Tag Archives: Musing

A Final Parting

Word came to me through a grapevine late last week: a woman I met 30 years ago and dated for not quite three years passed away last November. I’m not quite sure how to feel, or what to feel.

I’ve shared rooms with a lot of people over the years, men and woman. The commonality? Once they walk out the door they never return, not to knock, not to crack the door to even sneak a peek.

This woman was no different. The relationship ended badly for me. She was eight years my senior, a user and a manipulator. But that’s what I was back then: a rescuer. Show her enough love and she would come to reciprocate.

I never got closure after the breakup. For me, from what I wrongly believed was love to hate to compromise, the getting over took a long time. The anger is gone. I forgave her long ago, and myself, too, for the role I played in staying far too long in a toxic relationship. I certainly have no fond feelings for her, having dated several other women since she and I split, and marrying the best of them. I now know it was never love between us. The lesson she taught me was not about what I wanted, but about what I didn’t want.

So why do I feel so unsettled?

Maybe there are a whole heap of whys.

I confess: there were times over the years I thought of her, wondered if she ever met that 747 captain she always dreamed of marrying (she was a gate agent for a major airline). She was looking for someone to take care of her, enable her to quit her stressful job. Maybe I wanted to know if she’d met him, although she was then, after we broke up, over forty. Too old, I thought then in my anger. Anyone with a six-figure job flying 747s can have their pick of flight attendants—younger and more beautiful. Why settle for an over forty Italian even if she is well-preserved, eats well, exercises often, keeps her figure? But I never told her that. In time, after I let go the anger, I wished her well, hoped she found what she sought. That’s the kind of man I am: I don’t wish ill on anyone.

Maybe I still wanted that closure I never got. While she was still, in my mind, alive and kicking, like the alcoholic going through the steps of recovery, she might yet get in touch to apologize for the pain she caused me. Not like I fell off the planet. Now she never will.

She had ample time to make her peace, if she’d wanted to. She didn’t want to. And I’m fairly certain she never gave me a thought in the twenty-seven years after she broke up with me.

Today I’m ashamed to admit I considered, after my first book was published twenty years ago, sending her a copy of it, wondering if she might recognize herself in the antagonist. Nah, she was too self-absorbed. Or maybe she’d matured, grown wiser. I’ll never know.

Maybe it’s just a microcosm of life, that she was mortal, that I’m mortal. Losing my parents drove that point home twenty years ago. Hell, I already know I’m mortal. Six years ago I wondered if that Mazda I bought might be my last car. Now I’m wondering if the car I might purchase in the next year or two or three might be the last one.

Learning a couple years ago about the passing of my first boss—he was not yet even sixty—hit me hard, in part because another part of my life, a part from my long ago youth, was gone forever.

But she’d been gone, after the not quite three years we dated, for nearly twenty-eight years. Might as well have been the forever of nearly half my life.

More maybes? Maybe. Maybe the right maybe just hasn’t yet occurred to me.

death-pictures

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Doesn’t Seem Like Twenty Years

“It was twenty years ago today
Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play
They’ve been going in and out of style
But they’re guaranteed to raise a smile
So may I introduce to you…”
—Lennon and McCartney


It was twenty years ago yesterday, Mom, that you departed this world for a safer, happier, healthier place, and my world became much colder. The last shred of my boyhood innocence was gone.

kitchen-sink-bath

A Happy Mother

So much has happened over those twenty years—some good, some not so good. But I still remember the night you went away as if it happened last Sunday and not a Sunday two decades removed.

You passed easily, deservedly so. No death’s rattle for you: you simply took one last breath, and never let it out.

I grieved your loss from me then, but was happy for you that your suffering was at last at an end. Nearly a score of years battling Parkinson’s disease, a relentless foe, a battle you could not win. But in my eyes you were valiant until the very end.

I’ve kept you alive in my fiction and non-fiction, perhaps seeking a reason for your affliction, an answer to your own question: “Why me?” Perhaps one day I’ll find it. Maybe, having become a writer, I already have.

It’s been said that our lives are made up of a series of rooms. If that’s so then I was blessed to share a room with you for a time far too short.

I miss you, Mom, and I will until my memory abandons me or I take my own final breath. I hope you’ll be waiting for me—your little boy.

Until then, to “she who bears the sweetest name, and adds a luster to the same; long life to her, for there’s no other who takes the place of my dear mother.”

destined-to-become-my-mother

Sweet Sixteen: Destined to Become My Mother

 

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A Day to Look Back

Well, Dad, nineteen years ago today you left this world for bluer skies. I’d ask where have the years gone but I know the answer: into the past. Gone but not forgotten.

babyjoey

Dad, with J. Conrad, circa 1957

Did you ever think I’d live to be sixty, ever imagine what I might look like? I didn’t. It’s not that I have a death wish, but I wonder if anyone ever views themselves as old. Inside me there is a twenty-five-year-old wondering, “What happened?”

I think about you every day. And as I sit here sipping a White Russian—one of your favorite cocktails—I hope you don’t mind that I’ve written about you often, in memoirs mostly; but aspects of who you were in life appear in my novels, too. My way of keeping you alive, I guess, and of tipping my hat to you because I feel you were a better man than me. Your firstborn doesn’t approve that I write about you and Mom, but what the hell, she never liked me anyway.

We had our differences, you and I: days and sometimes weeks when we didn’t speak. But in retrospect I can honestly say I never felt unloved or unwanted.

Still, you weren’t very nurturing to me in my youth (I forgave you for that long ago). Whether that’s good only you can know. Perhaps one day I’ll find out. It would be nice if I learned the answer before I step over to your side of the Great Divide. That’s been a problem for me as I age: expecting that every question has an answer. Some just don’t and never will, not while I live and breathe at least. Probably the greatest unfairness in life, that we must die in order to learn some of life’s great mysteries.

I’ve made a lot of mistakes and have my share of regrets. You once told me no one gets out of life without a few. Sometimes it feels as if I have more than most. Maybe that’s a sign I’m getting old. In my defense, being introspective and reflective, I find it difficult not to look back at the past, especially since there are far more years behind me than ahead of me. You once told me it’s okay to look at the past, because we learn from it. But I suspect I tend to stare too long. Do that too often and you miss what’s in front of you.

Yet I’ve found a measure of happiness, having gotten remarried nearly three years ago. You and Mom would love her. Her name is Colleen and she’s part Polish, which should please you, and I can honestly say she’s getting my best.

Say hello to Mom for me, will you? And tell her your baby boy misses you both.

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Classic Dad

Dad wasn’t always a “classic dad” to me. A retired marine drill instructor, he was often hard on me and not very nurturing. As a young man, I had my differences with Dad; but we were always able to set them aside to share a shot of bourbon and a beer while we listened to or watched a ballgame. It wasn’t until the final year of his life, after he’d been diagnosed with terminal cancer, that we finally connected. We nurtured each other during that final year, and the student I always was became the teacher in ways I wouldn’t have dreamed possible, and I helped him find healing and peace as he, with eloquence, prepared for death.

Although he didn’t share much of his battle experiences—he fought on Okinawa, where some of the bloodiest fighting took place—he unloaded some of his pain and regrets he’d carried all his life, and I understood a little better why he was the way he was.

Today I have fond memories of Dad teaching me to drive a stick shift, to shave, and to tie a Windsor knot.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I miss you and carry you with me every day. I hope I continue to make you proud, even as I’m sure I disappoint you from time to time.

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