The members of the club I never wanted to join and whose membership never expires told me not to be wary of the unexpected gut punch and to expect it to hit at odd times.
“Josh, my dad/mom died 18/29/8/2/5 years ago and sometimes it just hits you. It gets easier in general, but it never completely goes away.”
I thanked them all for their advice and have tried to just ride the waves as they come or do not. It is still relatively new so I expect it to take some time to settle.
Some of that is because I haven’t lived in the same city for a while now so I am accustomed to not seeing family with any sort of regularity.
Still it is strange not to be able to pick up the phone and get the old man on the phone or to realize how many questions I have to answer by guesswork.
Sometimes I think of that guesswork and shake my head because I want to say a grown man should be able to handle life on his own.
And I can, I do, but I can’t ask dad questions about when certain physical events took place.
Mom will answer as best she can, but there are some gaps that are widened because gender makes it impossible.
The unexpected gut punch caught me today because I talked to a Texan about their upcoming trip to California and discovered they are going to visit so many places that helped make me who I am today.
I have vivid memories of family camp at UCSB and UCSD, not to mention all of the college and adult memories that go along with them.
I took my last college course at UCLA and once upon a time worked at the university.
Can’t think about Westwood without a million memories of how much fun it used to be, movie premieres, crazy Hare Krishnas, girls and hanging out with the boys.
And somewhere intermixed in it all I realized they’ll not only drive by the old neighborhood, they’ll be within 25 minutes of dad.
I almost thought to ask them to visit and leave a stone for me, but we haven’t had the unveiling and there is no marker there.
Actually there is, but it is a number and that is so sterile, so plain.
My dad wasn’t a number.
If he were here he would tell me not to waste energy on it, would say the body is just a shell and what made him who he was is gone.
“The neshama isn’t in there any more. Visit if you want, but there is no need to be here often.”
So asking someone who has never met him to place a stone on a number seems extra ridiculous. It reminds me of a time when I was a teenager and he yelled at me for not giving him a proper introduction to friends I brought over.
“You don’t have to hang out with me, but you bring people into my house you can introduce them to me. You had to walk by me to get in.”
The old man was very relaxed about quite a few things, but that is not one of them. Nor could you walk into the house by yourself without greeting him.
Didn’t have to be much, could be a grunt, but if you entered the same room as he did you better say hello. As he aged and his ears went he would sometimes not hear my hello and we’d bicker at each other about it.
“I said hello dad.”
“I didn’t hear it, speak up next time.”
“Try wearing your hearing aids and turning down the TV. Don’t bother glaring at me, you’re angry ‘cuz I am right. What do you going to do, ground me.”
Sometimes I’d wander between rooms five or six times and loudly say hi each time I passed by.
There was no one I disliked fighting with more, probably because he could get under my skin far easier than I wanted to admit.
That picture of the Griffith Observatory reminds me of a million visits with a million different people. There were the dates, the field trips and sometimes the questions.
Questions for dad or for Grandpa Wilner about what the City of Angels was like in the thirties, forties, fifties and beyond.
Sometimes dad and I would cut through Griffith park on the way to his office and I would suggest we skip work and go to the observatory.
We talked about how the Northridge Quake killed power and presumably made the Observatory more functional. Talked about how we both lived through LA Riots while college students., albeit at two different times.
Got Roger and Pete helping me work through Another Tricky Day and am making a push to remind myself that a great workout isn’t well served by drinking Scotch, even if it is a great bottle.
The little boy inside is very pleased because I curled 90 pounds again and knew I hadn’t found my max.
Once upon a time that was 150 pounds which was probably more impressive back then than it would be now because there is more of me than there was then.
But the aforementioned little boy says that a 50 year-old man who can swing that kind of weight is impressive to him. He doesn’t care if it impresses anyone else and he shouldn’t.
It is not particularly significant or indicative of much beyond the ability to be dedicated to a particular exercise regimen.
Mostly it is a good distraction and a relatively healthy one so I’ll take it.
The funny thing about it all is how talking about LA made me want to be able to do more than just give thoughts and feedback.
For a moment it touched a nerve about life choices and things that could have been. I am good at getting lost in those thoughts but I am also quite good at watching them sail off into the distance.
I haven’t any control over any one other than me and that is just how life goes. It is not a good thing or a bad thing, it is just a thing.
If you ask me what I most want to do now I have answers but the only ones you’ll hear are focused on the places and spaces I want to go to.
Because it’s time to recharge my batteries, the second half is coming and we’re going to need to get a running start. Got some hurdles in my way, but the plan isn’t go around but through ‘cuz sometimes it is all you can do.