A series of disconnected thoughts have been lounging in the back of my mind for the past several weeks, venturing to the forefront every few days to remind me they ought to be extracted & formatted lest they be lost forever in the cosmic slop of the synapses. I should probably look into whether WordPress has an app, as it would be easy enough to just draft paragraphs on my phone that is always on me & that I am compulsively checking all day. A good example of where this would be a useful method of transcription occurred just yesterday evening, as I was struck by a realization that was almost profoundly sad: my child(ren), whenever they may materialize as more than abstract figments of a distant future, will never experience the radiant joy of knowing their paternal grandfather, in any capacity. Never hear his soft voice aloud; nor see his smiling, mustachioed face; nor be cherished and adored by him, him with his gentle heart & deep appreciation for life. I was caught off-guard by these feels, and they hit like a suckerpunch to the gut.
I should explain that this was not a completely random train of thought. Usually when I think of my father, it’s in fond connection to some sort of stimulating event he would have enjoyed sharing with me – a song, a concert, a book, an impassioned discussion on politics or philosophy, so on. Or wistfully remembering a small but specific detail of his life, which is what I was doing last night before my mind jumped to the future. There are certain token material possessions that I have kept with me through the years, as have the other members of my family, that were inherently his own and provide comfort in keeping a piece of him alive with us. So as I was absentmindedly changing clothes after my post-jog shower yesterday evening, I paused for a moment to consider the nightshirt I had just pulled over my head. I often wear it to bed, and have for many years, so I don’t always look at it in the broader context: that it’s not really a nightshirt but in fact one of Dr. Zombek’s old doctor’s scrubs, light blue, well-worn, and so soft & airy you barely feel it on your skin. Extremely comfortable sleepwear, it does make for.
Just absolutely classic Simpsons.
And so this consideration handed me a firm grasp on the fact that this singular, unique item of clothing was truly irreplaceable – for instance, if Science forbid our home was devastated by fire, I would personally feel the loss of this particular set of threads. I have a visceral connection to scrubs in general – as a doctor my father was commonly sporting them around the house, and I distinctly remember as a wee shhbaby sitting in his lap as he read stories to me, dressed in those blues while on-call or just relaxing up. It was this memory of early childhood that then catapulted my imagination into a flash-forward, where instead of me bouncing on the knee, I was watching as he held my own child. Very disconcerting to snap-to and realize that will never be anyone’s reality, in any future. As it were I experienced this same familial absence in my own life – my father’s father also passed at a young age, while my father was quite young himself, just in his 20’s.
No scrubs here, but this is one of my favorite pictures of he and I. Sadly I fear my hair is heading back the way it looked here; definitely inherited his receding hairline
Photo albums and VHS home movies mean that all is not lost, of course, and my children will have no doubts as to how wonderful a human their grandfather was. But that ‘technology’ already feels so dated and obsolete; I can only imagine its place on the shelf in another 10-20 years…why am I so concerned with the lives of my non-existent children? Ah, right. Work has required me to inventory roughly two Target stores a week, for the past six weeks or so. Meaning twice a week for the last month and a half I’ve spent a good hour sorting + counting children’s/infant’s clothing. I have been pleasantly surprised to learn that Target actually stocks fairly fashionable (and reasonably priced) apparel, not only for men & women but children & infants as well. As I try to occupy my mind with anything other than the supremely monotonous task before me, it becomes difficult not to imagine how fresh fly & dope my offspring will look in these clothes. I will 100% be that dad to dress his wee babies in culturally hilarious/trendy/sharp garb, purely to amuse himself. Babies are the most naturally hilarious people on the planet (not the first time I’ve written that sentence, by the way), so why not dress them accordingly? #BabiesBeBallin.
I mean, come on. Breaking Bad babies for Halloween? AWESOME. #IAmTheOneWhoNaps
To the serious point here: the reason I will be able to provide my kids with such an attentive and Dadaist upbringing is because I will be a sober dad. It may well be true that alcoholism skips a generation, because I was blessed to have parents that never (ever) abused alcohol (while my grandparents were much more active drinkers). I could not imagine subjecting my children to that kind of life. It’s an all-too-common symptom of the broken home: the “dad who drinks.” IT AIN’T ME, BABE.
But what if it were? I heard someone share at a meeting a few weeks ago, and the way they were talking hit a raw nerve in me. To paraphrase: “Yeah, I could still go back out. I could pick up again. I still know the same spots, the familiar faces. I’ve still got low friends in high places, so to speak.” Well, I have very few social ties to this geographical area, so luckily for me that’s not a worry I have to contend with. But what about the friends I DO have? At this point in my recovery pretty much everyone I consider a true, close friend knows the score. I think, more than angry and confrontational, these individuals would be disappointed and deeply saddened were I to pick up in front of them. Certainly can’t imagine anyone encouraging such a lapse in judgment. No, I am deathly afraid of it: the Vicious Fucking Cycle that starts with that first drink. Then I go back out, hard. For how long, no one knows. I manage to make it back, rehabilitate myself, start fresh on the road to recovery. But then it happens again. And again. And again. My friends and family, the people who mean the most in my world, can only take so much. One by one they have to tear themselves away. I am broken and alone.
Yes, free will is part of the human condition. No, none of these people could stop me if they wanted to. What they would stop doing, is allowing my disregard for life to damage theirs. But there are also plenty of people I know that have no idea what I’ve been through this past year; it would not be hard to imagine meeting at some bar in some city and catching up over a casual beer. And then from there, who knows? The cunning booze hound will always find another pack of wild dogs to run rampant with when he picks up a fresh scent in the gutter. The really cool thing, though, is that any lesser-connected acquaintances I have crossed paths with recently have greeted my new-found pledge to sobriety with nothing but respect and admiration.
See from my side of the street, going back out into the world dry is cause for apprehension, because everyone around me seems to continue chugging along like they do. I can no longer “get on that level,” and I have to be okay with that. But what is beginning to become more and more clear to me is that from the other side of the street, it appears rather differently than I picture it in my head. Perhaps I don’t give my age group/peers enough credit – I have seen through all manner of action and communication that those same people around me are mature enough to recognize & appreciate a man who knows what he needs to do to stay grounded in this world. Indeed, that such a determined focus is even awe-inspiring, in these choppy, chaotic Seas of Hard Times we’re treading to stay afloat in. Perhaps when you’re drowning, the answer isn’t to keep drinking.
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