I just walked into the house after shoveling the sheety, rained on, snow that came last night and this morning, and upon entering our house I was hit with the waft of what I can only describe as a distinct "old people" smell. I hope that's not ageist, probably is. Regardless, that smell is virtually what sold me on putting my eggs in this house's basket. Candy hated it, but something about the smell just made me feel like I could make a home here. That and it had most of the other things we were hoping for in a start-a-family sort of house. I didn't get an immediate time and space transport to Grandpa's house per se', but it felt and smelled cozy. Perhaps it's the sort of smell that gives a place the feel that one can grow old in it? Just a thought.
I know four people who've lost their fathers in the last two weeks. They were Fathers, Grandpas, Sons, and Brothers. I'll be attending three of their memorials, funerals, or shivas this week. You may have heard me mention my friend, Oren, who lost his battle to cancer last Saturday. That night I foolishly opened Facebook on my phone between bands at a show, and, a bit saucy from my third drink, wept almost uncontrollably in the corner when I saw Oren's wife post the news. I don't cry much anymore, at least not from heartache. I tend to cry pretty easily at joyful situations in movies, tv, what have you, but less so at the harder times. Hell, every time Jenny tells Forrest to run and he sheds his leg-braces and discovers his freedom for the first time I smile-weep! (And how could anyone not??? It's maybe the greatest scene in the greatest story ever written!!!) To be fair, I didn't know Oren very well, as per usual, I moved away just as we were getting friendlier. But he was the first of our group in B-more to become a father, and the first person I met who was blogging. He was just a regular guy sharing his thoughts, it seemed profound to me.
This morning I got to hear a sermon about another father's life with our 3-year-old sitting quietly on my lap. She desperately wanted to relocate closer to the people she knew in the crowd, but was understanding when I explained we needed to wait until after the service to greet them. As I'm listening to how charming, and entertaining, and devoted this man was, my sweets whispered in my ear, "I love you very much Dadda." I couldn't have dreamed a scene more perfect. Of course, a moment later she comically whispered, "I don't love you Dadda," as she likes to say to both Candy and I to get a reaction of tickles or whatever we then do to make sure she's joking.
Several years ago I heard through the ancient MySpace grape-vine that a former Dojo member friend of mine died in an on-site construction accident. Gilbert was a best buddy of mine for about two years until he up and left the Dojo out of the blue. Just prior to that he'd started wearing suits to high school on the advice to "dress to impress" or one other of Sensei's dorky business-savvy models. At that point Gilbert seemed to be lost to me, he was gung-ho for something I didn't understand, and by my view, seemed to have lost himself. Then he disappeared. A guy I saw almost every day for years, trained with, sparred with, swung bo-staffs with, was off the radar. Why he left I never knew. At his funeral I learned he returned to the Dojo years later and casually trained with others I'd lost track of. It was strange also learning that he had a wife, and 2 young kids, and the string-bean-teen I knew grew into a portly adult. His entire adult life was a mystery to me. To this day, every time I hear Dark Side of the Moon I see his face. He's encapsulated in a very different time and space for me. Gilbert's funeral was before I had a daughter of my own. As I think back now, I can almost see the black cloud in the air created by those who know how devastating it is to lose a father, husband, or son, well before anyone could expect their end. The children who will grow up, perhaps without retaining a real memory of who he was, we mourn most for.
There's a weightiness in these situations that I imagine every father, deep down, vehemently fears, as well as day-dreams he could handle as well as Oren did. (Read this for examples of his grace and other things worthy of admiring and pondering.) He's an example of the father I hope to be: intimately connected. He embraced his fatherhood in a way that I admire and sometimes feel like I'm incapable of. Luckily, through some rearranging and help from fantastic friends, we're able to drive out this week to pay our respects and spend time with the legacy he's left behind. Our children will play together! And if there is any reality in which he can be aware of what we're doing without him, I'm sure there is nothing that would make him happier.
Editor's Note: I received a phone call the day before we were supposed to leave for Baltimore from the friend we were planning on staying with. He explained that Oren's kids were diagnosed with strep that morning and ten inches of snow was predicted from Ohio to Maryland. He asked us to wait until spring to come out, citing it will be a better visit for everyone, so we agreed. So, our children will play together...in the spring.