I’ve been here for two years. In that time, I have learned a little about the sublties of office politics. Enough to know that I really, really don’t know anything, and I am in way over my head.
Let me start from the beginning.
When I first started I was so excited about the prospect of working regular hours. Up until this time, I always worked nights and weekends, holidays, odd hours–things like that. This was an adjustment to my internal circadian. My stomach had to adjust as well.
But it was also a different environment to be in. I am surrounded–completely surrounded–by women. At first I reveled in it. I am, after all, heterosexual. I love women. And most of these women are very attractive, and the rest are at least nice. Very few are unattractive. I like all people. Especially women.
In the early days of my career here, I got along swimmingly with everyone, except this one dude, actually, who couldn’t get along with anyone. He got fired eventually, but not before causing me tremendous stress just to be around. In the midst of his accusations and conniving, I felt I was in a very hostile workplace.
After that, things were better. And things have been good, until now. On a slightly separate subject, I just recently got accused of not working, because I wasn’t sitting tied to my desk and my scanner. In fact I was doing the work that IT couldn’t (or wouldn’t) do: I was troubleshooting my scanner, setting up someone else’s computer, setting up someone else’s scanner, and finding an alternate place to scan since mine wasn’t up.
But since I wasn’t at my desk, I must be running around playing, and not working. I know that the ones who anonymously accused me are the same ones I see frittering away the hours, occasionally working, occasionally not.
And now what has happened? Well, we just had our big Anniversary and Employee Recognition Dinner. This thing is big. First, we rented this very large and very fabulous (and very expensive) ballroom. Band. Open bar. Hundreds of people, dressed like it’s the social event of the year–because it is.
I volunteered to help. I didn’t get to help alot–some of the things were beyond my time and ability. But I did help with some of the setup that day, as well as that evening, I had my digital camera, and I wanted to make sure I got as many different pictures of people as I could.
In between meal courses, I got pictures, I sat at practically every table, I moved around, I got pictures on the dance floor –everything. I would sit at a table, start a little spiel, usually like this: "Hi. Sorry I’m late." I’d look around at the plates. "Oh, did I miss dinner?" While I’m doing this and chatting, I would be setting up the camera. I take a picture of whomever was across from me, and then show it to the person next to me, to make them feel included.
There were variations, because it was improv, but that was the basic scheme.
I did ask a few people to show more cleavage, but it was men that I asked. I also told a few to "Smile and say something dirty."
Now, almost a week later, I get called on the carpet. Lisa Simpson (yes, that’s her name), VP and head of HR, wanted to see me. She was nice about it; she likes me. She was embarrassed to bring it up, but some people (women) were "uncomfortable" about either my actions, or my speech, or both. I was accused of using the camera to try and take "untoward" photos of women, I was staring at some women’s chests (complete bullshit there: I’m an ass-man.)
She said it was two women, who said that others said something to them, also. So what are they, exactly, CUABP the Chicks United Against Bryan the Pervert, St Louis Chapter? But they are anonymous, so maybe "Chicks United, Never Tell?" Against Bryan? CUNTs Against Bryan. That’s what it feels like.
I mean, yes I am a pervert. Or at least a horn dog. Dirty old man. I’m only a pervert if you’re under 18. Am I wrong? In many, many ways.
But I try to be very subtle, plus, I had my girlfriend with me, and I was having a good time, and no time was I trying to–
You know what, fuck it. I understand, of course, that no woman wants to be an object, sexual conduct of any sort is inaprropriate for teh office, we are all equal, all God’s children, blah blah blah.
But fuck me, if you haven’t realized this, you live in the goddamn world, and the goddamn world is not a goddamn perfect place, you fucking bitches. This was not overt, like I stalked them, or threatened their job, or made advances. It was more like they just got a *feeling*.
Well, you know what, I get the *feeling* that they are a bunch of stifled cunts.
