I am sitting in the back of a small room listening to a speaker introduce her topic and begin running through he credentials when nature pokes me.
Shift in my seat, adjust this and that hoping the pressure will subside and I’ll be given an hour of peace but that is not happening.
If this were an airplane or a room with a band I wouldn’t care because I could ‘let er rip’ but it is very quiet and not the place for trumpet impressions.
So I make my way across the room and feel like I manage to do a good impression of a lumbering fool and a poor one of a ninja.
Part of me doesn’t care, part of me figures if the mad trumpeter makes his presence known I could simply point at the person close to me and shake my head in mock disgust.
But none of those things happen.
The Myth Of The Picky Eater
I laugh when people accuse me of being a picky eater.
I am the oldest offspring of Peace Corps volunteers and from the earliest moments of my life was exposed to all kinds of foods.
Fifty years later I am old enough to pick and choose what I put or don’t put in my mouth. It is not being picky, it is accumulated wisdom.
But if it makes people feel better to assign labels to me they may call me picky, even those who have broken bread with me many times and know it is easy to find meals we all enj0y.
More importantly when you find people whose company you enjoy it is prudent and wise to keep them around.
When you eat as many meals as I have by myself you learn the importance of having the aforementioned good company.
The man tells me he is 6’9 and says he would give me a couple of inches if he could.
I tell him it doesn’t matter because even if I weighed exactly the same as I did in college I wouldn’t be able to buy a suit off the rack.
“Yeah, you are kind of broad, aren’t you.”
Flashback an indeterminate amount of years and dad is talking to me about going downtown to Al Weiss to buy suits because Mario will know how to properly size and fit us.
He is right, Mario d0es and one of the things I like about Mario is he has the odd and in between sizes.
The jacket fits me in the shoulders but is way too big elsewhere.
“Don’t lift too much or you’ll make this harder. Your shoulders are big enough. Don’t eat too much because that is not a good way to make your suit fit either. We’ll taper it.”
Back in the present the tall guy asks if I am ok.
“You look like you are carrying a hell of a load.”
“Maybe. I have big shoulders, it is what they are for right.”
“Doesn’t hurt to share that load with others if you can.”
I nod and smile.
“I used to be part of a pack, for the moment I am not.”
The Storm Comes Again
Dad and I are sitting in the parking lot of Brent’s in Westlake.
He is catching his breath as we are post chemo and he is worn out. I tell him it is ok if he wants to sit and ok if he wants me to help him.
We sit in silence and I break it by sharing a few secrets and some thoughts.
“You know the storm is going to come again and I am going to expect to ask you for your opinion so I can ignore it and do whatever the hell I decide to do anyway.”
Dad smiles and shrugs his shoulders at me.
It is filled with warmth, love and exhaustion. He doesn’t have the energy for the response I want. No smart remark or crack reminding me to be smart.
I see an invisible clock and hear it ticking.
“Fuck off poltergeist, evil spirit or whatever the hell is putting the image in my mind.”
Dad doesn’t hear it, he is already softly snoring and in moments he’ll be fully asleep. It is a sound I have known my entire life.
The hospice nurse and I are talking. He is one of the few male nurses and his shift is starting.
I ask a bunch of questions and tell him I won’t hold him to predictions about time frames.
“Your father is very strong. He has already fooled the doctors and us. I am not sure how long he has, everyone is different and given what your dad has done…”
It is said with a ton of warmth and compassion. I am grateful for it but frustrated.
We are days into this and I don’t want to hurry the clock but don’t know what to do about this time in limbo.
The wife tells me I have to be the one to tell dad to let go and to promise to take care of everything.
It is among the most compassionate and most horrible things I have heard, but I get it. I don’t like it, but I think about where we are at and how we got here.
Eventually I do it, I grab dad’s hand and squeeze it.
It used to be so damn big and now it is not.
I grew bigger and he grew older and well…here we are.
They say fear will find you and it has.
So has anger.
So has frustration.
I feel like I jumped out of a plane and am fighting to get the parachute to open.
The storm has come and I am in the midst of it but I don’t fear death, don’t fear dying in the slightest.
Maybe it is because I know the grim reaper knows he has more important things to do than fuck with me or for some other ridiculous reason.
Some moments can’t be avoided or ignored.
There are no shortcuts or airplanes/cars/boats that can see you safely to the other side.
All you have are your feet, hands and wits to get your through and across.
So you might as well start walking because the road isn’t getting any shorter or easier to cross by waiting.