(Johnny Cash reference)
A lot of people around me are in a bad way. Perhaps. One offered today that a near and dear relative had passed away at the age of 82. To be honest, when I hear that, my first thought is, “That’s long enough, isn’t it?”
But it’s not.
It never is.
My wife’s great-aunt recently passed away and it was way too soon for me. This is not a paean to her, but I must say that she was one of the sweetest and yet most candid women you would ever meet, and it was an honor to be on her Good Guy list, I assure (assuming I was :)), as if that should matter to a man of my age.
But it did.
No, this is not a paean to her. What this is is a realization that my dad is now 70 years old. I did not know that. Not in the way that I should have. We have not seen each other in a couple of years and when I saw him last he was robust, in the greatest shape for a man of his years that I have seen. So his age did not come to mind.
But it does.
And I need to tell him some things and you are welcome to listen in if you would like to do so. He may not understand, and you may not understand, but it is worth the effort.
Dad, I don’t know why you brought me to this joint, and mom is not around to ask. I am not sure I would want to hear her answer anyway. I am, in fact, pretty sure that I know what her answer would be.
I don’t know why you brought me to this joint, dad, why you would sit me down across from you, dad, in this joint filled with terrorists and mercenaries and hookers and proselytizers and preachers and hookers and drunks and druggies and rapists and scoundrels and cheats and liars and fools and more fools.
But you did.
I don’t know why you would bring me to this joint.
But I’m glad you did.
I enjoy this joint. I enjoy the jukebox, the chaos of the flashing lights, the sound of the bumpers and the targets and the magic voices of success. I enjoy the Hank Williams, although that took some time. I enjoy the music. I love the music. The music is nearly my life, dad. I was born with the music, and I will die with the music, and in between, I love the music.
I love even the failures, those hardy souls who refuse to be less than pleasant and who ask for just enough for a drink. I love them! I love the fortitude in their souls, the way they simply keep on keeping to try to live. I do not love the addiction and wonder why you brought me here to see that, dad, to experience it even, but I love the way they fight and do so with smiles and jokes for the youngster that is me.
I’ve enjoyed the peanuts and the sawdust floors, the steaks and shrimp and especially the chili and the ever-cared for mesquite-smoked brisket. I’ve loved the food. I love the food. I love to smell the food, to taste the food, to suck on bits of the food. This joint makes great food, dad, and you are among its premier chefs.
I’ve enjoyed the dancing, dad. The drinking and the dancing, even if the drinking probably got us both into more trouble than we were ready to deal with on occasion. Hell, I even enjoyed the trouble, dad! My trouble. Not yours :).
Wheelies in the front yard on Christmas Eve! Remember that? I do. (That was my yard and maybe nobody told you about that. What? Nobody told you? As IF!!!!)
But this is not about me.
I did not know that this joint would age us, dad. I did not know that this joint might have some health-inspector type issues, dad. I did not know this joint would take away my daughter, dad. I did not know this joint would take away my mom. I did not know my sister would lose a husband and a breast, dad.
I did not know, until now, that we are all headed for the exit, dad, and it is just a matter of how we get there and whether we are elbowing to get ahead.
You are not elbowing ahead, dad. You are still strong and vibrant and intelligent. I did not know that mattered to me because I never thought about it before now.
But it does.
I’ve invited some other people to join us in this joint, as you know, dad. My daughter and my son, of course, and my wife, you know them all and love them. I would say the booth is getting crowded.
But it isn’t.
Scoot over a bit, dad, and make some room for Scooter.
He’s gonna love this joint, too.
In the meantime, don’t be too hasty for the exit, dad. The band is just getting started. Show us how to dance.
I’ve seen you dance.