I mean, I get when it really is harassment. Rent A Center, for instance, had sexual harassment and discrimination so blatant it was practically policy. But this is a company party, and this is me being fun-loving and trying to promote a party atmosphere, kind of like an MC, if you will. It just– dammit, I get so damn–Eeerrgghh! It makes me want to find whoever the bitches are, bend them over, and fuck them in the ass. Hard.
Maybe the problem was, they could just read my mind?
"On behalf of all men, I apologize. I’m sorry I find you attractive. I’m sorry that you try to dress well and look nice, and that it actually worked, and I responded to it by noticing you in the slightest way.
"I’m sorry that I’ve had conversations with you, and thought we were the merest of acquaintances with whom I could share a personal thought or two. I’m sorry you are so guarded, so sensitive, so wounded, that you choose to take absolutely anything and everything I say the wrong way so that it is offensive to you.
"I’m sorry the world is an offensive place. If I could, I would coat everything in marshmallow creme for you, so that you could live in happy oblivion forever, sticking to stuff. But mostly I’m sorry I never got the chance to teabag you, so if you could just come over here, I want to bitch-slap you with my cock. Thank you."
One of the things that pisses me off about it, see, is that I can read people. Since I’m a sociopath, it’s a skill I developed in order to blend in with normal people. But after all my years in customer service, I can read people. Usually in a matter of a split second, I can tell whether or not my schtick is going over.
And so for that reason, I would know, and not push the boundaries. I would see a wall, and move on to the next person. So a few people were pretending to be nice and easy-going, when in fact they were diabolical, conniving bitches. I thought I could pick those out of a crowd as well–
And another thing–
Fuck it. Lisa, the VP in HR, says I need to let it go, put it behind me. But Lisa herself is a hot looking older chick, blond hair and long legs, and she looks good in a red dress, and that’s what she was wearing that night. I really wanted to lift up her skirt and just–
Geez, maybe I am I pervert.
He’s not at his peak. I saw him at his peak. But he is still top-notch; he has not yet been resigned to the oldies tour with Frankie Vallie, The Turtles, Three Dog Night, and a one-hit wonder band from the 70’s that no one heard of–Just play "We Had Joy, We Had Fun," over and over again for 38 minutes. He can still fill up a 20,000 seat hockey arena by himself. And so, this wasn’t a tour with a new album out, even: Just a tour. He played his old stuff.
And here’s another thing: I heard it said that this was a risk-taking venture for him, partly because he didn’t have a new album. But this makes five times that I have seen him, and I was amazed, completely amazed, by the number of songs he played that I had never heard him do live.
Based on some of what I’ve said here, you may have guessed I am a pretty big fan of his work; I am. His big Grammy-winning album, 52nd Street, was the first one I ever got, back in 1978. I remember the first album, although new, was defective and all the songs skipped badly, so my mom had to replace it for me. Then I played the piss out of it.
The first time I saw him was in 1983. It was me, my cousin, my sister, a girl Jackie that I wanted to bang in my home town (I was in college at the time), and a guy named Bruce from college. Bruce was disabled, and on crutches. The show was at the Checkerdome in St Louis, named for Ralston-Purina before they split town, the bastards. Handicap accessibility was a science fiction concept in those days.
It was a good show. 1983, he was peaking. This was right after Songs In The Attic, I believe. That is a great album, a great concept idea. He went back to his previous albums, before he got big–before The Stranger, and picked various songs that were "okay" on the studio album but totally rocked live. Afterwards, after we took everyone home or dropped them off, I almost got laid.
Early 90s–no later than 92, I guess I should look it up–I saw him again. This time the Checkerdome was called The Arena, and it stayed that until they tore it down, the bastards. I took the wife–did anyone else go? Well, yeah, there were 20,000 people there, but did anyone else go with us? I don’t remember. I just don’t.
What I do remember is this: The first time I saw him, I saw (and Billy Joel explained, between songs) that because of how arena seating is, his stage is set up such that EVERYONE has a good few, he moves around his Z-shaped stage to face all directions at some point, even–and this is important–even the seats behind the stage. At the first show, our seats were too the side; so much so, in fact, that with a normal setup we would have been consigned to a shitty view, similar to watching someone through the crack in a partially opened door. Because of his stage setup, we had excellent seats, and were only 10 rows back.
