music: Daddy's Gone by Glasvegas
mood: waiting for slumber to return
My father and I were very close when I was a kid. My parent's divorce, his globetrotting career and domineering demeanor made it hard for us to relate even though I finally was allowed to live with him @ 14.
Looking back now, I see those 1st couple years of high school fondly and my biggest regret in life is that I came to truly hate him by the time I left for the Army @ 17. My dad had left home at 17 to the Marines and the last time he saw his father the two of them got in a fistfight. Me and Bob did not come to blows that Friday after my high school graduation in 90, but I see now that was only because I broke his heart. He had passed up major foreign projects to stay "at home". He had set aside the money for my tuition to Ucla that he expected to be paying.(i did not know that) Dont get me wrong, with Bob there was always strings attached. My was a hard core AA guy, chairing numerous meetings and sponsor to a number people & my step mom was one of those weirdo (only in the oc) new age preachers to yuppy types. So clean living, hard work and a sense of community were all but mandatory.
I guess you might say my dad had made it by 1990. He was no longer a poor kid that joined the Marines to pay for college and escape his drunken ex-con father. He was, well, the opposite of all that and he looked forward to steering me to success in college. So when i did basically the same thing he did in 1965 by joining the service right of high school he felt betrayed, we argued and i left that night. I lived it up the next 2 weeks b4 going to training and by the time i got back on leave in october, he'd rented the house, put it up for sale and was in south africa building a new refinery(actually, he was originally supposed to build one in kuwait, but saddam's invasion killed that)
so there i stood in my brand new uniform at his front door on halloween 90, only when i rang the doorbell a chinese man answered the door and thought i was just another trick or treater. eventually he figured out i was the owner's son and let me in, while there i went through my stuff which had been carefully boxed and put in the garage. at some point he also gave me a letter bob had wrote months earlier, it was a strange letter, he started out by consoling me as if he assumed i had not made it through training and then giving me the numbers and address of local family as if might need a place to stay. also, he gave me a number to call in south africa. it ended with him speculating about the weird coincidence of his joining the marines in 64/5 and ending up in nam from 66to68 and my joining the "peacetime" us army only to have a war on the horizon. he sincerely hoped i would not go to war or have to kill anybody, i think he assumed i would have a technical mos and not be infantry like he was. for years this stuff bugged me, i always saw it through a haze of adolescent defiance. to me, all i could see was bob acting like i wasnt tough enough or shit like that. yet behind his abrasive facade, he was just a father who cared for his son and did want me to be exposed to the same harshness that he had been. but i was not listening to that, i was all spoiling for combat and reporting to active duty on my bday. i did finally call him on feb19th 91 right b4 taking part in a Reconnaissance in force into iraq. he knew i couldnt talk about what was happening, so we talked sports and i told him i loved him and that i hope we see each other when i get back.
best laid plans though of mice and men, when i did get my next leave i spent most of it in new orleans doing all sorts of things he would not tolerate.
then after leaving the army i did not want to explain all that so we still did not see other until he tracked me down to our 'goth house' in hollywood on new years eve 94
i was not there, but he took my roommates to dinner, and pumped them full of questions
finally, in may of 95 we went to a dodger game
the dodgers lost in extra innings, but we did not care
even though we were happy to see each other, those 5 years hung heavy between us
so much so that our relationship remained fragile
but still, in late 97 i tried living with him while planning on going back to school
then he made the fatal mistake of basically making me choose between him and my then girlfriend
he simply couldnt stand the smell of vietnamese food, thought she was 'monopolizing' my time off, and didnt like her coming over unannounced or late at night
so just after we watched the rose bowl on new years day 98, he gave me an ultimatum about 'her'
when i packed up and left that night he was more shocked than in 90
He asked,'But where will you go?'
i told him not to worry, he would never have to see me or her ever again
he did see me again though but only twice b4 he died
we went to a laker game in may of 2000, then he dropped by out of the blue in december
that was the last time i spoke to him and the last thing we did together was go see the movie 'cast away'*
(which has always stuck with me, on occasion, i still dream that he is not dead, just marooned on an island somewhere)
b4 the movie he told me, he was getting a divorce, afterwards i told him that he had a daughter in law since july of 98
we made plans to all 3 of us go to a ucla basketball game together, he even implied to me that he would make sure 'she' knew that he did not hold her responsible for what happened back in 97/8
just hearing and seeing him act like that was astonishing to me
i was genuinely looking forward to our next meeting and his plans to stay local in california again
but, we waited too long
in the early morning of February 26th, 2001 Bob suffered a massive brain hemmorage which destroyed most of his frontal lobe, resulting in a coma and the necessity for life support to keep him breathing
it took them the entire week to contact me, his recently 'appointed' next of kin and he had recently given me the responsibility over the decision to withdraw life support or not
i still remember the stunning sequence of events:
1st, at approximately the time my dad's head exploded, i was sure i saw a ghostly figure in my hallway
it was a real enough event that i made note of it in my writing journal
then when my phone rang thursday night and the call said it was from Bob i was all smiles and thinking that he was calling to make sure we were still on for the basketball game on saturday
however, as soon as i heard my uncle's voice, i knew something horrible had happened
still, just hearing that someone is 'brain dead' makes one think that maybe the brain can come back to life
after all, its just a part of your body, hell, the egyptians didnt even think it was an important one
so we drove like a hundred miles an hour to the hospital(girlfriend in a coma annoyingly playing, the whole time, in my head)
then i was confronted with his 'living' corpse, ive seen a lot of dead people and sometimes when you see a corpse floating in the water you can even 4get it was a person, then there is ones that have just fallen down on the ground, from certain angles you might think they are just sleeping, but Bob's living corpse was more like that iraqi i recall with the back of his skull blown off but him still just sitting there hunched in front of the wheel of his front half of an army truck, where the back half was gone
Only with 'dead Bob', theyve patched over the hole in his head and there are all these bells and whistles making noises around him, which some might mistake for liveliness
not me though, i knew bob wasnt in the room as soon as i entered it
some people just have 'presence' and my father defo had that
i barely recognized his body/face
it was terrible, i knew then, he was gone and silently apologized for this macabre act of animation continuing for almost 5 days at that point
still, before turning him off i listened to the docs
they told me there was almost 0 chance of him ever waking up
and when pressed, one of the doctors confided in me that with damage to his brain he would basically be 'retarded'
that was all i needed to hear to know to shut him off
see, my father was a brilliant engineer, his mind was something he gr8ly prized
eventually, just after b4 midnite on march 1st
the nurse turned off the machines and left me alone in his icu room as they wound down
thats when a huge wave of emotion struck me
and i hugged him and cried and told him "i love you daddy" and how sorry i was we did not get more time
what followed that freaked me out so much so i had to do some research;
as his breathing expired, his eyes almost fluttered open and it felt like he squeezed one of my hands
for a moment i was simultaneously elated and mortified
then his body just sagged all in and went cold
after that, in the truly empty space of that dark, now silent room, i tried to get a hold of myself and i had this odd epiphany that though i killed a lot of people during the war, this was the 1st time i had actually experienced someone 'dying'
followed by reminding myself that he was most already gone after brain death
lastly, i now know for fact that what i experienced when his body died is quite common
and is related to the body's bio-electric field, sort of, 'draining out' after death
this results in all sorts of phenomena and there is a wide variance in how much electrical 'traffic' occurs from one death to another
*=we disagreed about the film, he found it uplifting, while i just could not 4give helen hunts character for 'moving on' like that...