Taking the long suburban road back to the ‘house’ that in reality has become a much smaller apartment through the emptiness of a semi arid landscape escorting my mother. One that is too far, knowing too late that we should have driven. Why we did not was a matter of forgetting for a while that the path back over open terrain always seems shorter than it in fact ever turns out to be. One’s age averaged and divided is occasionally put aside as a factor and the fiction of youthful endurance assumes a greater palpable fiction. A chain restaurant a block or two off the gravel path due east gleams quartz white as if it has just recently been built. A Disney castle mirage in the deep darkness of the mind. Salivation for the hopeful fantasy of plenty and tasty inside crosses the space between my ears within my own empty divide. I have grown up in the postwar age of advertising. The mental Utopia that the worship of everything new and improved allows you temporary entrance within. To conjure the mental picture is more immediate than to test the waters with your tongue and pocketbook. That is the actual realm of scant financial resources and the specter of starvation. The great kings and dukes of old along with their subsequent more modern social warrior imitators having forged a great mental trauma genetically passed on by too often playing too dangerously with the ship of state and so often running it aground. One remains ever mindful of their next meal hoping that if it be one’s last then at least it might be memorably distinctive as the best so far. This is progress.
Ron, the father, ends up on Johnny Carson as a guest. A failed entertainer from the ‘get go’ in his own mind. He rises up from the audience to follow the expected patterns of behavior on stage. His greatest secret dream. To be recognized as talented and out of the ordinary, and loved. What can any self-made man hope to find after he has found a knock off copy of the Philosopher’s stone and a deck of playing cards to gain a sufficient amount of ready cash? Money and all that it can buy is never enough. The ritual of an audience locked in their seats facing East towards the refresh of a hopeful morning Sun of the television is all too seductive. A crowning gift to the man who initially came up from nothing but for whom this persistent sense of the inescapable present provides never ever enough. this is the curse and blessing of his most formative era.
The two of us having wandered, end up waylaid behind a big strip mall on the bank of what is rapidly turning into a raging river rising up. The silt scraped from the bottom being thrown into the air like the froth of a chocolate milk shake. The building flood overwhelming the back access of truck supply lanes subsuming the loading docks. This apocalyptic chaos transforming dazzling cinder blocks from their intended task of securing items within to serve as a retaining wall protecting this unready location. The terror of the unexpected show of force of nature underestimated. A might deluge instantaneously conjured without a single drop of rain. Surely a figment of one’s pernicious imagination?
The awakening of these fictions in that other world of one’s former life precariously rewoven since the night before? Never to be believed but for the hint of a solutions that they pretend to offer? Should one play the gullible fool and volunteer their belief?
This quiet surrounding realm of framed photographs serving as dusty headstones embalming the past. Now long silenced.
The sun had painted the landscape below upon its Western face. The rest of everything rapidly filling with shadows of mauve. All earthly attention pointed upon it imminent escape. It was going to be a cold and blustery Summer this year. Uncustomarily so. The day had been spent indoors with all the blinds closed and little illumination save for some old reruns on the DVD machine that recounted a vague facsimile of what life had supposedly been several decades back. Everything seemed equally at a loss now as what little could be resurrected from that now indefinable place of ‘back then‘. Or that is what his answer to the abject stillness before him inferred. The day was at an end. Soon to have night slide over it like a cover. It was the same vista of rectangles overlapping each other. Some brilliant and reflective some with yellow and red brick hues all fading away before his eyes. That certainty of another day not unlike the last as it had been for so long was quickly waning as well. The original occupants were barely a memory now. Just empty quiet place holders that one left space for occasionally in the daily patter. Whatever discourse that went on was conducted in the confidentiality of dreams that were reliably expunged without he first light of a new day. That orange-ish glow had descended upon all in sight up to the edge marked by the horizon. In less than an hour or two this all would be blackness delineated only by pinpoints of random street lamps. This failing illumination revealing a hint of that sadness that plodded about keeping a clear distance of daily activities. Tonight it was anxious to come out back into these few rooms to inhabit them without apology or regret.