So, knowing this, I got seats behind the stage, about row G. Seven rows back.
We arrive, and get to our seats, and The Storm immediately erupts. The show hasn’t started yet, of course, and so people are milling around, getting to their seats, and it’s relatively quiet, for an arena roughly half-full, about 10,000 people there so far.
"What the hell did you do? You stupid fucking asshole! These are shitty seats! They’re behind the goddamn stage! What a fucking moron! Goddammit! We’re not going to be able to see shit! You motherfucking dumbass! Why did I let you get the seats! Fuck!"
This was typical, by the way, of the type of beratement I received from my wife, pretty much on a daily basis. I said nothing, because she had trained me so that if I tried to talk back, defend myself, answer, or anything, she would continue and escalate. "Let the bitch run down" became my motto. Billy Joel must have heard her, because after he came out and played a couple of songs, he talked to the audience, like he always does. He is a smart, funny guy. He should have a talk show.
But he explained to everyone about the seating, turning to us, and we were seven rows back. He winked at me, rolled his eyes at her (It’s true! I swear it is! You calling me a liar?), and said, "And when I turn around this way–" pointing at us "–the guys in the front row will have the shitty seats!"
Despite The Storm, it was a great show. I really enjoy live music, and Billy puts alot of energy into his act. When he was facing us directly throughout the show, I would look at The Storm for some indication, vindication–something. Of course you know I never received an apology of any kind, nor any kind of acknowledgment that the seats were not only fine or okay but actually awesome.
His stage show is something to behold, and this show was probably his peak. Despite the conventional wisdom that he is a "piano balladeer," he is actually a rocker. It was loud and hard and fast. He was all over the stage when he wasn’t at the piano. Sometimes he was on the piano, threatening to do a back flip off of it. He would run the course of the stage, facing all directions during a song. He played with his band, he mocked, he joked, he spun the microphone stand, he played to the audience. He is a true showman.
Long about 97, I believe, he came to town with Elton John. I went with The Storm, of course, and also my friend Bunny and some of her friends. We all rode together, but their seats were different from ours. It was in the 50,000 seat Busch Stadium, and it was awesome. I wonder if a concert DVD was made of any of this tour–if so, I’d like to have it.
It started with both Billy and Elton on stage, two grand pianos end-to-end. One white, for Elton, and one black, for Billy. They played together, a couple of Elton songs, then a couple of Billy songs. Then Billy Joel left, and Elton did his thing. He played mostly his stuff, and couple of Billy Joel Songs.
Then there was a break. They switched out the bands, too, and set up Billy Joel’s band. Again, they both came out, played a few of each of their songs, then Elton left. Billy Joel did his thing, mostly his stuff, and couple of Elton tunes. This is in the gigantic, 50,000 seat Busch Stadium, and Billy Joel’s band was noticeably louder.
Elton then came back out, and they did a few of each of their tunes again, close to the finale. The finale was a Billy Joel song. Piano Man, of course. They were both playing the piano, and then Elton just stopped. Billy Joel was playing, but not singing.
50,000+ *other* people were singing. Elton sat there and watched, mouth open as everyone sang Piano Man. It gave me chills then to witness it; it does again to write about it. It was an awesome show.
We saw him again in 03. My sister says she asked me to get her a ticket, and I didn’t. One of the advantages of being a man is that I can conveniently forget things, but I don’t remember this; it sounds like bullshit to me.
This time it was either the Saavis Center or the New Kiel, depending on what they called it at the time. It was a good show, but not his best, and I’ve seen him enough to know that he was a bit off his game. We were expecting a very high energy show, and it was somewhat less than that. It was still a very good show, just not his best of the four I had seen. Later I heard that this was not a tour he wanted to do; he had to, he was forced to, due to the fact that although he had been a quad-jillionaire, he had been ripped off by friends and business partners and actually really needed money. He did cancel a few dates due to illness as well, so that may have accounted for it also.
