I guess, in some kind of sense this node has nothing to do with society in particular. There are no great revelations, no rants or complaints, no deep insights or earth shattering discoveries. But, after reading this, maybe it deals in broader terms, the ones you paint with a large brush in order to cover a lot of canvas with only a few strokes.
Then again, maybe it’s just another story to tell…
I’ll spare you most of the gory details but suffice it to say that growing up in the borgo household was no picnic. My old man was from what you would call the old school and came over to the United States from Germany on a boat way back in 1926. He never talked about his experiences all that much unless he was fueled by booze and even then he seemed destined to live his life in between bouts of rage and forgiveness.
It was like living with a time bomb.
Thinking back, I remember I’d try to do anything to keep that time bomb from going off. If that meant shutting my mouth, I’d shut my mouth. If that meant walking through the house when he’d call my name, I’d come running. These were the days before the remote control so most of the times when he’d call; it’d be for me to change the channel on the tv set. That’d last for a half hour or so and then he’d bellow again and the process would repeat itself.
I guess I looked for an outlet and since back in the day I was pretty athletic, I took to sports. Since the school I attended at the time didn’t have funds for any of the organized types, I was left to the mercy of public and soon found myself vying for attention in things like the Police Athletic League for baseball and the Pop Warner League for football. These leagues were a mirror image of New York City. The kids were tough and so was the competition.
I remember my dad would go to every practice and every game. He’d stand on the sidelines and yell things like “Ma-aaary” or something just as encouraging when I’d make an error, miss a block or, God forbid, strikeout or fumble. I remember closing my eyes in the huddle or separating myself from my teammates on the bench just trying to concentrate on what play was being called and to try and drown him out.
Why is it that the voice that you don’t want to hear always seems the loudest?
After the game, when the coaches talked to the kids, my dad always took off. He’d head for his local watering hole and I’d be expected to meet him there .It didn’t matter if I had played well or played poorly, he seemed embarrassed of me and when I got to the bar where the Scotch was flowing freely and he had his regulars as his audience, I’d get another earful of just how much I disappointed him. Maybe he thought he was raising robots instead of children?
This lasted for maybe six years or so. I guess anger breeds resentment and resentment in turn led me to quit sports. The silence that ensued between us was deafening.
Flash forward a few years…
I’d long since left home and was raising a family of my own when one day the phone rang. It was early and I hadn’t left for work yet. The voice on the other end belonged to my mother. She wanted to know if I could stay home that day and stay with him since she too had to go to work. The topic was my dad. His health had been failing for years and she said he was in a bad way that morning. He’d had his fill of hospitals and insisted he could get along ok by himself. To do so, he needed to wheel around one of those oxygen tanks and even though they lived in a three room apartment, he’d rarely venture outside of the bedroom. There was even a bucket by the side a bed he’d use to piss in.
I told her I couldn’t. There was too much going on in the office and I just had to be there. She told me that she understood. She knew I was lying.
It was around noon. The phone in my office rang and the voice on the other end said “He’s not picking up, I’m calling the police.”
By the time I got home, the cops were already there and he was already gone. He was slumped over the side of the bed, naked as the day he was born and the blood had already drifted to his lower extremities making him look even sicker than he already was. I asked one of the cops if we could put a sheet over him so my mom wouldn’t have to see him like that but they said nobody could move a thing until the coroner arrived. Thankfully, he got there before my mom did.
I remember that I didn’t cry at the funeral. If there was one thing my father had taught me it was how to be tough. At least that’s what I thought at the time.
On occasion, as the years have passed by I find myself wondering what would’ve happened had I stayed home that day. Would we have finally “made the peace”? Would I have been able to prolong his life a little bit longer so that we could get to know each other as adults and on a somewhat even footing? Would I have mustered up the courage to tell him how shitty he made me feel during those years when the only voice I heard was his? Would he had acknowledged even a tiny bit of his humanity?
It’s often been said that you learn from your mistakes. When it comes to raising my kid, I think in my case, I’ve learned from not only my own, but from some one else's too.
See, when some one or something turns their back you, maybe you should tap them on the shoulder and make them take another look. That way you both get a second glance at each other and who knows, you might just discover something you hadn't seen before. First impressions aren’t always the best ones to carry around.
I’ve also found that guilt is a hard thing to bury but it’s a really easy thing to dig up.