Death in the Family Circa 1998

I get anxious this time of year now and latter realize it is October 17th. My dad died on this day in 1998 and somehow I always find myself doing something, well, not normal. This year I cleaned the plexiglass on the 7th floor balcony at 8:30. pm. I got my own crazy. My brother and I used to joke, every year on the anniversary of his death, my mom would have an “event.”, car accident, heart attack, stroke and the coup de grace – cancer. She was funny. After he died, she’d repeat “I’ll probably be dead in a year;  you know how those married coupled do.” After 5 years, she was still alive and genuinely concerned, as if death in close proximity to that of a loved one is proof of love and devotion.

My dad was the political parent. While my mother worked the polls every year,  my dad was the watcher. In the summer of 1973, my dad had retired and we watched the Watergate hearings. He was upset, frustrated and disappointed at the behavior in the highest office of the land. My mom, “Well, it’s just improper to discuss these things and we should not want to see the embarrassment and have the man kicked out of his job. How is that going to look?” At 15, what became a pattern, I sided with my dad.

It was my dad’s worn copy of The Autobiography of Malcolm X stuffed on the bookshelf almost behind the Tales of Edgar Allen Poe.  It was finding gold.  When I was younger, at my mom’s workplace, I’d I heard the university professors whisper in hushed tones about Malcolm, and here was a book. I read it quickly, but was afraid to let anyone know I’d read it.

I sent him a copy of former chief of defense during the Viet Nam war, Robert McNamara’s book. We had a long discussion on if McNamara’s should have revealed knew militarily, we could not have won Viet Nam. AT the time, I was just overwhelmed at having gone to high school with so many kids with a parent in the military and now at university with about a quarter of the class in school on the GI bill fresh from Viet Nam.

I suppose death is mental flossing for us all things we wished we’d done, things we wished we hadn’t said that we replay back and forth. I feel fortunate, I once had a conversation with my dad about my name, “why Penelope?” He responded, “I  wanted something Greek, if your brother were a girl, he’d be Pandora. That’s why the dog’s name is Plato.”  Thanks for the memories and smiles dad. My favorite brother and I appreciate it.



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