So for the past year or so, I was a little bummed out that the last time I saw Billy Joel, it
a) wasn’t his best show; and
2) I saw it with The Storm.
Tickets went on sale for this show, and being in the middle of a divorce as well as just in general not being good with money, I had nada the cashola to obtain the tickets.
Out of adversity, a little good news falls my way. From my dad’s recent passing, a small chunk of change was given to me. I had some very serious things to pay: past due taxes, insurance, loan payments. The one thing I did splurge on for myself was tickets to Billy Joel. By God, I’m going to do at least *one* thing for myself.
We got the tickets.
We got the tickets so late that most of the good seats were taken. Actually, all of the good seats, all of the mediocre seats, and most of the shitty seats were taken.
I bought tickets for Detroit and I, as well as my sister and her friend Lou. These seats were not quite outside in the parking lot, but close. I had an excellent view of the backs of the heads of the 20,000 people in front of me who had better seats. Thank God for the Jumbo-tron, or whatever it’s called.
It was a great show. Billy has gotten older, as have I. From down on the stage to straight out to me, a few hundred feet away, with thousands of people around, he gave me a private wink and a nod, and I nodded back. We connected. We both. . .understood.
He generally covers some Beatles tunes, which he didn’t do this time, although he did do "Johnny B Goode." And an old classic. Very old. "Rootbeer Rag," from Scott Joplin, from about one hundred years ago. And he did something very few people could get away with. He had a guy named "Chainsaw"–was he a roadie? Who was he? In the middle of the show, Chainsaw came on stage and performed an AC-DC song, "Highway to Hell." And it was good. It sounded just like them. Billy Joel was nowhere on the stage during that song. It was one of the oddest things I have ever seen, but it was good–it rocked.
As I said, he has gotten older. But he knew his limitations. He didn’t run all over the stage, but he did travel it. Instead of running himself ragged, he concentrated on performing. The camera on the big screen caught him several times with his hands flying smoothly over the keyboard. Since he didn’t run himself down, his voice was completely top-notch. In the past, he has needed help in hitting the highs on "An Innocent Man," but this time he did it himself. *Blow me, Frankie Vallie*, he seemed to say.
And the set list itself: Wow. Having seen him several times, I thought I knew what to expect. And a DJ referred to it as a "greatest hits" show, just because he had no new album out. But it was more than that. It was songs of his, that, after seeing him several times, I never expected to hear live. Many old faves, to be sure, but definitely some new tricks thrown in there.
Of course you’re going to hear "My Life," "Big Shot," "River of Dreams," and things like that. Haven’t heard "She’s Always a Woman to Me" ever, I think, though. That was good. But "Zanzibar"? "Everybody Loves You Now"? "The Entertainer"? Come on! "The Entertainer"! Billy Joel himself described that song as what happens when people–record executives–want another big song like "Piano Man." "Do Piano Man again. But you know. Different." "The Entertainer" is kind of like "Piano Man Part 2: Revenge of Piano Man." Some of these songs may have never seen the stage before.
He offered us a choice, by the way. He said, I’m going to give you three songs, tell me which one you want to hear. Fuck. I wanted to hear ALL of them, dammit. "Summer, Highland Falls," which is an unasuming little song that I really love that hardly anyone has heard from (I think) the album "Turnstiles." "Vienna," the second track on the second side of "The Stranger," when you hold the precious vinyl in your hands, with the very appropriate accordian on it. I had high hopes to hear either of these, and then he offered up "Captain Jack." Fuck me. Well, I know what the audience is going to pick.
And it’s still good choice. Captain Jack is one of the reasons Billy Joel did the album "Songs in the Attic." It’s a song from the Piano Man album, and the studio version is just. . .lame. His voice quivers, you can tell how young he is, from the early 70s. There’s no depth or emotion to it. The song is about a loser on drugs who’s life is going no where. Sing it like you mean it, dammit!
