Saturday, September 13, 2014

Psychedelic Jellyheads

It's been a year since Eldin died. At that time I began work on what will one day become a memoir of an obscure Prog Rock band in the 70s from the perspective of the keyboard player. This is the opening:

So the instance that sticks out in my mind is the night Dad and I got into a general discussion that began innocently enough about nothing in particular then—after a couple of bourbons—went roundabout until finally he began reminiscing on his involvement in one of the biggest bloodbaths this planet has seen. I wasn’t a kid. In my mid-twenties I’d already moved out of his house, back in, back out again and probably back and forth a few more times just so he wouldn’t get too relaxed in his empty nest. Not that I had any great desire to live in my dad’s house, but I didn’t want to live in an alley out of a shopping cart either. Whether this was one of those times where he had me as a forced roommate or not is something I don’t specifically remember, but it was after my rock star days and before my married guy days.

But that’s not the point.

The point is that during this time I got along well with the old man. I wasn’t a complete juvenile little prick and having retired from the insurance game, Dad had become a bit more chill as he aged. In fact, as I recall, he’d just gotten back from Europe—his first and last visit since bombing the shit out of the place during WWII; literally, he was the guy who pushed the buttons that dropped the bombs.

The conversation drifted, as conversations do, and we veered into politics. That night I learned my father—a life-long Republican—had become a pacifist—very much opposed to the idea of war—and was coming dangerously close to straying into liberal territory, although back then the divide between the two sides of political ideology wasn’t rigged with all the booby traps it is today. Somewhere along the way my dear old dad had developed a newfound appreciation of peace, he told me, which led to his experiences in the military. And that’s when the tears started. And while I’m sure I squirmed in my chair a little as he opened himself up to me, our relationship grew exponentially that evening.

There may have been other instances where I witnessed his emotions splayed out on the autopsy table. Like when my mom died. I’m sure he cried then—a lot—but never openly in front of me. A lot of people cried when my mom died. She was a beloved piano teacher; the best in the city. But during that period I was so wrapped around my own grief and addictions I probably missed a lot.

I’m also sure that my uncomfortable reaction at stumbling into one of my dad’s dark places isn’t uncommon. Maybe not universal, but not weird either. Certainly not weird. And when I say dark places, I don’t mean that in a disparaging way. We all have them. Admit it. You have them too. Those places you don’t let people into without a good vetting. Treasure them. Embrace them. Run around naked in them. It’s good for you.

All of this, however, has little to do with the story at hand—or anything else for that matter—outside of the fact that today my son saw me cry. For him it’s not the first time. I’m not ashamed to admit I get emotional over a good story, whether it’s from a book, movie, or even a TV show. My masculinity is secure enough that given the appropriate moment I can crank open the water works and let them flow. And my son, being a twenty-first century, enlightened little fucker, didn’t have the same uncomfortable reaction I did toward my father that night. He simply gave me a hug and we shared a moment. I’m a product of the “Leave it to Beaver” era where nothing bad ever happens - at least not out in the open. My son on the other hand lives in a world where bad things are in your face on a daily basis. With the planet heating up and personal interaction cooling down, it’s a very different world than it used to be. I pray this change is just another one of humanities growth spurts and we’ll all come out the other side bigger and more enlightened than before.

But back to the topic at hand, as in the day I got the terrible, horrible bad news that for several years I had hoped would never arrive (I live perpetually, and very comfortably in a state of denial). Eldin Green, one of the most important and, I dare say influential, people in my life was dying. He was and always will be one of my best and oldest friends. The first word was there was no hope and each hour that passed could easily be his last. In fact, for the rest of this story, I’m going to go ahead and write as though he’s gone and has been gone for some time because that will be the case. Hopefully by the time I’m ready to share this with the rest of the world the pain of losing him will have crawled deep enough below the surface that it will rear its head only on rare occasions.

Add another item to the inventory of my dark places.