You know, folks, lately I haven’t been my usual smart-alecky self. You can read it in several of my latest articles. Sorry about that. I’ve sidetracked into a reflective-thinking direction; but dear reader, fear not! This too shall pass! Hang in there. |
However, for the present, I have one more bothersome little item rattling around in my bean. I’ll begin by recalling a conversation I had several years ago. The second part of this dialogue appeared in another article I wrote, but I am repeating it just to set the proper context. Here goes…
…I glared at the telephone on my desk as it rang insistently. The electronic interruption derailed a “brilliant” thought I was having about something or other; me having the attention span of a frog. Whatever, the mental gem was replaced by a wonderment about why still maintain a land line when most traffic came and went via our wireless phones? Maybe it was from a strange fascination I have about observing the present turning into the past. I’m a bit odd that way. Anyway, a call block was supposed to be in order for all solicitation attempts, so I picked up the headset and mumbled what I hoped was an annoyed greeting.
A too cheerful voice replied, “Yes, Mister Myers, I’m calling on behalf of the police and sheriff departments to—”
“How did you get my number? These calls are supposed to be blocked!”
“Umm…er… Some organizations are excepted; you see, we’re—”
“WHAT? Well, that’s just messed-up, amigo… What’s your name?”
“Uh, Richard, sir.”
“Richard? That won’t do. May I call you Dickie?”
“Great, great! Well listen, Dickie, I’m glad you called. See, you’ve stumbled upon a crime scene here, and I need someone to come out and—”
“No! No! This is NOT the police department. We just represent them to—”
“You don’t understand, Dickie. See, I need someone out here pronto! Holy shit, there’s blood all over the place!
“Where are you, Dickie?”
“In my cubicle.”
(Long pause; me breathing into the phone)
“Are you getting smartass with me, Dickie?” I used my best pissed-off voice.
“No sir.” He sounded nervous and intimidated.
I stepped it up and raised my voice to its threatening best. “Say I wanted to mail your ass a letter. Just what would I write on the outside of the envelope, wiseguy?”
“I don’t see what—”
“No, of course you don’t! Never mind! How about I call you back later? What’s your home number Dickie?”
“I can’t give that out, sir.”
“I guess you don’t want to be bothered at home?”
“Now you know how I feel,” I said sweetly, and slammed down the receiver. Damn!
Thirty seconds later the phone rang again. I sighed and was about to let loose in a greasy, black funk when I recognized a familiar voice.
The voice said, “Gene?”
“Hi Dad.” I perceived something was terribly wrong. I asked tentatively, “How are you?”
It was two days after Christmas, which was to be the last holiday I spent with him. He was frail and bedridden, not the robust, indestructible protector who guided me through life.
He ignored my question. “You’ve been a great boy,” he said fondly but with finality.
I swallowed not knowing quite how to react. “You’ve been a great dad too. Where are you?”
“In the hospital.”
“I’m on my way.” It was a two and a half hour drive.
“You’ll be too late.”
“Have you called Jim and Thom?” My younger brothers live on the West Coast.
“No, but I’m about to.”
I called both quickly to prepare them. I mentioned it would be the last time they would speak to him.
Back to the present…
You know, I handled Dad’s call rather poorly. It was like I knew what to expect, but didn’t want to acknowledge it; wasn’t sure I could. Like if I denied the unwelcome news it would evaporate into the ether, and I could continue unmolested with my selfish, hedonistic lifestyle. See, other people had parents who were mortal. Not me!
But look, why waste a perfectly good reflective mood? With that in mind, I may as well have a few other “last conversations” before the final sunset—mine or theirs’. I mean, you always hear people say things like, “I wish I would have told him blah-blah-blah while he was alive” or sob a glowing eulogy after-the-fact. Then there are those who pass on during the night or in an accident and never have the chance for a last chat with anyone. To save myself from that experience, here are my last words to some of those with whom I am fond just in case I miss the opportunity. (Note that I have omitted statements of “undying love, yada, yada, yada” because that’s a given. It’s the little, unsaid niggling things that need announcing. Know what I mean?)
Kay, I really appreciated your loyalty and support through this crazy journey called marriage. How you hung in there during some of the challenges I presented, I’ll never know. Sorry it took me so much time to catch up and reciprocate in kind. Also, lately I’ve become annoyed when I have to repeat things twice. I know it’s your slight hearing loss combined with my mumbling, but I often jump to the conclusion that you’re not paying attention--the latter being one of my mom's irritating traits. I know better and apologize for an occasional unkind tone.
Peggy, during your tweens and teens I was self-absorbed with my career and should have been more present in your life. Our relationship turned out “aces”, but mostly because of your efforts. Along the way you became a much better parent to Ryan than I was to you—even with the stress of divorce. Way to go!
Geof, I’m very proud of you, but not for what you think. I mean, dads are always jacked-up when their boys excel athletically, and you were outstanding in everything. However, it’s the way you shaped your life and career during difficulty and trials (especially considering what the US economy has become) that was a masterstroke. Good on you, pal!
Brothers Jim and Thom and best buddy Dennis, I wish we had spent more time together goofing around. Why did we let worldly matters and other people get in our way?
To all, here is the one little gem of a lesson-learned to take from my life: “Once upon a time” comes only once.
Gene Myers ( www.myersamazon.com )
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