But it’s a well known song, and so that’s what the people chose. Rather pedestrian. Still, it was awesome. The version on "Songs in the Attic," and the live version he performed for us, are full of power and emotion, and you can hear the sneer in his voice, the contempt for this character. It rocked.
I noticed this subtle little change: On the live album, on the line, "So you play your albums, and you smoke your pot, and you meet your girlfriend in the parking lot," the crowd on the album cheers during "smoke your pot."
This crowd, they be a bit older. They didn’t cheer during that line. Maybe they needed to turn their hearing aids up. It reminded me that I have the live album he did in Russia in the 80’s, around the time the wall fell down. He covers other people’s tunes on occasion and for that show, he covered Bob Dillon. "The Times, They Are A-Changin’"
Yeah, Bill, don’t I know it.
At the end of the show, he says the same thing, and I realize, I realize now, that he was talking to ME, and I finally listened to him, I did what he said. We did have a connection after all, see? He was telling me to leave my wife:
"Good night, St Louis! Thanks alot! Don’t take any shit from anybody!"
Soon–this week,perhaps–I’ll be able to post this and other articles and get current with my blog. So much has happened. So, so much has happened. So much so that. . .
Hmmm. I guess we’ll do this time-line style.
1965- I was born poor black child.
. . .Let’s jump to more recently. . .
March 13th–I actually played the comedy club for the first time. My sister was going to go, but Dad was starting to get sick. I was worried, but she said she would stay home with him. I went on.
March 14th–My dad went in the hospital.
March 15th-21st–During this week my dad had ups and downs. Regular room, ICU, regular room, Respiratory ICU, back and forth. Every time I came to see him, I had no idea where he was.
I think the last time I talked to him was on Wednesday.
March 22nd–He took a turn for the worse. All the meds he was on for everything else caused his kidneys to fail.
March 23rd–I left work early and went to the hospital, my brother Carl was already there. This was the day. The last day.
March 24th–Funeral Home Day. We make the arrangements.
March 25th–Sunday. I have no idea. I don’t remember.
March 26th–Monday. Dad’s service.
March 27th-30th–Tues-Fri. I spent this time fielding phone calls, arranging the burial in Mt Vernon, and moving. We (all of us) decided it would be best for me (and Detroit) to move into my dad’s house. Even though it was supposed to go to my sister (my parents had already given me a house and my brother a house, so it was her turn), she never made enough money in her life to take care of a house, even one that was paid for.
March 31st–The burial service in Mt Vernon, followed by the obligatory eats and beer at the Eagle’s Lodge. Afterwards we went first to my Aunt Nina’s house, and then to my cousin (her daughter) Carrie’s house, then on the way home we stopped at my brother’s house, and I gave Detroit the tour of the town I grew up in.
So many things–my Aunt and my cousin and her daughter, too, are three generations of creative and artistic. There is a lot of it in our family. Aunt Nina makes jewelry, and paints, and does this organic sculpture with gourds. And other things, too, probably. She built a labrynth in her back yard.
I walked it, as you are supposed to do, and contemplated. I got to the center, and walked back out. I’m not sure what clarity I was seeking, what answer I sought. Perhaps it was a calm. Maybe I got that. Maybe.
April 1st–Sunday, we finished moving out of the apartment. I may yet go back for something, I don’t know. The landlord indeed wants to be a hard on. Yes we are leaving about 5 months early. I explained the circumstances, and the first thing out of his mouth was not "my condolences," or "Sorry for your loss," but "you know you’re responsible for the rest of the lease." What a prick. He is willing to go to court and sue me over this, too.
So even though we are out of the apartment, I may have to pay the rest of the lease, just to avoid even more expenses legally. But I’m going to have to do something special for him. Like call someone about all the Illegals he has in his buildings.
