If I had a thousand years and spoke as many languages I couldn’t begin to express my gratefulness for the messages of condolences so many of you sent me after learning that my father died. I feel my father read and was moved by them all. Each and every one of those messages also somehow served to narrow the space for me between this realm where we are all yet, and that other, brighter realm where he now dwells.
So thank you for that. To say the least.
Now I’m parentless! About two years ago I found out my mom had already been dead for five years. (I hadn’t talked to her since I was maybe twenty.) And now my dad’s gone.
I’m fifty-five, though. That’s about the age stuff like this starts happening. And not to put too fine a point on it, but I’ve honestly been waiting for my dad to die since I was ten, the age I was when he had his first massive heart attack. It knocked him to the ground like he’d been smacked by a wrecking ball. I remember the first time I saw him in the hospital after they’d done the surgery on him where they replaced a valve in his heart with a valve from (wait for it … ) a pig’s heart. It was shocking how frail and thin he looked. I had only ever known him as a giant who dominated every room he was in. He was six-foot-four, extremely athletic, too good-looking for his own good, had a voice like buttered thunder, was startlingly articulate, and had that weird charisma thing that made people so instantly like him that … well, that he made a fortune as a salesman, for one.
And then there he was, sunk down amongst the sheets of his bed like a scarecrow someone forgot to finish stuffing.
Anyway. That happened. And that was some five heart attacks ago. None of them ever even slowed the man down.
Intense couple of weeks for your truly! As you may know via the last post I put up before the one about my dad passing (Big book business beckons), I just spent three months cracking my You Know Whats to meet a book deadline of January 22. My father died on January 13.
The book on which I’m collaborating is the memoir of a person who has led a life I wouldn’t wish on anyone. We’re writing the book as “narrative non-fiction,” meaning in the style of a novel. For three weeks before the deadline I slept in two three-hour intervals for every twenty-four hours. And that was fine. My wife Catherine is home now, and she took care of everything else, leaving me free to dive into and live this book, which knit itself together in a most satisfying way.
Weird time to have my dad die. But, you know. God. Whattaya gonna do?
I made the deadline (50,000 words, a comprehensive proposal, and a full outline summarizing each of the book’s 21 chapters, thangyaverymuch). Then I shut down.
For the past week all I’ve done, writing-wise, is diddle around a bit on my Facebook page, where I made and published four of those FB poster things. (If you go over there to see those posters, please “Like” my page if you haven’t already. This would be an ideal time to fool publishers into thinking I’m popular. Thanks!)
The second half of the book–another 50,000 or so words–is due March 15.
Right now I’m playing host to a sore throat that feels like I swallowed a hot branding iron.
Speaking of which, I went with Pastor Bob to see Tarantino’s Django. DeCaprio is amazing. Otherwise not so much with the worth seeing. Unless you love violence. Then definitely go.
My dad used to take me to movies all the time. And he took me to good movies, too—stuff a 60’s-era boy wanted to see. James Bond. In Life Flint. All three of Eastwood’s “spaghetti Westerns.” One Million Years B.C. Cat Ballou. The Dirty Dozen. Pretty much anything with Angie Dickinson in it.
One time he and I were sitting in the movies when a lady in the film started unbuttoning her shirt. Without taking his eyes off the screen my dad really slowly moved his hand up and over until it came to hover in the air about one inch from my face, completely blacking out everything in the universe. I thought it one of the funniest things that had ever happened. Keeping his hand right where it was, he leaned over and whispered, “Stop laughing. It’s interfering with my degrading shame.”
I laughed so hard I honestly thought I might die.