Sunday morning I prepared for the important lecture I was going to attend by making sure to do a bunch of push-ups so my arms would be bigger and maybe they would pop out and distract from other features.
Somewhere around the second set I heard dad advise me not to be too clever and I am sure a sheepish grin washed across my face.
“Josh, your number one fan may pay close attention but don’t forget how much your number does as well. You can’t serve two masters equally well. They never have the same goals and interests.”
The memory was bittersweet for many reasons not the least of which is we had the two masters conversation multiple times throughout the years.
Most of the time it was work related and focused upon situations in which we literally had two different bosses we had to work for and the challenges related to that.
It wasn’t a challenge he ever wished for me to have but he appreciated my having undergone it because it provided a shared experience.
We both were fathers and for a number of years we both had experience being the sole provider.
“I hear you dad. I am not capable of being too clever. It is not in me, but I have a plan and we’ll see how it plays out.”
The first time he let me help him up and didn’t fight my assistance walking was painful for both of us. I did my best to pretend he was doing most of the work and he did his part by pretending to.
We both knew differently but he was my father and I wasn’t going to rob of him of his dignity if I could avoid it, never realizing within a short time it wouldn’t matter anyway.
During one of our trips between chemo we had the kind of conversation you don’t have unless you are confident time is not your ally.
Some of those conversations will never be repeated because they are the bond of father and son. I couldn’t pass it along if I wanted to and you couldn’t understand.
Others remain unspoken because speaking such things out loud might jinx the future and our create issues that might not ever need be addressed.
“Abba, are you awake?”
“Was I snoring?”
“No, if you were I would have known you were sleeping.”
“I am too tired for nonsense.”
“It is not nonsense, I need to talk and you need to listen.”
“Because we don’t know how many rounds you’re going to go with the cancer and today you’re capable of having a real conversation.”
“Thanks a hell of a lot.”
I felt him smile and turned and smiled back at him.
“You didn’t give me any brothers, so you can give up a few minutes of nap time. Besides you say I can never make up for the sleep you lost because of me.”
“That is true.”
“Let me tell you about why I am not worried about trying to be too clever. There is a silence that I don’t know if I’ll ever break through, but I might. Then again I might not. Let me tell you about the office and the kids.
Let me tell you I am going to be very angry that I don’t get to tell you these things 20 years from now. Don’t tell me it is a waste of energy either, I am not interested in hearing it.”
“You already know. You’ll do as you will. You always have. Remember, you can’t see far enough into the future to plan the way you want. No matter what happens you are going to have your hands full, but you’ll manage.”
“Oh? How do you know?”
“You made it this far. Do yourself a favor and try not to get this. I really have to rest now.”
Seconds later he started snoring and now seven months later I wish I had recorded it. The sound of dad sleeping would be very soothing sometimes.
Stuck Between Worlds
I am stuck between two worlds now and there is nothing I can do to change it other than to keep doing what I am doing.
Every day is a step closer to the next chapter and every day I feel the chains wrapped around my wrists pull in opposite directions.
Sometimes it is a gentle tug and sometimes it is a very firm pull but rarely is it anything beyond that.
The biggest challenges are the uncertainty of some situations in which I haven’t any real control. There are people in offices who can choose to point-click-and-delete their way across spreadsheets and what I do or do not do makes no difference.
It is not something I face alone nor is the concern mine alone.
Generation X isn’t the young face in the office anymore and now that we have reached this stage we wonder what happens if we end up out on the street again.
Will we be seen as valuable assets or ancient veterans who either command too much cash or are viewed as incapable of learning or being coached.
Very few of us are in a position to retire because as old as we are we’re not really that old. There is far too much wax left to burn in our candles so work is something we need to do for a bit longer.
That doesn’t take into account our children and the need to continue to cover their education and assorted childcare expenses be they college, car insurance or private school.
So we work.
Do I have 20 years left before I can hang it up because that is what it will take to earn enough to let go of the grind or is it what I choose to do because I am not sure if I can find enough other things to do.
Does Reality Bite?
The answer is sometimes it does but not always.
You never can tell what the road will bring or how many gold nuggets you’ll come across you trip through the desert on a horse with no name.
The best you can do is tell your number one fans the primary goal is to spend time together with those who fill your heart and soul and less with those that suck them dry.
One of the guys told me not long ago that when he realized his wife and he were nothing more than roommates it was time to move on.
“Do you think you grew apart?”
“I am not sure ever grew together. I figured there wasn’t any point living with someone who rarely wanted to do anything I liked to do and whose idea of fun made me want to bang my head against the wall.”
We bantered back and forth a little while longer and he told me how his divorced father once tried to set him up with the daughter of the divorced woman he was dating.”
He didn’t give me time to come up with any smart cracks.
“Yeah my divorced father is dating a divorced woman who has a divorced daughter that they wanted me to go out with.”
“Maybe you could all share the attorney and split the costs.”
“You had to go there.”
“No, I didn’t have to, but I did.”
“Get the doc to write a scrip and it doesn’t have to be sometimes or at least the commercials make it seem like that. You are old.”
“Fuck you. I am only three months older than you are.”
“I think we just figured out why you got divorced.”
The push ups don’t come as easily today as they did Sunday morning and for a moment I am really irritated.
But then I remember I worked all damn day and spent an hour at the gym, it shouldn’t be as easy.
I don’t feel old or think of myself that way but it is clear that time still isn’t my ally. Made a point to listen to some old voicemails to hear dad’s voice.
There isn’t any fear I’ll forget what he sounded like, but sometimes it is nice to hear.
And besides I wanted to tell him I am officially older than Uncle Mark was when he died. Now I have to make it to 75 and then past 92.
If I do those things I’ll be the oldest Wilner male.
It is not as much of a competition as it might sound, it is just part of life and I have a lot of living left to do.