April 2nd-to the present. I’ve been about the several tasks of closing out my father’s business, changing names over, and trying to get things paid out. The challenge being, of course, we can’t find a will, and the beneficiary on his life insurance is "the estate of–" himself.
Unless you have a goddamn will and make fucking sure somebody knows where to fucking find the son of a bitch, that is the stupidest motherfucking thing you can do! You make a goddamn PERSON your fucking beneficiary! This is the most ridiculous bullshit I have ever seen, been through, dealt with. Christ in a fucking ice cream truck. Anybody who thinks I’m wrong can stop by, get in line, and I will personally attend to hitting you in the fucking head with a ball-pene hammer. Idiots.
Luckily, he did have some money in the bank, POD to me, Judy, and Carl, so we were able to pay for the funeral, pay his car off (in fact, they made us, which is BS), and split what was left. His pensions–his and the one from Mom–both made a payment in April and they both want their goddamn money back.
During this time–a week after the first service–I find out that the mediation for my divorce is scheduled. Since my mail is in the process of being forwarded, I don’t see any of this. I find out about it completely by accident from my older kids.
I go to the mediation. You know, I’m done talking about it, and about The Storm. Suffice it to say that I gave her every goddamn thing I ever mother fucking had, and emerged with my testicles intact and my soul bruised but healing. I chewed my own arm off to get away.
As a side note, I’m finding out that everyone I ever knew who ever met my wife all felt the same way about her: She was a cast-iron bitch and I was a brave, stupid martyr for staying with her. So’s your face, pal.
I explained to Detroit just the other night, that I like everyone. I even like people that other people don’t like. Case in point, the Storm. I am a good judge of people in that, if I don’t like you, you must be a really, really horrible person. I can still make excuses for her, and be defensive about her if someone says something bad about her. But it’s all true. The worst that someone would say, it’s true. And actually, the truth is even harsher.
Speaking of harsh, we are living in the same house as my sister. This is an adjustment for Detroit. My sister. . . is an odd duck.
Five years younger than me, she’s 37. But she has really been a teenager for the past 20 years.
She’s not retarded (that I can tell), she just never. . .grew up. Peter Pan was originally played by a woman. Most of her friends are early 20’s, college age. She herself just recently went back to school a few years ago, after I did (I take credit for the idea).
In college she flourished, getting involved in activities, student government, things like that. She likes living the life of an adult, living at home, no responsibility.
Our parents never pushed us, not really. I could have used a push when I was a kid, in school, to do better. I wasn’t pushed. I think it went a step further with her, because she was the baby. She was coddled.
The big problem for Detroit is, my sister has the worst trait my mom had, the one I’ve been fighting all my life, that she revels in: She is a slob. Bonafide, 100% pig. And a pack rat extraordinaire.
Okay, this was the problem: My sister, in all of her piddly part time side jobs she has worked, has never made more than 8 grand a year in her life. As I said, the house is paid for. But she is trying to finish school (although not trying very hard at this exact point), and there are the utes and the taxes and insurance. The taxes are about 2 grand per year, and they want that every year.
My dad had often remarked to me in the last few years, and occasionally in the previous months–"I really worry about your sister after I’m gone–" I realize now that this was a hint to me. She took care of Dad, but not as much as she thinks she did. Remind him to take his oxygen with him, remind of appointments, making sure he bundled up. She did the grocery shopping (with his money), and most of the cooking. Dad’s pensions and IRAs paid the bills, and they both did pretty much what they wanted, no clear goals in mind.
That thing really bothers me. I never realized how goal oriented I was until I had none, and sensed a void. When I was living in the apartment with Detroit, I had everything I needed, like some badly written soft rock song from the seventies. Dad was retired and felt himself near the end, there was nothing he wanted. My sister is oblivious, immature, and a stoner. Between them they let the house fall apart.
