Bury Me Deep: Part One
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I was debating whether to go out on Friday night-on one hand I was being good on my new diet, and if I went out I would be drinking, which meant lots of empty calories. On the other hand, it WAS friday night. My friend the Amazon had texted that she was at a nearby bar, but by the time I got the message she and her boyfriend, Big Bad, were about to leave. So I decided to knit on the couch. Dr. Strangelove came on AMC, and I decided to watch it.
My father introduced me to Dr. Strangelove, in the same way he introduced me to Monty Python, Woody Allen, and Mel Brooks. My father and I often spoke to each other in quoted lines-we had a rotation: Monty Python, Love at First Bite, and Dr. Strangelove. It wasn't uncommon for him to turn to me and say "You're going to have to answer to the people at the Coca-Cola Company!" and I would say "Lt. Batguano, if that is indeed your name" and he would retort "I know Dimitri. I'm sorry too."
While I don't often say anythign nice about my father-this banter and love of verbal humor-had a profound impact on my development, and watching the movie I thought of how much I missed having that back and forth with him.
The movie was almost over when I got the text message from the Amazon that A. had passed on. I had known he was sick, dying even, and his prognosis was poor. The week before the Amazon and I had been talking about him and how his wife was coping with the situation. I hadn't been close with A. We had lunch together once, but mainly I knew him to give him a hug and kiss at the local. We barely even spoke that much. Still I knew his wife, who was always very sweet and complimentary to me. And I knew about his daughters.
So I was surprised when I burst into tears. I didn't even cry when my own father died.
Well, that's not entirely true.
I had moved to Upstate New York 10 days before he died. Even so, I had gone back to CT to spend time with one of my oldest friends. I was going to stay with her a few days and then go spend a few days with another childhood friend. It was August and I knew I wouldn't be seeing them during the year so I wanted to take advantage of vacation while I had it. I had spent about 2 days in CT already, and had even driven by my father's house. I almost turned the wheel. Almost.
But I didn't. I kept driving. He didn't even know I was 20 minutes away when he died.
By that time, I was barely speaking to my father. His madness had made it almost impossible for me to spend any time with him without risking serious psychological damage so I had simply cut myself off from him. He couldn't control himself, so I had to think of what was best for me even though I knew he was dying. we had dinner together my last night in CT before the move. He ordered a martini with dinner. My father had been off alcohol, or at least publicly so, for several years-ever since he went into the ER drunk one night. When he ordered the martini, I knew. It meant, there was no point trying to be healthy anymore so he might as well having a drink or two before the ship went down. He had already gone into heartfailure once that year. He had called me from the ER. I was 18 years old on the phone with my father as he told me he was scared he was dying. I kept telling him he was going to be fine. I had no idea what else to say. How do you comfort your crazy dying father? I didn't know. He survived, but I knew that he was living on borrowed time. I just didn't realize how aggressively he was borrowing that time.
The following day, my friend, Jewel, and I went to the mall. When we returned home, Jewel's mother informed me that my mother had been calling. Just then the phone rang. Jewel's mother answered it and passed it to me. Before my mother could say anything, I said "He's dead, isn't he? Pere Lapin is dead." My mother choked out "Yes."
I could see how Jewel and her family transformed when I said those words. Suddenly they were worried about me. I don't really remember the rest of the conversation, but I know I was fine. I was supposed to go to see my other friend, Bridezilla, that night. I called her to let her know of my father's death, but that I was still coming. It's not like my father would be any less dead, might as well continue with the visit as planned until I had to go to the funeral. I packed my things. Jewel's mother was worried, asking me if I was alright.
I was fine. My father was crazy and sick, and he wasn't getting any better. Dying was not only what he wanted, but it was the best thing he ever did. It wasn't until years later that I found out my father had taken himself off the heart donor list. It was his only chance of survival, and he turned it down. He wanted to die.
And I was finally free. Free of not being good enough. Free of not being criticized for not being a basketball player or going to private school or not being healthy enough. Free of his emotional manipulations and insults. I was free.
