It’s Christmas, Dad. In four days, it’ll be two years since you left us. Mom left two days shy of five months before you. You felt you had no business still being here. You were clear on that. It is most certain you willed yourself to leave. It is possible for a human to die of a broken heart.
Exit the building
At the time, the world as you knew it was making its way down the poop shoot. But I have to admit, what we’ve got going on now is whole nuther level, Dad. We’re flushing the toilet and the sucker is backing up.
But you and the others have skedaddled on out of here and left us holding the bag. Ciao, bambina!
Would it have helped if you hadn’t gotten so disgusted with it all? I mean, was it good you kept up your ritual of watching the nightly news? Because it was painful, at times, watching it with you. Our historically lively conversations about world events got reduced down to you shaking your head along with an almost inaudible, I don’t understand. How did we get here? You found it all incredulous.
The rules laid out
We had it rammed into our heads as kids not to call someone a “bad” name. (How would you like it if someone called you that!?) And there you were, having to watch people in high places calling each other bad names. (Who the hell raised these people!?)
I have the flag they gave me at your service. It’s in a lovely case, a gift from a friend. And, the plaque from the VA with mention of your Purple Heart is on the back of the stone. You rarely spoke of the war or the bullets you took that brought you home to meet our mother. I think, for the most part, you were proud of your medals. But it was in your elder years you finally spoke of the senselessness of the war and how you felt you were all just babies and you shipped out only to watch your friends die. Under your breath you’d snarl of the deadliness of human greed and ego. How long had you felt that way? Because if you thought that for a long time, you never said. Or, was it when you got older. So many things became clearer then, I know. Maybe that’s one of the reasons you declared you’d vote for a woman.
Mom and I talked often about how we felt women should hold the majority of leadership roles. Mom said a woman found it easier, second nature even, to be sensible, compassionate and strong at the same time. Of course, I agreed. (But I’d felt that way fifty years ago! Remember our arguments?) And you finally agreed on that too, Daddy. Everyone was surprised that you wanted to vote for a woman when you got the chance. Everyone but me. You said men mucked it up long enough. And you had seen firsthand the rockstar strength and compassion that was brought on by a woman. You had witnessed that next level ninja shit. You were sold on that idea.
Debating with civility
In spite of the insanity unfolding in the world, we tried to get into our philosophical banter like we used to do. But it wasn’t the same. It was the most fun at holiday time with PaPa. I was a baby rebel at that time and tried to get a thought in the middle of the two of you but you and he were masters. So, I sat back and listened. That’s how I learned the art of debate.
But there was another reason we couldn’t quite get into it like we used to, Daddy. We had both gotten to the point where neither one of us could make sense out of any of it anymore and we were both tired. I mean, there you were, looking at the world through the lens of someone from another era who spent much of his adult life in a uniform. First in the Army, then in law enforcement. I watched you try to make sense of kids getting shot in school with repeating rounds. You were horrified. Maybe it had to do with the fact you were a snub nose 38 kind of guy and could not for the life of you understand how it could happen. (Why do they need to have those kinds of guns in their homes?)
A temporary distraction
That’s when I would reach for something to lighten it up a little for you. For you. The guy who was looking forward to getting sprung from this detention hall called life.
So, I told you a story. Of how on my drive home from work, there’s a particular stoplight by the underpass to get on the ramp of the highway. When I stop there, I’d made a habit of watching the birds lined up on the wires. They were mesmerizing. (Yes, I’m that person you’re behind and honking at when the light turns green).
There were tons of these little birds sitting in groups or pairs all in long rows chattering away. I told you how I thought a bunch of them were shaking their heads and clucking about all of us humans down here, driving fast in all directions. I told you how I thought those little birds felt sorry for us. That made you chuckle, but your expression told me you agreed with them.
And here we are
Everyone says they’re glad you and Mom aren’t here to see what’s going on and live through this chapter we’re all going through. I guess it depends on the hour of day for me whether I agree with them or not. It’s a paradox, Dad. Just like life.
You see, I remember all our conversations. And I did my best to listen, not just to your words but between the lines too. Which was somewhat easy, because let’s face it, you didn’t beat around the bush. Sarge. The problem, Daddy, is that I wasn’t done listening. But you had felt you’d said enough.
One of these days, it will soon be all over, cut and dry
And I won’t have this urge to go all bottled up inside
One of these days, I’ll look back, and I’ll say I left in time
‘Cause somewhere for me I know there’s peace of mind
There’s gonna be peace of mind for me, one of these days. ~ Earl Montgomery