Sunday, February 16, 2014
some time around this time, 16 years ago, my grandfather died in his sleep.
he had had a long bout with diabetes, and cancer, and cancer again, and then a heart attack. my dad was there. they had moved my grandfather's bed to the living room on the ground floor, had waited on him and laughed with him and tried to resuscitate him when he stopped breathing, but he had stopped breathing, and they remembered that he wanted it that way, when it was time.
i remember coming back to school after time down south for the funeral. it was cold and it was march and i was generally in a daze. i hugged my buddy zack in the hall, no words spoken, because his grandfather had died a few months earlier. and probably none of us got it. but then i got it. and then i pulled away, he looked at me funny, and i realized not everyone has the grandfather that i just lost.
on a very cold night a couple months earlier, i was on an accidental date with a beautiful girl with brown eyes and a quick smile. we had gone to look at stars. i had brought a sleeping bag. there were no plans to do any kissing. it was in my dumber days when i thought i could get away without euphemism, get out and look at stars on a freezing cold night on a lookout near a highway in a blue ford sedan. apparently not. i got home that night and was in enormous trouble for having completely forgotten to pick up my brother and my dad's sound equipment from my brother's elementary school dance. i went to bed in massive trouble with my dad, a disappointment to my brother, and completely confused by this beautiful girl who had just spent the last couple of hours kissing her way into my heart.
in the middle of the night, my dad got a call from his dad. it was time for my grandfather to die. my dad had to leave now.
my dad had to leave in the car i had just borrowed to go on a date with a girl who didn't know or love me while i forgot to take care of my little brother and, instead, drove the girl home to leave the gas tank at less than a quarter. in the middle of the night, when your father calls to tell you that he has decided to die and he wants you to be with him while he confronts this, there are no gas stations open between your oldest son's stupidity and the part of the country where things are open past 6pm.
somehow, my dad made it to a gas station.
this is all very important because somewhere in there there is a story about the way things seem to go, and how i will always manage to fuck it all up because i am smitten with some girl who doesn't even know me and won't love me back. there will always be a story about how everything means so much more to me than to anyone else and on this interface with the world, there is no telling how many other stories i've missed or gotten wrong. there are details, devils and otherwise, and i'm missing them because i think no one 'gets' what it's like to be me, with my heart, in the face of all of them. how gross.
i was walking toward a ridable street the other day after having spent some time in line at the flower shop with every other man hoping to flower up his own bitter truth on one cold day in february. i go to this flower shop regularly. i never spend this much money in one shot, on one bouquet. i didn't think twice. i found the red roses, strategically priced at a premium above all other roses, and any flower in the shop the day before, and i got in line, and i complimented other men on their choice of arrangement. i paid for my bouquet, left, unlocked my bike, and started home.
on the sidewalk, a lady with golden hair glanced at my bouquet and, with an under-the-breath scoff and condescending smile, marched on while starting a new statement of complaint, 'this cracks me up…' i could just imagine the rest of her sermon. something about men and convention and one day a year that they should, commercially- and societally- and maybe even sexually-driven, 'be nice' to their (normalized, hetero-) lady, buy her flowers, and measure up to some kind of proper. (i had just left the store where a rough-looking local had tried to glean the 'meaning' of blue roses from the mandarin-speaking proprietor of the shop. she had politely asked him to ask someone else. he was demanding. they're flowers, fucknut, assign the meaning yourself and pay the cash and get on with it.) or maybe all these guys carrying bouquets cracked her up because no one even likes roses. or maybe because it brought us all together, this brother/partnerhood of folks, from all walks/locomotions of life, in our quest to be a good person to our significant person. my grandmother starts calling out people's birthdays as 'significant birthday' when they get to be too old to be happy ___th. maybe i'm too old to buy flowers on vday.
and then i got home and put the bouquet in water and got the girls and some groceries and set to work making an awesome tasty dinner. i wasn't expecting romance. i wasn't expecting sex or love or whatever else is supposed to happen on vday with a dozen long stem roses on the table. i was just expecting to not be in trouble for not meeting some unwritten and unspoken expectations. i was expecting to feed happy children and send them to bed with dreams of being winter olympians. i was expecting to be able to relax. and i guess i did.
when zack pulled out of my hug and when that blonde lady scoffed at my bouquet i figured it was all just the same old story of me: no one gets it. and that's fine and that's good and there's a lot of safety in that, but somewhere, some time, this solo effort will end. will there ever be enough gas or flowers to get us through?