Him: What are you doing today? Me: Same thing I do most days when the kid’s not around. Drink and randomly yell out “Motherf___er!” (pause) I’m surprised to hear from you. Him: I’m surprised to call. Despite our differences, I’m legit sorry about your dad and wife. (long pause) There’s work if you want it. Me: I like that you get to the point. (thinking) Maybe. Maybe it’s time.
As did Alison’s best friend.
Her: Hey I’m near your casa because my neighbor’s singing at a bar near you. Know you’re likely not up for a drink or maybe you’ve been drinking too much already but felt wrong to be so nearby and not offer a drink. Me: Cool. I’ll pop by.
Ended up walking her home a mile north and forgetting my camera at her pad.
Although, some women transition between the circle of friends and hard-to-say more than others.
Me: I feel guilty about things, sometimes. That I’m keeping you from finding your person. Daisy: You’re not. Actually, I find it a bit funny-slash-conceited that you think every woman in the world is in love with you. Me: Not every woman. (thinking) Just the ones that meet me.
It’s all a bit complicated. Then again, nothing in my life is ever simple.
Gradgirl: I’ve got to think of an excuse as to why I can’t show up tonight. Me: You’ve got so many shady secrets. Her: Oh, Logan, (getting up) you are my shady secret.
Cause it’s the gracious thing to do. And being gracious means doing things for the comfort of others over the comfort of self.
And the last place on the planet I wanted to be was in that room. But I had to do it because he woulda wanted me there for my mom.
My father, who was raised speaking Japanese with a Japanese name, was nothing if not gracious.
The tributes to him always mention how he went out of his way to make his guests comfortable – picking them up from the airport, cooking lavish meals for them, teaching them what he knew about so many varied subjects.
He taught me how to be polite and, by extension, how to be loved. Because in a world of selfish and rude people, I think that meeting someone that always listens to your stories after offering you a bowl of chili and a glass of rum is refreshing.
Could just be the rum, I suppose. I digress.
Everyone that came into my parents house got a cup of tea, food, and pleasant conversation.
Perhaps that’s why Alison and he got along so well. She would always be upset with me if we had guests and the house wasn’t immaculate. Because a guest has to have a clean and neat place to stay. She was nothing if not gracious.
Alison is gone now but I do what I can to keep up the lessons she taught me to give to our son. I loved her so.
My father is also gone now. I loved him so. But he still looms large over me as a man, as all good fathers do.
Hope I do the same for my boy.
You know, I don’t ever call my son by his given name. I call him by my father’s name. As do the members of my family and some of hers.
Cause I wait for the day he asks me why and I can smile, sit down, and say, “Ah, sit down. Lemme tell you about my dad. He was a great man. I loved him so. Still do.”
Suppose I’ll write more on that when I sort things out. Whenever that’ll be. For now, let me tell you a quick story:
When my father first met Alison, the two somehow got on the topic of hard-boiled eggs. You see, he was an amazing cook and a chef in his younger years.
He asked her if she knew how to keep the shells from sticking to the egg when they cooked. Alison said she didn’t know.
So he pulled her aside and whispered into her ear.
Her: (laughing) Really? Him: (smiling) Yes, it’s true. Her: I’ll try that next time. Me: (to Alison) So what’s the secret? Her: (laughing) If I told you, it wouldn’t be a secret. That’s between your father and me.
She never told me because secrets are special things between people. But her hard-boiled eggs always came out perfectly while mine always came out like crap. Still do.
If there is a heaven, hope they’re hanging out, trading recipes. She always loved to see him, and he, her.
Which makes sense – to know them was to love them.
My son’s favorite song right now is Uptight by Stevie Wonder.
The thing is that this is the song always made me think of both Alison and my dad. Probably why I play it for him so often.
The lyrics are below.
My father came here with nuthin. I was definitely born a poor man’s son.
But he refused to stay poor for long – people with talent rarely do – and I’m forever grateful for all he sacrificed for us.
You know, I think that the dirt poor kid from Queens in me makes up more of my soul than I’d care to admit.
But it doesn’t matter. Not really.
Cause my dad and a beautiful girl named Alison McCarthy loved and believed in me. That means I must be somebody. Even if I was born a poor man’s son from Queens, New York.
I dunno what I am without them. Now, I’m forced to find out.
God, I miss them both terribly.
