A cool front passed through today. It’s a hell of a nice day today outside. Fall is arriving and with it my usual melancholy mood. I got it bad today.
When my dad died, on the day I knew he would, I went to the liquor store and stocked up. Before I left him to make the trip to the liquor store, on the way out the door of his hospital room, he looked at me with that look of his, kind and loving, and said, “I love you twice!” My cousins thought it was a weird thing to say but it was classic Dad and it meant the world. He drifted away a couple hours later. I went straight for the bottles. My best friend was gone. I was so pissed at god and the world and even him for just giving up.
Some time in the early morning before sunrise, after I’d been lying in bed a few hours totally fucked up and trying to figure out how I would live any longer, I thought of my little hydroponics garden attached to the side of our cabin. Tomato vines were growing very well, and blooming. I built the thing as much for Dad’s appreciation than for tomatoes. Suddenly I rose up, went down the stairs, outside, and tore that thing all to hell. What was the fucking use, Dad was gone? My wife and brother who was staying with us thought I had gone stark raving nuts. They tried to stop me but I shoved them all away and demolished the whole thing. I had to.
For the next few days I stayed totally fucked up. I was drunk at the planning of the funeral and pretty smashed at the funeral itself. We dressed the old fart in overalls and a white shirt, the clothes he wore all the time. Somebody stuck a pen in his bib pocket to make it all the way it should be.
When they put that box in the ground I went with it. I have never been the same. My life has always been one of confusion. I’m weird, different, fucked up, screwy, strange, you insert the adjectives. I was, and am, that to every fucking person on the planet, even the rest of my family and my wife. My mom loved me but my dad was there, always there, and I was too goddamn busy in the world to be there when I should have been. I will never forgive myself for not sending him something for the last father’s day. I was such a goddamn dick. But he was there, always, loving me without question. He actually turned to me for advice and information. There’s been nobody like him in my life. Not ever.
Today, with the fall wind blowing through my shop I’ve been wandering around, lost, looking at stuff I have. We, my Dad, brother and I, used to dream about a real shop, a place with every tool we need at hand. I have it. A lot of the tools I have were his or my brother’s. I have so much shit of his here. Up on the wall are his hand saws, a tube checker for old electron tubes, his soldering iron. It still pisses me off I can’t show it off to him. He’d have been here with me building something, just anything, fucking around with wood or whatever.
My family limped along without him for years. We were never the same. I live a couple miles from where Mom lived. I saw her often. She visited and I could show her the shit I was working on. I saw my siblings now and then though they never visited. I visited them sometimes. Then Mom got really sick. She got cancer. When she was reaching the end and was all totally fucked up from what the idiotic doctors did to her they flaked out. I stayed with her, kept her company, was there ’till she was gone too. When she died I knew in my guts that we buried our family with her. The last time we were ever all together was at her house after she died.
Dad died what, some thirteen years ago. Mom died three years ago. Now I am totally fucking alone. Yeah, my wife and kids are here but it’s not the same. My family are all wrapped up in their religious bullshit. I’m the reprobate. My wife loves me and my kids adore me but I’m lousy to them because it’s just not in me to be happy. Happy won’t come. Happy got cancer when Dad died and it died with Mom.
I picked up my old hard hat I wore when I was hauling sand and put it on my head today. Got sawdust and dirt in my hair. It’s been hanging on the wall of this shop. This shop is so Dad. It’s so yesterday. It’s my refuge but it’s a melancholy refuge where purpose does not have a home. Sometimes I make shit. I tinker. The other day I made a 12 volt power supply from a scrap tranformer and rectifier. Dad taught me how to do that shit. He taught me all the skills I use out here. He was the ultimate tinkerer. But what the fuck, why make anything if it’s just going to sit in the goddamn shop and he don’t see it? Nobody else is interested. Nothing I make is pretty. Sometimes it don’t work but sometimes it does. What difference does it make?
Religion. Goddamn religion has cut away my family. Their fucking god is all they see or know. I am a reminder to them that it’s all bullshit. I don’t even know why I’m writing this shit. It’s do this or lay in the floor and scream or just sit here and cry. Everything is so fucked up.