I took my bag and got in the car. And for about 30 seconds I cried. And then I turned on the car and drove to see Bridezilla. And I didn't cry before, during or after the funeral. I didn't cry for the months afterwards. In fact, I never cried over my father's death. My mother did. She stood behind me, tears streaming down her face, but I didn't. I stood there like stone. Later my mother would tell me that my re-action to his death was so unnatural that she wanted me to see a therapist. But then again, she hadn't seen him the last four years, hadn't seen what he had become. She was mourning a man who died years before.
But I didn't cry. If anything, I was more worried that Pere would find a way to harass me from beyond the grave. He appeared in my dreams, telling me things like "I can't leave you alone for one minute, you don't start fucking up." And finally after a year, the dreams stopped. He was gone, and he wasn't coming back.
So if I didn't cry for him why would I cry over A? Yet there I was, sobbing. I poured myself a glass of Brandy to settle my nerves and called the Amazon. Her text said I should come to visit the family-the building was around the corner-she was there with Big Bad. I double checked because I felt wierd going and I didn't really want to go. I didn't know what I wanted to do, but I didn't want to see them. I'm not good at these kinds of events. People being vulnerable. I don't know what to do or say. You would thinking having lost a parent it would give me insight, but my relatioship with my father, how much I hated him and resented him, it's yet another thing that seperates me from other people. I don't know what it's like to lose a parent with whom I was close, a parent I would miss. But the Amazon was adamant that if I could come over, I should.
I called a few friends. I couldn't explain why I was so upset, but I was. I finished getting ready and began to walk to the building.
I've not been good about keeping up this blog. After the Paris Diaries, I just lost the impulse to blog. It bothered me, and I couldn't figure out why I didn't want to blog anymore. Years ago when blogger friends of mine talked about shutting down their blogs, it was shocking to me. I couldn't imagine not blogging-even if no one was reading. I would get emails from readers asking me not to stop writing, and I would assure them that I would always write. I had been a prolific journal writer since I was 12.
Yet last year, even when I would think to write blog entries, I didn't do it. I had lost the drive, and I had no idea why. But walking to the apartment, I suddenly wanted to write. I wanted to write about how losing a parent is like having a sibling-it's something you have to experience. I can intellectually understand the relationship, but the bond between my mother and her brother is as unfathomable to me as it is for some people to conceive of being mobility impaired. Even if it's a parent you don't like, it changes you. I didn't realize how much until almost 10 years later.
When my father died, I was going to NYU to be an actor. He was thrilled that I was moving to the city, that I was pursuing a career in the arts. Near his last years, he got into sculpting and even dug out the opening chapters of a novel he had written in college. I was going to commit myself to the life he wished he could have led, but didn't. He didn't live long enough to see me graduate as a founder's scholar and then have my graduate school ceremony at Radio City. He didn't live long enough to see me become a professor. He didn't lived long enough to see me become an adult. The last time he saw me, I had all these possibilities open before me, but he never got to see how I developed.
Even if you don't like a parent, even if the parent is long since dead, you never grow out of wanting their approval. There have been lots of times in this last decade, especially after Eric left, that I wanted his advice. He was all shades of fucked up, but he gave great advice. And then, he would make me laugh by singing the lumberjack song.
I got to the building and the doorman turned me away-the family wasn't accepting anymore visitors. I burst into tears again. I called a friend who lived in the same building. He invited me up and we watched South Park for an hour. Then I went over to the local. I knew the packwould be there.
Sure enough, everyone asked me if I knew, and I did. A. had died of liver failure and here we all were doing shots and drinking cocktails. Chocolate Thunder was talking to me about how many people had died recently-her father, her boyfriend's brother, I tuned out on the list. I thought of how many people I know who have died-2 grandparents in childhood, a friend from camp and a friend from high school while I was in college, a professor who committed suicide and college friend ODed the year after graduation, almost all of my older distant relatives-Johnny Coffee and his wife Ruth, Aunt Elsie, Aunt Dot, my grandmother's second husband-my close friend's mother, my upstairs neighbor, a regular who fell off the roof, Dean Martin's wife (my Dean Martin not THE Dean Martin). I'm in my 30s yet my list of the dead goes on and on.
Labels: death, dying, mourning, parent
Bad Bunni posted at 2/08/2009 02:14:00 PM