Baby, everything is all right, uptight, out of sight
Baby, everything is all right, uptight, out of sight
I’m a poor man’s son, from across the railroad tracks,
The only shirt I own is here on my back,
But I’m the envy of every single guy
Since I’m the apple of my girl’s eye
When we go out stepping on the town for a while
My money’s low and my suit’s out of style,
But it’s all right if my clothes aren’t new
Out of sight because my heart is true
She says, “Baby everything is alright, uptight, out of sight.
Baby, everything is alright, uptight, clean out of sight.”
She’s a pearl of a girl, I guess that’s what you might say,
I guess her folks brought her up that way,
The right side of the tracks, she was born and raised
In a great big old house, full of butlers and maids
She said, “No one is better than I.” I know I’m just an average guy,
No football hero or smooth Don Juan,
Got empty pockets, you see, I’m a poor man’s son
Can’t give her the things that money can buy
But I’ll never, never, never make my baby cry,
And it’s all right, what I can’t do,
Out of sight because my heart is true,
She says baby everything is alright, uptight, clean out of sight
Baby, everything is alright, uptight, clean out of sight
Baby, everything is alright, uptight, ha ha ha ha, yeah,
Baby, everything is alright, uptight, way out of sight
Baby, everything is alright, uptight, clean out of sight
Gradgirl: I’m reading your online dating profile book. You can be my dating coach! Me: (laughing) Sure. Her: Do you think you’ll ever do it yourself? Get back out into the regular dating world? Me: (shaking head) I’m not ready for anything like that. I’m gonna stop wearing black in 2018. So maybe then.
If I ever did write one, it’d probably sound a lot like this:
Works in a non-profit or just likes to help people. Highly educated with at least a masters degree and two foreign language skills. From a good family, preferably military, with close ties to them. Likes to clean and hates to cook. Wants children. Eats chili. Strong resemblance to Jennifer Aniston but with green eyes (preferred). Self sufficient. Likes to sing to me almost every night and never comments on my constantly singing off-key. Ideally, always wants to have dinner with me. Loves children – and adults – that eat predominately peanut butter. Kindness a major plus.
There’s not much to do these days but wait. So I pass the time with conversations and trying to get back into the real world.
It’s hard watching the news lately. Partly because of Trump and his racist idiocy. Partly because both Serria Leone and Burkina Faso are in the news lately.
Alison used to go both nations regularly to try and help people. She put herself into harm’s way all the time for others and I could not have possibly been prouder of her.
That Trump and his ilk are alive and she is not enrages me.
A buddy of mine and I met up for lunch the other day. He told me his mother committed suicide. I never knew.
Me: How did you survive that? I’m asking everyone because I don’t know how to. Him: (shrugging) You do, somehow. But you never stop being angry. I’m angry right now thinking about it – and that was years ago.
It concerns me that my son is around me so much. I’m told they absorb everything. So I try my best to hide it all. The anger, the sadness, the creeping madness.
Me: I worry about the kid. I mean, a few times a week, I gotta put him in his crib so I can go to the bathroom so he doesn’t see me cry. That’s not normal. Gradgirl: (gently) That totally normal. (laughing) That’s probably the most normal thing about you.
He and I sing a lot of Jackson 5 and Stevie Wonder to pass the time. I do, rather, and very off-key. He just claps.
Me: Man, you better develop some rhythm when you get older; your mom was the best dancer I knew. Him: (laughs, claps off tempo)
And I find what little amusement I can here and there.
Me: College? (thinking) I graduated in 1993. Daisy: I was one then. Me: Gah! I just threw up a little in my mouth. Her: Me too!
There is no way I could possibly do any of the things I do for my sanity if not for my sister and mom watching the kid on the weekends. And my sister has a full-time job and two rambunctious boys of her own.
Doubt she’d approve of any of my weekend extra-curricular activities but she helps me anyway.
She used to have a picture of the three of us – her, my brother, and me – with a quote from an Aesop’s Fable about how twigs can be broken but three twigs in a bundle cannot.
I liked that picture. Both for the quote and because I looked good in it.
Funny – the only thing that survives my pathos is my vanity.
My dad’s back in the ER.
With Alison, my brother was a huge help as he was a doctor. He answered every crazy question I had for him at all hours of the day. He insisted on being here for Alison when he knew her time was coming.
