I am listening to The Best of Conway Twitty. I admit it. Its Sunday. Dad used to blast this music on Sundays along with the likes of Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson and Elvis. Its part of my genetic make up at this point, and the urge to listen to this stuff on lazy Sundays is almost overwhelming. Dad is gone now, but when I hear this, I can still smell the aftershave he’d put on before church. This would all be rather idyllic if we had not had such a rocky relationship. But by the end of his life he and I had this wordless, unspoken bond between us, the kind of peace and serenity that comes in a relationship when two people have hurt one another very badly and have gone through all the stages and reached true forgiveness. I wish so many times I could see Dad again.
I got an email from my Aunt Joan yesterday. My Dad’s parents are still living, though in significantly declining heath, up in Nebraska, where we all ultimately hail from. Grandpa though, from the sounds of it, is reaching that place of crossing over sooner rather than later now. I have not seen my grandparents since my father’s funeral three years ago, a fact I can feel immediately guilty about until I remember all that has transpired since and the ludicrous impossibility it would have been to go visit while Joseph was sick, at least from a financial standpoint. But the idea of yet another casuality in my lineage of men has me funked and gray. I can imagine Joseph and Dad hovering near, and I am almost jealous. There are days when I wish with all the yearning in me to be with them again, and death’s sting is lost to me for myself. I recognize the need still in Nick and Alex to have their Mom around for as much of their lives as I can be. This is a deep and quiet secret. I don’t talk about it and I don’t nurture it. But it lingers, like a bit part on the side of the main stage.
Why must there be death? And why all this secrecy about it? And where does true inner peace come from? As I imagine my strong, gruff Grandpa lying sick and frail in bed, trying to imprint that mental image with the memories of his calloused farmer’s hands and sunburned cheeks, I seek an understanding that just will not come. He is old and his life was full. But the idea of another block of my foundation falling away leaves me cold and restless. This sensation of merely living until I die does not sit well with me. It feels like one endless, depressing, screaming, rapid, inevitable race to impact. Splat. We’re gone. Does anything I do between now and then really matter? I anticipate no real impact on society in any grand sense....I am not talented nor connected nor beautiful enough to gain any real acclaim...with the herald of the Internet exhibitionism of the type I type out here is as common as singers and songwriters. I have no connections or uncommon lineage or even any real drive to achieve a mark on history. I have never been a particularly patient person and with my artist’s heart am prone to fits of emotional extremity...I would rather just get there...I have no patience for the journey and with Joseph now gone the journey feels empty and meaningless. the prize is a long way off. I hated the car trip to get to vacation. I dislike plane rides, not for fear of flying, but for struggle to contain myself with a bunch of strangers and the wait it represents until we get to the good stuff. I hated being left behind as a youngster. I loathe this sense of wonderment for what comes next and the idea that others I want to be with are already there. Maybe I am missing all the fun. This life certainly isn’t always a good time, and lately harder than its been for a while. The news that Grandpa may soon leave us makes me tremble with emotions that are not thought to be particularly flattering. Envy. Fear. Sorrow. Yearning. The wish that I had endless time and resources, and of course, a desire for a better understanding, both of this process we call "dying" and of what I ought to be doing between now and then rather than living within this feeling of waiting for my turn. I have this list in my head of things I want to happen before I die, and I find myself driven toward trying to make them happen, a force that has proven nothing but destructive to my relationships and my sense of well being, as it is thoughtless, frantic and flailing, not intellectual, planned or implemented wisely...no trust toward those who must help me make them come about...just a feeling that the sooner they get done, the sooner I can be done and the more peaceful I will be about the end......full of the stuff of passion without the temperence of intellect. I am working on being more peaceful, on regaining the sense of life and gratitude and good fortune that I had gotten so good at cultivating prior to Joseph’s passing. That feels more like me than this does, and I am counting on that sense of self to continue to nudge its way back into my heart. I reach for it, almost reluctantly at times. It feels wrong to try to live.