So in I stroll and now it’s the dawning of a brand new day. The problem is two-fold but the root is the same: A) the house needs a remodel worse than anything you’ve seen on HGTV, and B) there is no room for everything because we have:
1. our stuff to move in (admittidly a small, streamlined amount, having already been reduced my moving and divorce)
2. Dad’s stuff already there
3. Some of Mom’s stuff left (she died three years ago)
4. All of my sister’s stuff, who has never had to move, saved everything, and wants to part with nothing.
She wants to make the house a shrine to Mom and Dad. The house is full and cluttered the way it is, and we have no room to move our shit in.
My sister wants things to be this way or that–but she’s unwilling to do anything. Her inaction was my free license. We started moving our shit in and moving things around and getting rid of things.
"But I wanted to keep that!"
"It reminds me of Dad."
"It’s an empty package of disposable razors."
"It’s the kind Dad used."
"He forgot to throw it out."
"He meant for me to have it." This is a typical conversation, and much less of an exaggeration than you think.
Gradually, though, she has started to come around. She still takes credit for everything "we" do when she talks to people even though she has barely lifted a finger, but I was shocked as shit to see her up on a chair cleaning the ceiling fan– albeit badly. But she’s on board with most of the changes, and the rest. . .? We’ll see.
Detroit did like my sister, before we moved in. But then she had about two weeks solid of PMS because she can’t stand filth and clutter. It was tense around here (for me) because she bitched to me and not to Judy, who was the cause of her problem. This didn’t seem logical because I am a man, a natural thinker and regular user of logic.
I felt I was going to have to choose between taking care of my sister and having Detroit in my life. I felt the bittersweet agony of having a perfect love–and having it for so fleetingly short a period of time. All we’ve been through, and this is how it ends? With this? It’s not fair, it’s not–
And then it started to get better. With progress made, things getting done, trash and clutter getting removed, it is more of a place Detroit can call home. I’m so glad, because that would have been a painful choice to make.
Although the choice may have become: Which one of them do I kill FIRST, and bury and the back yard?
Time keeps on slippin, slippin, slippin–
It’s been a few weeks since my dad died. We keep getting. . . further and further from that time. It’s not *fresh* anymore. Do I want it to be? Or do I want to move on? Regardless, I have. I’ve had to.
More emotion and thought and retrospection than I care to go into. I do feel, however, that I had good closure at his passing. I still feel like–like I wasn’t ready for it. I thought he had a few more years in him. I knew this day would come and yet I just don’t feel it was the right time.
We sat in his hospital room, all of us–me, Detroit, my brother, his wife and their daughter, my sister, and Dee, Dad’s girlfriend. Also two of his sisters, Audrey and Nina. His breathing apparatus had been disconnected. IV’s removed. Everything unattached. We sat in vigil . . .
Dad had gone from not good to bad to worse, and back to bad, then down again. He went to the hospital on March 14th, the day after my first comedy club appearance. There he stayed. He went from ER to a room to the ICU, to a regular room, to the respiratory ICU. He had pneumonia, but he also had emphysema as well as lung disease. He had been on oxygen for nigh on a year or more.
[And those fucking people that provide the oxygen better come and pick up that equipment and shit or I swear I will leave it at the goddamn curb! How many fucking weeks do I need to sit on this before they come and get it? I will sell those tanks for fifty cents a pop at a yard sale!]
I came to see him as often as I could, roughly every other day. When he was doing better, I figured he would be home soon. Then he took a turn, a hard left down hill. His kidneys failed. He had a tube in his lungs to breath, and he was sedated so that he would lie still and take it. I remember seeing it, and it’s not something I want to remember. His chest heaving almost mechanically, unnaturally, as the machine helped him breath. I never got straight if it was a ventilator or a respirator, and I’m not sure what the difference was.
He was on powerful antibiotics for the pneumonia, and other meds as well. We hoped to take him out of sedation, and talk to him, and tell him we love him. Although they removed the sedation meds, he never regained consciousness. We called all the family, and they came to see him one last time. His sisters, my cousins, my uncle, my kids and grandkids. My wife.