And now, he does the same for my father. Dunno how much sleep he gets.
I’m reminded of a scene in the Godfather – both the book and the film – where Vito Corleone tells the undertaker Bonasera, I want you to use all your powers, and all your skills. I don’t want his mother to see him this way …. Look how they massacred my boy…
I used all my research skills to try to save Alison and my father.
And my brother used all his medical knowledge to do the same. All with the same result.
I also used all my legal skills for the dirty work of getting together everything I needed to take care of Alison when she was here and after she was gone.
Last week, poured myself a stiff drink, sat down at my computer, and drew up the paperwork I had for Alison, took out her name, and typed in my father’s. Then I edited them for his needs, went to his bed and went through everything with him.
It’s a fraction of what my brother does for him but took all the strength I had left. Which is not much.
Me: Sign here. And here. Initial here. I have to notarize that now, Dad. Wait…OK. Him: (tired) Is there a lot more? Me: Not a lot. (clearing throat) We’re almost done.
Then came back here and drank myself silly. Spent the rest of the night in a daze.
Daisy: Are you OK? Me: No. (thinking) Everything is a copy of a copy of a copy again. But it’s better than reality. In a way, none of this is real. You and me. All of this. The reality is, tomorrow, you go back to your job and life. And I go back to the nightmare that’s mine. Her: Yes. (taking a drink) But that’s tomorrow…
Me: You know, while Alison was dying, I was watching Family Guy. And while my father’s dying, I’ll be fencing and then seeing a woman for dinner. Him: What are you going to do? You can’t be in all the time. You were in it long enough. You’re still in it.
My father’s not doing well at all. So badly that my brother flew in on a one-way ticket from California to see him as we figure out what to do next.
I see a great deal of what was going on with Alison in the end with him, and I can’t bear it. Spent 20 minutes with him the past Thursday and I couldn’t stay any longer. He barely registered that I was there.
Took a walk that was longer than the time I spent with him.
The level of grief I deal with is like staring into the sun; you can’t do it or you’ll go blind. It’s more like you glance at it and turn away quickly because it’s so unbearable.
Here, if I’m in the moment too long, I know I’ll die. Because such a large part of me wants to. To rest. But I can’t, cause I got a little human that needs me.
The main fella that teaches my particular form of fencing invited me to a seminar over the weekend. Good buncha like-minded guys. He and another instructor pulled me aside and said some incredibly kind things to me.
Been there once before; the last time I went, Alison was still alive and my dad was fine.
Was only able to go to the first Friday class when I had to come back.
Gradgirl was there when I returned home.
We ended up walking in the park. I’d not been there since Alison passed.
Me: There’s a song in Les Miserables that goes, “There are storms we cannot weather.” Some days I think I can weather this, most nights, I don’t know. (thinking) You know, in the Bible, there’s a story that goes like this: King David’s son was sick. So he refused to eat, cried, and prayed. But his son died. So he picks himself up, gets dressed, and eats. And his servants ask, “What’s the deal? When he was alive you wept and starved. Now that he’s dead, you’re fine.” And David said, “I’m not fine. I thought maybe God would show me some mercy. But he didn’t. My boy can’t come back to me, but I can go to him. Until then, I have to live.” That’s where I am right now. I know I have to live. I just don’t know how. Her: I wish I could say something. I don’t know what to say. Me: What can anyone say? The other line from from that song goes, “I prayed that God would be forgiving.” For my family, he wasn’t. He f___ked us. I had my own family once. But it was only for five days. And now, I lose the only other family I ever had.
Gradgirl: I’m worried about you being home alone, drinking like this. Is the other girl free? Me: Funny you bring her up…
My mailbox was empty today. Usually, most days, there’s some new awfulness for me to deal with.
Invoices for things I’d never wish for anyone to pay, letters of condolences from banks, overdue notices – all death-related s___t.
There’s so much death-related s___t that greets you after you lose someone by way of a ceaseless stream of banal horrors: Letters, email, voicemail.
For those new to my blog, prior to Alison getting sick, I don’t think I ever cursed in over a decade here. And now my days and this blog are an endless stream of profanities. Cause it helps deal with the constant pain.
Speaking of constant pain, that’s what my father’s dealing with.
So, while I got an empty mailbox today, I also had to deal with things for him.
