Wednesday, September 13, 2017

An anniversary of sorts

Five years ago today, at about this time, my father died. I missed the whole thing. I was on vacation and asleep.

I know, that's not really funny, but it kinda is. You'd have to understand my dad first.

Dude was huge. Not like physically large, although he was 6'3" and 220#, and being big is something that runs in my family. My younger sister Squid, older half-brother, and I all look like normal people, just closer.

But Dad had a personality and the will to make him seem much larger. When he finally died, weighing only some 86#, he was still a major force. He might not have been able to sit up on his own, but he commanded the room.

My sister was in the greeting card aisle at Target. She was just going to pick up a "thinking of you" card for Mom and Mom called and said, "Your father is dying. Do you have anything you want to say to him?" And so my sister had to say her final goodbye, kinda hunched over, trying to not cry, in the greeting card aisle at Target. Surrounded by all those happy, colorful, pieces of cardboard that try to express some kind of heartfelt emotion in fewer characters than a tweet.

We joke about it now. Hell, we joked about it later that afternoon. That's how we deal with things. When folks came up to us, sobbing, at the funeral, we'd counter with, "Quick! Tell me a funny story abut my dad!"

And I was kind miffed that the story had made the news the way it did. I'd kinda wanted to surprise the roomie when he got home and asked how my day had been. "Oh, cleaned the kitchen, worked on Friday's DJ set, my dad died, did a laundry." Naw, I got a big stinky hug instead because he'd heard about it on the radio.

Which was all the more amusing when I asked my boss about bereavement leave. I was on vacation when it happened, remember? I still wanted to finish my last day of vacation but also needed to take the full 5 days, so this would have me away from work for two weeks. My direct supervisor was out in Arizona and asked for the official death notice, so I got to send her all the newspaper and local TV articles. That was fun.

“The great thing about cancer? Everyone will be relieved when you finally kick the bucket.” Oh my lord, no one will admit how true this is.

A week after it happened, there was a neighborhood get-together and someone asked how my folks were doing. I said Mom was OK and "Dad can't complain." She came back to me thirty minutes later to say she'd just heard and how sorry she was. I said it was OK. "It's not like it was in the paper or anything." So, of course, a little while after that, she comes up to me and says she heard how it WAS in the paper and I said yes, I'm messing with you. I WILL NEVER GET THIS OPPORTUNITY AGAIN.

Anyway, back to that Philip Glass video. You see, when Dad was diagnosed in May of 2012, my whole world turned upside down. This guy who had been a huge shadow over my life was getting smaller and smaller--literally--and it was relentless. I felt like I never had any time to rest. Like, I could touch ground for only a moment before we were off again, dealing with whatever, full speed.

And, for me, September is just the month when things die. My dad died; the following year, my 13-year-old cat died; a couple years after that, Danno died. I found the cancer cat video after the old cat was diagnosed. I'm glad Danno didn't have to go through wasting away like that.

Each time this year, I wonder when I'm really going to break down sobbing about the whole thing, over any of them. Getting overly emotional really isn't our dish, coming from stoic prairie people stock. By the same respect, we can't get too serious. Death is a thing that happens and, as you get older, it happens to the folk you know more often.

And maybe it's not really funny but it kinda is: my mom moved last month to be closer to my sister (and the grandson) and while helping packing, I found the plastic box Dad's cremains came in. (Cremation! Don't get buried in debt!) It's been sitting on the passenger-side seat of my car the last couple weeks and part of me wonders how many people have peeked in, looking for something to steal, and seen that. I think I might turn it into a purse.

But I do remember working with the Squidster on a playlist for the funeral. Of course, we included one of the finest funeral songs ever(that had the whole audience singing along). We had the folks from Merry Tuba Christmas play some songs (you can hear a DART train in the background on that vid) and folk from the Reading and Radio Resource (where Dad and I used to record audio books for the blind) spoke. It was a lovely service. And, of course, had to close with a classic.

If, after I depart this vale, you ever remember me and have thought to please my ghost, forgive some sinner and wink your eye at some homely girl.

--H. L. Mencken
If you ever wanted to know where the folks in Hell get their sense of humor, well, here's part of it.

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