Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Fathers' Day to All You Dads.

(On the Rez, near Shiprock)

Fathers' Day (and Mothers' Day, too) just remind me that one is NEVER too old to be an orphan.

My folks have been gone for a decade, almost. When they became too ill to fend for themselves, I went back home to care for them. I was, in effect, live-in hospice care, for about 18 months it needed for them to finally succumb to the tobacco they'd smoked for 60 years. Of the four sibs, my 'career' was the most expendable. I never begrudged them a minute of the time.

My pop was a very funny guy, in a really understated way. Mom preceded him in death. They were married 57 years. Momma was a tight as a tick (except when it concerned her dogs). Pop had struggled along for a couple of years with an old, out-dated Apple computer my kid brother had given him to prowl the net. Pop, who had always been very active and busy, was restricted by his illness (advanced COPD) to very little activity, so he prowled the web. A week or so after momma passed, daddy decided to throw over the traces a little and get a new box. He had plenty of money.

So one day, he sent me into town with instructions to bring him back one of the new (at that time) IMAC machines. They came in two sizes (prices). He told me to bring him the cheaper of the two, and I did. But when we got it set up, he was unsatisfied with the performance, so he told me to return the cheaper version and exchange it for the better one; which I did.

This was in late February or early March (momma passed in early Feb). When I got back to the house with the machine it early but was nearly dark. But there was plenty of (incandescent) light to set it up and hook it up and for Pop to start to play. Which we did.

Except that, at the very moment we turned on the power, all the lights in northern New Mexico went out.

We later discovered a semi-tuck had hit a relay station out at Lukachukai, on the Rez. But at that moment, Pop just started laughing: laughing and laughing and laughing, as much as his ruined lungs would support. It left him gasping. In the dark I hollered out, was he okay. And he said, yep, he was fine, but he was goddamned if he was gonna be bullied by mother's "chindi," the Dine'h word for 'ghost.' Not that we're Dine'h, but pop was a native New Mexican, born out in the Navajo country in 1919, and he knew the lore. Even though momma had passed in a distqnt hos[pital, he KNEW, no matter what anybody said, the lights going out were the result of the temper-tantrum thrown by my (late) mother/his (late) wife at his extravagance.

When the lights came on, the next day, I asked him if he wanted to placate momma's spirit, he said, "No. I'll take my chances." And there weren't any more problems with the Co-Op's power delivery.

I remember my pop's last words to me, just before he lapsed into what was his terminal coma. I had been reading him Hawking's book, A Short History..., and he was sorta paying attention, but I could tell he was drifting off, too. He looked up from the pillow, gaunt, and said "Hey professor"---that's what he called me when he was being affectionate yet gruff--"He professor," he grumbles, "you think I'm gonna find out the answers?" I gently squeezed his hand, and said, "Pop, if you do, find a phone and call me..." He laughed, coughed, winced, and went to sleep.

Two days later he was gone. We never said another word.

My folks were always my best audience. I still want to call 'em up when I tumble onto some particularly bright detail in life, or read a good book. I don't miss them, exactly; it's been a while. But there's nobody anymore with whom to share the wonder and hilartity.


Ruth said...

You were lucky.

Liberality said...

what a sweet tribute to your parents. I miss my dad.

PENolan said...

Great story, Woody.

themom said...

OMG, his final words were awesome. Incredibly funny man, laughing at the power going off. I have often told people I suffer from an "orphan complex." One cannot understand till the loss of both parents. I felt this after my father passed, and although my mother and i never got along - her death just made it final. But we trudge along, huh??

Alexandra said...

Your parents were lucky to have you.

One Fly said...

Well kick my ass for not seeing this Woody. I enjoy a good story and thank you for this one!

Dad has been gone a bit over a year and what I miss the most is the phone calls that would be made just about anytime during the day. Born in 1919 as well.

Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!) said...

Tanks all for your thoughts.

Themom: Trudges R Us, that's fersher...

Alexandra: Luck is a very 'relative' thing (pun intended).

shrimplate said...

Maybe if your father does indeed "find out the answers," he might finally settle once and for all the great Mac vs. MS debate.