I can’t interact with him too long; can’t handle the cumulative sadness of everything. It bears down on my soul, like the sky on Atlas’s shoulders.
Feels weird complaining about anything as my dad lies somewhere out there, nearing his end.
And yet, I just want a break from this misery. Even if it’s only an empty mailbox and a day devoid of just another helping of s__t by way of electronic device.
Although I do get some respite here and there.
Artistgirl dropped out of this story but Daisy and Gradgirl are still around; both are sweetly concerned about my well-being and check in on me more than I woulda expected them to.
In addition to the company, they also provide me with some much needed levity along the way.
Daisy: You gave me “Daisy” as a name?! Why “Daisy?” Me: Well, you said that New York puts you in a constant daze so… Her: Oh. My. God. You’re a writer and that’s the best you could come up with for me? Me: OK, maybe not my best work… Her: (goes to fridge pulls out two of three remaining beers, putting one into her bag) I’m taking these. Me: You know, the other girl brings me vodka and you take my beer. Her: (mouth agape, glares) So rude! You never compare a girl to another girl, Logan! Me: Man, I’m…. Her: (opens fridge again, takes last beer) Well, you just lost your last beer. Me: Dammit!
And I did have a moment of pure joy today, too. My son came back from a week away.
Me: Hey! Gimme a hug, you! Son: (laughs, hugs me) Me: God, I’ve missed you so much, kid. (kisses him, sighs) I’ve missed you.
Rose: So, did you clean up at the wedding? Me: No, not even close. I *grossly* underestimated how emotional it would be to (a) go to any wedding, let alone (b) the wedding of the woman that came every Wednesday to give Alison food.
My goal has been to cry less than five times a day. Most days, manage to keep it under three. Some days it’s just once. Those’re rare but welcome.
Cause a body gets tired of crying all the goddamn time.
Lemme tell you: I coulda died the day I saw I Alison on our wedding day and woulda died a happy man.
But I digress. Annabel sees me in the middle of taking pictures at the front of the ceremony and gives me a hug.
So there’s Annabel in her wedding gown – and she’s like the only soul I know there – hugging me in the middle of everything and I lose it.
Like I’m 10 and someone took my security blanket away. Which, I suppose, is kinda what happened.
Anywho, her entire family came over to try and console me.
Her mom: We pray for you. He: I don’t believe he listens.
Turns out that, my max for not crying was about 30 minutes at a time. And I didn’t think to bring tissues so I’m running to the bathroom every half-hour.
Pretty sure some attendees thought I had food poisoning. (Food was great, BTW – I may have cleaned off an entire tray of steak myself)
After all that, I needed a drink. But it was a dry wedding. So I went with two people I met there for a beer around the way.
Later on, another woman, who caught me during cry number six or so, told me she had whiskey in a flask and gave me some of that.
Told the bride and groom that I wished them every good thing, which I did and do.
Me: (to groom) My married life was the happiest time in my life. (choking) I hope it is for you too.
Left early and made it home by 11PM.
The next day, a friend of mine – who just got married herself not that long ago and knows about my single life – asked me how it went so I told her, per the convo above.
Rose: You need to meet some old family-money type girls. Like trust fund babies. Me: Yeah, these looks aren’t gonna last forever – especially in my advanced old age. I’m time limited. Her: (laughing) Botox. Me: I’ll have to botox my entire head.
The truth is that that’s not the entire story of the night.
And Gradgirl stopped by over the weekend but these are other stories for other times, I suppose.
Waitress: Do you want to start with some drinks? Me: Oh, yes.
Me: Kid, you can’t just eat peanut butter all the time… Son: (refuses to eat dinner, throws it) Me: (exasperated) You can’t…you can’t just eat…nevermind. (sighs, goes to kitchen) I give up. Here (handing him a spoon , bowl, and an open jar) go nuts. Him (takes spoon, beams) Me: Not literally nuts, per se – a peanut is a legume. (shakes head) Man, I hope you’re a nice, nerdy kid when you grow up. Him: (smiles)
Was planning on seeing some other friends in Harlem for the fights on Saturday when I got a call.
Daisy: I’m thinking of coming over later. Me: What if I have plans? Her: You’ll break them for me. Me: Dammit, this is true. (thinking) OK, bring food cause I got nuthin but rum, peanut butter, and baby food.