Age had descended upon all. The rooms were little more than sections of a museum housing artifacts whose only definable purpose now was to contain some anecdote or long lost memory of an experience. A talisman functioning as tiny time machines taking one back to the immediacy of a single instant int he past. But not having the presence or persuasive power to maintain the effect for more than the next successive instant. All possibilities in this sense had been terminally exhausted. There was no going forward with any of it. It was a trap. Flypaper for the emotions. Too many hopes for things that remained in progress but could not find their roots or a possibility of fruition. The light about the room failing blending all the items into jagged caverns of inhospitable coral. The enigmas of happenstance as left by its previous occupants insoluble. Each assemblage a shrine to some former meaning lost to the ages. How quickly human flesh decays when bereft of the animating spirit that powered its engine? Was this what was meant by the notion of being haunted. Rumors spreading about an empty space only slightly fragrant enough to suggest but never again to embody? A grand silence that only a random wooden beams squeak or distant tailpipe cough dared to intervene against. The streams of light receding to the West as if all firmament had been unknowingly tilted in the wake of the racing Sun. Life was now a soft hush of unseen humanity dutifully passing back and forth respectfully unseen at the end of another day’s labors.
The landscape extended below was now simply a quilt. The final embers sinking to ash and smoke in dissolving sky chariots relieved of gorse and rider. Their drift slow and inevitable in procession back towards the East. Whatever eulogies that had long ago been offered now floated about as if perpetually contemplated yet never said. The audience of friends and relatives now strangers. Perhaps stranger still than the rest of humanity unmet. One could consider the vast fortune in knickknacks now lost to anonymous shelves somewhere in small resale shops. Those rewards awarded for the special moments dispersed and unrecognized now for the meaning that they had once represented within a single casual glance. Gifts no longer wanted or treasured. Death could not be defined as pain but forgetfulness. Certainly not an individual thing! But of entire worlds and societies whose ways of life could not longer be fathomed. The accomplishments and complexities of entire lifetimes returned to the invisibility of simple elemental molecules inhabiting the endless oceans of water and air and dust. Undignified and unsympathetic to the conscious longing of a broken heart wrecked upon the shoals like the broken back of a long forsaken schooner. Abandonment in the fact that whole worlds of thousands of years of communal experience were singly no longer there. The only repository left signifying the meaning of an entire life’s struggle themselves waning. Falling into the hollows of stillness and silence garnering no companionship or interest of others with which to pass on this saga. The absence of chaos, and of sound or echoes. Forms melting into the absence of illumination. Slow incremental motion of static whirlpools deteriorating within endless undefined regions in the emptiness of space sinking towards a deep unreachable place. Unknowable. Untouchable. Gone.
The last thing that I can do is to say that I am a failure. I can acknowledge my mistakes and misdeeds. But I cannot allow myself to not believe that tomorrow I can turn it all around. If I do I am dead. I am my families final chapter. They live within me. I am their history. Their entire lifetime all within me. Does it matter to the world? It matters not. They meant something, their lives and the dreams they instilled within me. I am their future as well as their past and I have gone fallow, Deep down within under the rubble of a life collapsed is the same little boy that would run to the comfort of his daddy’s arms to feel the love that was too quickly extinguished by the rueful circumstances of unstable life. In the end, I found much to our mutual regret that I had not cared as much for him as he did for me. At least not till he was past caring taken away by the inevitable natural cycle of birth and finally death. To late, my heart poured forth once again what it dare not admit while he was alive. Such was the great degree of my latent fear within. A fear that my sense of being in love would no longer be welcomed as an adult. A fear that I would have to surrender to the crushing mark of being a failed son. The one and only that could not outgrow his father long and ever widening shadow. In that I felt that I had truly failed. How could I not? He was a much greater man than ever I could have imagined. Than I found that I ever could be. Great because despite all the bad hands that he was dealt in life, he continued to persevere despite insurmountable odds. Angry sometimes? Sure! But never despairing always heading forward despite sheltering both my mother and I despite his own meandering inner flaws. No monument in my estimation could ever be built high enough to match his humble stature. A man who lived in the shadow of that larger than life personality that he himself created. Someone that despite how brash and brusque his unrefined manner appeared to me at the time would much later elicit posthumous comments of how that same demeanor would be sorely missed. Someone that many from all walks of life felt that they could call friend. This was the pattern that defines the direction of the weave of the cloth from which I am cut. My father. Someone that I so often regret the loss of and harbor that desire to be beside as I once was before. Just to reach up and find his warm hand holding my own yet again.