Monday, March 1, 2010

My Father Died. Part I

My father died on Friday, July 6th 2007. This is what I wrote on the second half, the puddle jumper portion, of the flight home.

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Flight 1454; departing ten minutes ahead of schedule with a strong tail wind, should touch down in just under an hour and ten minutes. It's taking off from an airport and landing in another, beyond that the details are only in the faces and polite whispers that whirl around the 7 foot wide steep hallway with rows of seats all facing home, or the future, or the past. No conversation is loud enough for the man sitting alone to hear.

The plane seems empty, although most rows have at least three of four seats filled. It is that man and this man, we are the only two people aboard who have rows to ourselves. He was sitting near me in the lobby. What faces him upon touchdown? He has the face of a blue collared man, but his hands are holding a newspaper and look untouched by hammer or nail. Is he deciding if his father should die today? What is his battle?

When I last heard, my father was still alive. Sunday he went to the hospital, Monday he would be fine, Tuesday I was boarding a red-eye to make the counsel that will decide his life from here. Or as the ominous tones from phones connected 3,000 miles would foreshadow, we are to decide his death.

I should take more pictures. California is a beautiful place. One of only two "Mediterranean" climates in the world. I've driven Angel's Crest and walked into waterfalls; I've come over city mountains and stumbled upon the lakes for which neighborhoods were named.

Takeoff. The woman at 1 o'clock has stopped shifting her tongue against her bottom lip and closed her mouth. The decidedly American couple behind me is now only speaking English to their obviously bilingual children; Air France has better seat belts for infants than any plane in America.

Some Monday, soon, I'll go to Columbos's for Jazz Night. The garlic bread there is pretty good. Dat, I can usually finish my plate now. Although my waist line prefers I leave some pasta for the dishwasher to snack on.

When deciding if a loved one would like to live six more months in a shell of who they perceive themselves to be, what should the counsel debate? And who, exactly, should begin that debate? My brother has always felt second to me in many regards when dealing with my father, although he’s never said so. My uncles I've not seen in some 20 years. That's actually an average, one pushed back to be dramatic, Patrick 23 years, Keith 10.

Maybe connections should leave doubt, but I'm hoping this will recount to me the strange mix someday. I'm newly in a relationship. I’m generally very happy in my life, with work progressing and making me feel like a star. This mix. "He can hear you," they'll tell me. But what do they know? Can he still cry? To hear all these voices in one room again, will it leave any doubt in his mind? He'll probably let go. As we talk about what to do, he might allow himself that final decision.

My Aunt is in Paris. If anyone is able to contact her, at least she'll have fantastic seat belts.

55 minutes. I've never pissed on a plane in my adult life.

What could I possibly add to any conversations? I want Evan to remember me next time. And to take more pictures.

A surprise 60th birthday party. He was supposed to visit in August or September. He was starting to dodge the visit. LA can be scary to some people. Although, I think he knew. What projects had he not finished? Can you begin to realize how much death would get in the way of deadlines? Why, if this plane were to take its cue from Newton's apple tree and I fell to an early death, I highly doubt I'd be able to hit my annual sales goals.

Who writes about their own plane crashing while they are in the air? I don't think I'm unique, there have certainly been people to jot that down before me, although the US Airways magazine probably does not have "Plane Crash" as 10-down in their crossword puzzle.

"A black coffee," does that really require the cream and sugar question? I'm admittedly on edge. 27 still feels like 17 to me, too young for this. I'm now about twice the age of my mother when her father passed away. Fuck that, they die. There is no passing, only dying.

It's not time for me to wake up yet, or maybe it is. I had to turn off my watch because if someone called it the plane would implode. The dogs will be fine. She'll be back to LA only days after me. And the beverage aisles can survive without me for a few days.

I've set out to turn over new leaves several times before. Each time I failed. Now I'm somewhere on the greenest side of the most beautiful leaf in the world. It's from here that I will most likely say, "he wouldn't want to live like that."

-Now I'm crying.

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(Several weeks/months later…Not really sure)


That was it.

There turned out to be very little in the line of decisions. He passed in his sleep. He knew we were all there, I could see it in his eyes. He squeezed my hand. He struggled to talk, but couldn't. I said, with tears filling my eyes, as I stared into a face that was almost unrecognizable "Dat, I know you're proud of me, I know you love me, what else matters?" I said more than that over the few hours. We got him to smile. He knew love.

Pat (his wife) was staring at him through all of it. She watched him labor over each gasp of air. She kept staring hours after he was no longer there. He did "pass away" it is possible. She knew love; he did, after all, know how to give it. They had something that I hope to find, simply put it’s an unwavering feeling that you know exactly where you are supposed to be.

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