For a couple of days, or maybe weeks, I’ll try to update that certain amount of time lost due to the demise of my internet connection last fall. Using stories, anecdotes or whatever you choose to call them, I’ll try to re-acquaint and fill in some of the gap for a while. Your patience with this self-promotion is gladly accepted. Although I must caution – sending e-mail is chancy at best. Try the guestbook instead.
It was just about two weeks ago that Chief Mo slammed his beer on the bar and made typing motions with both hands, tapping the stained oak surface as if composing the latest online sea yarn that best defines his chosen profession. “Outfoxed, where the hell is that e-mail you promised me?”, he roared.
“Mo, I told you, I’ll get the new address to you just as soon as I get the thing hooked up. It ain’t exactly turning itself on and doing a hula for me, you know.” Which was true enough. After losing the internet back in September to the powers that be (you know, the ones who like to be paid for services rendered and can’t exactly figure out that my intentions, if not my checkbook, were honorable) I had all but given up hope that restoring myself to some sort of online connection might be possible. Dial-up was out of the question, since the phone had been yanked in a similar way. Losing that DSL connection? It hurt, but it’s a hurt that came with some sort of self-actualization. One that put buying food or paying a mortgage above other things. And yeah, it was pretty much that bad.
Ally and I finally got to a place back around the first of February where we decided that there was a time and place for the internet, and for cable TV, and that just possibly we could now handle it. Still didn’t feel the need for home phones though. One thing that you don’t give up nowadays is cell phone access, and that was working just peachy. So I called the local Cable Company (who shall go nameless at this point, to prevent embarrassment at their expense) and ordered up TV and internet. “Just turn it on at the street and send the appropriate boxes along” I said. Oh brother. The naivete of the trusting.
Long story short, I’ve got a wire running along the gutter of my street which pops out of the cable tower (think two paint cans set atop one another on the ground) in front of my house and ends up in the tower of my neighbor’s yard. Sort of a jumper cable, they tell me. What they aren’t telling me is why, and what evil it might bode for my long-suffering neighbor with the immaculate lawn. The Cable Company, with the grim determination of utility companies everywhere, has evidently decided that I must suffer for my service. So along with limited TV (no HBO, for example) and hit or miss internet (I finally got their modem to agree that yes, it really was attached to a working computer just today) I get to witness real live shuck and jive from the Cable boys as they dance around my issues with a gleeful grin, holding one end of a wire aloft in triumph as they scalp me for services not rendered.
And I was dealing with those issues just the other day when I came home and Ally sat me down at the kitchen table. “I’ve got some letters for you, honey, and it’s not good.” The first one was from my brother, and the second and third from my sisters, but they all had the same message. “Been trying to get ahold of you by phone and e-mail with no luck, sorry to have to tell you in this way but Dad . . . “ And I knew the rest.
He was gone. The grandest of ordinary men had passed on, and with it an entire age.
I read the letters with a bit of a smile that Ally couldn’t possibly have understood, maybe she had expected tears or immediate grief or something else. But there could be no tears over this. A good man had gone home, where he so desired to be for so long, and left his pain behind. We went to Pennsylvania two days later to wish him well.
I can’t say what I felt as I stood over his casket, looking at a once husky man with hands folded neatly and an American flag at his feet, a flag for which he had fought to defend his country in a time long past. Or in looking out a window of the church where he lay, seeing the backhoe and the crew making its way toward the graveyard. Knowing what backhoes are for, and seeing one everyday in the working construction world, but not used often for the purpose I knew it was lumbering toward.
I know what was felt as my throat tightened time and again in the memorial service. The feeling of things left unsaid and gone away into some yellow colored place of sunsets yet to come, days spent standing on wooden piers of endless length and dubious heritage. Of my brother-in-law, a man of letters and feeling, recounting out loud the time spent with my dad when Dad was the only male of prescience known to him, and he found it good and wanted yet another day to savor the strength that was one man, one ordinary man. Of hymns sung to honor, hymns of Emmanuel’s Land and greener things and the going on of what could have been, and what surely was.
I felt frozen ground cold beneath thin dress shoes as I helped hoist a coffin from a large car. Frozen in such a way that there was ice atop the earth, and listening with a bemused thought or two as the funeral director quietly hissed at the six of us “Gentlemen, I don’t have to tell you how imperative it is that you do not slip!” I think Dad would have somehow gotten a kick out of that.
I felt the greatness that is youth forgotten when my Mother looked at me askance, and wondered when in the world I had gotten so old. There is poetry for you, when your mom recognizes age in a son.
My Dad lived the cusp of his day, days of drinking the wine that is life in gentle sips, and I have to feel that it was a better day than the ones I live in now, but that is the convenience of a younger man, to envy the father for easier times. For times of manners and a more gracious way of doing things. A better and more reasoned way of living.
I think of him now, and wonder if he sees me and the things that I do, and the way I live my life. I wonder if he knows the thoughts and responses, and if it all matters to anyone but him and I. Maybe the knowing is why I won’t cry for him, to in anyway cheapen the quality of what he was and always will be.
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