Monday, June 22, 2009

Father's Day

Today in my Depression Group, as my lovely psychologist, Dr. Kimberly arrived, she found us discussing the merits of Canadian alligator extract in warding off the ill effects of the swine flu.
"It's true," Kip stated. "I haven't had the flu for five years."
"Yes," I added, "come to think of it... you rarely see a sick alligator. At least I've never seen one."
"How would you know?" our lovely intern, Elizabeth asked.
"Oh you know, sniffling snout, red watery eyes, scratchy cough, the usual symptoms," I explained. "They wouldn't have a fever as they're cold blooded."
"What are we talking about?" Dr. Kimberly asked. "Have we started our check in process?"
"Oh no, doctor, we wouldn't start that without you," I assured her.
"No, I take this alligator stuff, once, maybe twice a year, and haven't been sick for years," Kip explained. "It comes from Canada."
"I for one didn't know they even had alligators in Canada," I said.
"Well, we learn something new everyday," Dr. Kimberly concluded. "Now let's begin."
There were five of us "patients" there today, a good crowd, along with Dr. Kimberly (an Air Force Veteran) and Elizabeth. I was the last to check in, as I'm very shy.
"Well, after hearing what Kip just said... I'm glad I never had children. Anyway, yesterday being Father's Day, I went to visit my father's grave, which is right here in LA, and which I do every year on Father's Day. It always is more sad than depressing really, and in someways... uplifting."
"I can understand it being a sad experience," Dr. Kimberly comforted.
"You see, I was only eleven when he died..."
I don't wish to get all maudlin, or anything, but my sister and I, along with my mother, did witness his passing. It was at night, after we had gone to bed. I woke, hearing strange noises from my parents bedroom. Cheryl, my sister, did too. We went in there and I saw my mother standing over the prone body of my father, crying, and saying his name, over and over again, "Ray, Ray, Ray." She tried to get a capsule of nitroglycerine into his mouth. We went to her side, and I looked down at my dad. His eyes were open, but his body seemed paralyzed. Tears formed, not from pain, I think, but because of the helplessness he found himself bound to. At least he had those who loved him most surrounding him.
My mother sent me out to wait for the ambulance, and direct them to the bedroom where my father laid. It must have only been a few minutes, but it seemed like hours before the ambulance got there. Everything seemed like it was moving in slow motion, like walking through heavy water.
They got there too late, of course, and my father died that night, nearly 42 years ago, of a heart attack. I don't know that the medical technicians could have saved him even if they had arrived earlier, and I never will. My dad knew he had heart problems, had been hospitalized for them in fact. But he never quit smoking. He was addicted... an addict, just like me.
I'm now six years older than my father was when he died. I've made it to fifty three. I think my young friends, Erin and Paul, revel in their youth, and I don't blame them. Maybe they feel a little freer, less hampered, possibly a bit superior. My main hope for them is that they make it to my age, so they too can experience the impetuous nature of those much younger who surround them.
So I visited my father, as I do every year at about this time. It was a warm sunny day, a slight wind blew over the grass of the large cementary in San Fernando. A tree was close by, providing shade. He would have liked this spot. Maybe he chose it, I don't know. People he once knew were buried close by, like Bob Hope, the famous comedian. Perhaps Mr. Hope had entertained my dad during one of his famous USO shows during World War Two. I don't know, I never heard my dad speak of that.
He was a good man. A mild, gentle man. He appreciated humor. He liked the James Bond books and films. He liked to eat buttered bagels with me when he opened the liqueur store he owned each morning, but expecially the weekends. He loved my mother very much, as he did my sister and I. He only spanked me once in my life, when I put myself in danger thoughtlessly. He was a baseball player. He was survived by two brothers, one sister, a wife and two children.
My mother eventually remarried. First to a psychopath, then to a good man who treated her well until he died, and who I couldn't stand. I haven't been able to visit my mother's grave. It's in Indiana somewhere. Next year maybe.
I spoke to my father while there, though there was little chance that he heard me. I caught him up on current events, our new president, a disputed election in Iran, how our nation tortured. I told him how Cheryl, and my niece were doing, how I was doing, my new friends. This site. I cried while doing this. I always do.
I ate a nice Bologna sandwich while visiting him, then said goodbye and went home.
I'm sorry... I didn't wish to get maudlin.
I wish I had a picture of him to post. I've asked my dear sister to send me one.

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