 2011 06:47 pm (UTC)
Amazingly written, I am so sorry you had to deal with all of this.
Oct. 25th, 2011 09:32 pm (UTC)
Thanks, though it's nothing to be sorry over... just another one of those matters we all must experience at some point.
Oct. 26th, 2011 09:32 pm (UTC)
I agree with whipchick - the way you put this together made it that much more powerful. very effectively done.
Oct. 26th, 2011 09:55 pm (UTC)
Thanks.... glad it had some punch for ya.
Oct. 27th, 2011 12:05 am (UTC)
Very interesting format. I enjoyed this.
Oct. 27th, 2011 02:56 pm (UTC)
Thanks. It's kind of funny to me that I've received so many comments about the format... the truth is, I format most of my work this way on some level, but, I think what people are really commenting on here is more the lack of fluidity in this piece. Most of the time, even with my formatting, the narrative flows naturally enough that no one really notices the format. In this case, though, the story itself is halting and broken in places, and filled with holes of empty space, so the format stands out more. But I'm glad you liked it.
Oct. 27th, 2011 09:26 pm (UTC)
This was very sad, yet poetic and I really enjoyed your style.
Oct. 27th, 2011 09:38 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you enjoyed it, and I'm sorry it felt sad, but thanks.
Oct. 27th, 2011 09:42 pm (UTC)
Powerful emotions on display here. Your writing packs a punch, just as I remember.

The ending is especially strong, and the tone of the passage is improved by just the smallest deft touch of character revealing humor (the prayer group for a new pair of shoes).

Oct. 27th, 2011 11:16 pm (UTC)
Thanks sweetie.
( 26 comments — Leave a comment )