All That Remains of Us
Pray That The Body Dies Before the Brain Does
Here's a secret about me: I have no intention of getting old. As the Who once sang (and still do, man, are they old):
Hope I die before I get old
I just don't believe in living past my expiration date, that's all. Though I had no control over when and how I came into this world, I am now a sentient being. And as long as I remain one, I reserve for myself, fully, the right to pull the eject handle when things get too shitty.
For, as John Cougar Mellencamp sang:
Oh yeah, life goes on
Long after the thrill, of living, is gone
I am not a Catholic. No offense to those of you who are, my wife included, but I do not defer to the Pope on this matter. Frankly, it is none of his goddamn business.
I usually try and talk about this playfully with my wife. I tell her I will take up extreme sports in celebration of my 65th birthday, should I make it that far. This will ensure that my 70th birthday will be spent as a red stain on a rock.
She still doesn't find it amusing. But it remains my solid conviction. Two recent occurrences have solidified this conviction.
The first was a visit to my wife's relatives in South Brazil. While there, I encountered an elderly matriarch who must have been in her mid-nineties. I stood outside the bathroom while her diaper was changed, then watched as she was manhandled into the front seat of the car for a lunch out.
Did she enjoy this? Did she consent? Did anyone care? I don't know. All I know was, she made noises of pain, nodded, and occasionally mumbled some sort of statement of awareness.
I have worn diapers once, I told my wife. I will not do it again. Kill me first.
The second occurrence was a confrontation with my father today. This is very painful and very personal, but it needs to be said.
David Patterson walks. He drives. He talks, pays taxes, and votes.
But he is not my father, not any longer. All that remains of him is his anger and suspicion. A joke gets an occasional laugh, a picture of cute granddaughters provokes some response, but now, there is little spark left.
We used to talk for hours. There was nobody whose opinion I valued more. Now, that man might as well be at the bottom of the Marianas Trench.
My stepbrother is on life support after a stroke has essentially killed him. it is a painful time, and my stepmother, a saint if there ever was one, was trying to keep her chin up, with the help of my stepsister-in-law.
Then, as we often do, men ruined things. My father overheard my stepmother and I talking about his propensity to remain at home, despite her very reasonable desire to go out for pizza.
He reacted as if we were plotting his assassination. In short order, teeth clenched, that angry look I know so well, he was telling me, the focus of his anger, to "Get the fuck out of here."
I'd finally had enough. It occurred to me, that, after years of making excuses for my father's anger, I now had to accept this uncomfortable conclusion:
His anger is all that remains. Trapped in a diminishing mind he cannot control, the only weapon he has left is his anger. The fact that he was letting me have it, and not my brother, who just minutes earlier had been hitting him up for cash for the third day in a row, money he will almost certainly spend on heroin, fired up my anger.
Like father, like son. I told him it looked like he wanted to take a swing. I suggested he ought to since I was sick and fucking tired of him treating my stepmother like shit.
Face-to-face, we squared off, as she cried, and I wondered how it had come to this.
Then, I realized that I was looking at myself, 28 years later.
Angry me, suspicious me, isolated me. The me that will remain, long after the thrill is gone.
I put on my jacket, and I left. I decided two things, right then and there.
One, I will find a way to control his anger, which I know lives inside me so that this scene is never recreated between my daughters and me.
Two, I will start looking into bungee jumping sooner, rather than later.
Hopefully, there's a harness somewhere that won't hold me.
In Memoriam: Michael Shannon