Now I’ve run out of words. I’d really rather be fucked up but I have to go get the kids and besides, I ain’t got much to drink. I lit my pipe but I can never keep that goddamn thing lit. I gave up and got another cigar.
I have a shelf with Dad’s stuff on it in the house. I call it my shrine. He was a “radio man,” an engineer who worked for radio stations for fifty years or so. I have his ancient headphones and a tube out of an old RCA transmitter. When I was a kid I spent a lot of time with him at the radio station, the transmitter building where huge AM transmitters hummed and buzzed, massive 303’s in the RCA glowed like candles. I have one of those 303’s. I’ve held on to it since I was a kid, over forty years. It’s a most prized possession. I have the Scotch bottle that I emptied the day he died, too. Sure wish I had a new one! Full.
Fall always fucks me up. Always has. The forties music on the player probably doesn’t help. I love everything about the forties. And my dad lived through them. I miss his stories. He used to tell such great stories. Once I recorded him and wrote them down. I’ve lost the tapes and most of the writing. That sucks. I remember some of them. I wish my memory wasn’t so fucked up.
Frank Sinatra and Tommy Dorsey is playing now. “Polkadots and Moonbeams.” Just a slow tune with smooth a vocal and lots of brass. And now it ends. Another Frankie tune, “My One and Only.” Sinatra was such a selfish prick but he knew how to croon. I miss those sixties variety shows with the crooners, fading into the past by then. KTRE radio, dad’s station for eighteen years… well not his but where he worked… played this stuff. Hamp and Eggs, that was the morning show. Hampton Kiethly. I remember the studio, the smell of smoke and hot tubes. Massive turn tables and a board with huge knobs. …
All my yesterdays. Song now is “Pennies from Heaven.” That is a great song.
Shit, my cigar is done. I need to pee. Guess I’ll go.
The last thing my dad ever said to me was, “I love you… twice!”
He could be silly. He was a great dad.
My dad was a country boy his whole life. He never understood politics or history or the “Big Picture” even though he was a major part of it himself. He served in India during WWII. Before India he was in the artillery.
Before, during and after the war my dad loved only one thing more than his family: radio. As a kid he built a crystal set and tuned in the world. From then on he was hooked. Dad’s life ran parallel to the evolution of American radio.
I’m not nearly as good a father as he was. He was the greatest. I wasn’t a very good son sometimes either. I was too busy with my own life. Too damn busy.
I loved my mom. I was a bit of a momma’s boy when I was a kid. But dad was the rock that was always there. Mom could be mean, cruel sometimes, hateful and abusive on occasion. Dad, though, he was always just Dad. I recall getting whipped by him only once.
When I hit my teen years Dad was always there. He came when I had a flat or ran out of gas. In 1981 when I was working at a little radio station in West Texas (my short-lived radio career) he and Mom drove eight hundred miles to bring us our stuff from storage. He hung around and helped me remodel the studio of the station I worked for.
Dad was the dad who was always there. I loved him so much. It wasn’t a month or two before he died that I managed to run out of gas a mile from our house. I made the call. Dad showed up with a gas can.
“Dad, you have to live forever.”
“Who else will I call to bring gas when I run out?”
I as joking with him, of course. We had a great relationship. And of course he didn’t live forever.
Dad was my best friend. I have never been whole since he left. He was the best guy ever to walk this earth.
On the last father’s day of his life I was the worst son I could have been. I got him nothing. I planned to. I started to. I was just too busy. I was too self-absorbed. I called him on Father’s Day and we talked. I told him I loved him. But I procrastinated in sending him something.
Mom said he went to the mail box for a week looking for something from me. I will never, ever forgive myself. I am so ashamed and angry at myself. I do not deserve anything for father’s day.
Dad and I were close in his last hears, most of the time. We loved each other very much. He knew that and he forgave me for being the world’s biggest ass. He forgave everybody for everything.
Many years ago I put a tribute to him online. The internet was a new idea when I put it together. All these years I’ve kept it online. It’s been off since I shut down my personal website. Today I’m putting it back up.
I was lucky. I had the world’s greatest dad. Click Here to find out all about him.
If you’re a Father, love your kids. If you have a Father, tell him you love him. Do it now. Tomorrow might not come. There may not be another Father’s Day for him or you.