Yeah, that was fun. In the midst of all of this, my father on his deathbed, my wife comes up with the kids. Detroit happened to be back at my dad’s house with my sister during this, and came back after she left. She raised a bit of a stink. I don’t remember what it was about, all I remember is, I walked out of the hospital for a while while she was there. Later she did hug me as she cried. But I do remember the constrast of how Detroit handled herself and how the Storm did. How did *my* father on his deathbed become about her?
I’m trying to have a serious, serious discussion with my brother, and my daughter is upset because Linda won’t let her spend the night with me: Still leery of Detroit. She should be: The kids would find out that not all mother-figures are insane and spastic. So, I have to stop where I am, which is in the middle of deciding when to take my Dad off Life support, switch gears, and run out of the hospital as they are leaving and sooth my little girl, and let her know that I’m going to be busy all night and probably up at the hospital all night and so she should just go home, it would be better. Even though I’m pissed at the Storm for not letting her, I have to talk to my daughter like it’s my idea.
Then I’m back in there. His sisters arrived from out of town and were able to go in and see him as well. Everyone who was going to come to see him had. It was time.
We (my brother, sister, and I) had THE CONVERSATION with the doctor. She explained his dire position, his condition. She also explained the three levels of care they provide. Level one is where they do everything possible, going to extraordinary means, to keep him alive. Dialysis, for instance, which he would need for his kidneys, among other things. Level 2, they would maintain his condition, breathing, meds, painkillers, et cetera, much as they currently were.
Level three is where they remove everything, except perhaps the painkillers but definitely remove the breathing assistance, and try to keep him comfortable . . . until he goes.
The doctor explained all of the possibilites, all of the conditions. I am always looking for an angle, a way out, a scheme. I asked alot of, "Well, what if we did this, and then this, and then what would happen–?" I was looking for a hope, a possibility of recovery.
Dad didn’t want to be on any machines, and we knew this. But we kept him on it while we were trying to determine: Is this just temporary, and he’ll get better–or not?
We had a decision to make, and it was our decision. After efforts to get him conscious failed, we decided to keep him at level 2 until his sisters could arrive. And then, after that
We would go to level three.
In order for them to do that, we had to leave his room, walk down the long, stark hallway to the waiting room until they called for us. There, my brother took our aunts and Dad’s girlfriend, and explained to them what was going on, and why.
Soon they called us, and we all went in. There was no machinery, no hoses, tubes, or wires. No monitor, no screen that we could see–although he was still hooked up, and it was outside the room.
Unlike just previously with the machine almost violently thrusting his chest in and out, now he lay peacefully, chest gently, barely moving. Others spoke to him, I’m not sure, and I added, "Yeah, Dad, we’re all here–"
They told me afterwards that right after that was when he breathed his last. Dee (his girlfriend) sobbed quietly and walked out. One by one, his sisters, my sister and brother –all left. Soon it was just me and Detroit.
I thought–silly me–I thought that they just couldn’t take it, and were taking a break and would come back. I didn’t know. I sat and talked to Detroit about Dad, so he could hear, some little stories and anecdotes, things I remembered. It was good, it was a good feeling. I was overwhelmed with emotion, and to have my love in there with me as reminisced with Dad was the most calming soothing moment I’ve had in a month.
Eventually, my brother came in and delicately explained that we were idiots: he had been gone for some time.
But my feeling prevailed, which was "How do we know?" When do we know when he’s gone? How do we know? But at least we knew the decision we made had been the right one. Less than an hour after his support had been removed, he passed quietly. That evening, and for the next day or two, until the wake, I had the mild feeling of "What if he’s not dead yet? Wouldn’t they tell us? I hope so."
But then, at the wake, we did see him. He wanted to be cremated, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a wake first, for family and friends to come see him.
I don’t care what they say, the funeral home directors, embalmers, people in the profession–A dead body never looks like a live one. After they’ve done whatever they are going to do to him–and quite frankly, I don’t want to know–he doesn’t look "natural." He doesn’t look "lifelike." He looks dead and fixed up.
I guess that’s how you know.