It was a little under two weeks ago. On March 16th, 2015, my father passed away suddenly from a heart attack. It was six months to the day from my mother’s passing in 2014. I didn’t find out about it until three days after the fact because my father had been living alone. The neighbors noticed that there multiple newspapers in the driveway, something my father went out and fetched every morning – rain or shine. They called the law enforcement folks, who came to the house for a welfare check, where they found him.
I’ve mentioned a few times on the blog that I was not particularly close to my parents. I was the disappointing child. The rebellious one who marched off to the beat of his own drum. My parents had dreams of me being a doctor. My completely submerged high school grades utterly destroyed that notion.
I wasn’t a particularly studious kid. I read on subjects that interested me – History, Mythology, Technology, and Religion – but I could have given a rat’s ass about other subjects. When it came time to take my SAT and ACT tests, I went out and partied with my friends the night before the test. I drove over to the testing center each morning with a massive hangover. I could read and comprehend what I was looking at, but the overhead lights were just killing me. I scored pretty good results. It took my sister three tries to beat my scores. And she STUDIED hard for her tests. I honestly didn’t really try. So, I wasn’t a really stupid kid. I was incredibly lazy.
I don’t particularly recall my parents being any sort of encouraging either. I heard a lot of how I was stupid because of the grades that I got. But the ACT and SAT scores refuted that. I was “lucky” was what I was told. I know it was a relief to my parents that I joined the United States Air Force after an abortive try at college with Louisiana State University in Shreveport. A decade and a half later, my father told me that when I was in the Air Force, he didn’t worry about me.
Don’t get me wrong. There were good times between myself and my parents, particularly when we lived overseas in Germany. At that time, I was the attentive kid. I was the one that studied. I was the one that always offered to help the teacher. I always went the extra mile in class. And then high school hit. I identified more with the “heads” in school than I did with the “preps”. And it wasn’t a rebellious phase that got me to that point. Nor was it a desire to be accepted. It was because they wanted to talk about topics.
My first two years of high school were at Montgomery Catholic High School in Montgomery, Alabama. It was my freshman and sophomore years. It was the last two years of my father’s long thirty-plus year career. All the “heads” hunt out at the merry-go-round on the hill during recess and lunch. It was the designated smoking location for the school. I didn’t smoke (never have), but this is where the good conversations happened. We didn’t talk about which young lady was good at oral sex, though that topic did get discussed a time or two. Plus, the crowd was a mix of males and females. Conversations were quick, loose, and candid. The topics were far deeper at times.
One particular conversation that we had which piqued my curiosity towards some of the more Pagan topics was on reincarnation theory within the Buddhist and Hindu cultures. That eventually led to a week-long discussion on Zen Buddhism and Tao. None of us really knew what we were talking about, but we certainly bounced ideas between all of us. And everyone got the chance to say something – no matter how silly or over-the-top it might have been. You certainly weren’t going to get conversations like this in the lunch room.
When it rained, we all hung out at one end of the gym, under the metal awning that covered the walkway up to the school. One rainy Spring afternoon, we talked about how there was some kind of spiritual aspect to Nature. We made commentary about how the smell of rain was pleasing because God had made it so. That rain feed all of lie around us, and since it was important in that aspect – it was made to be a pleasing smell to our senses so that we would appreciate the beauty and necessity of what water was.
I’m not so certain that this was what led me to explore my own way through the world. Perhaps, it was the time when my father came up to my bedroom and tore my headphones off my head. He had been drinking and had a can of beer in one hand. He pointed to my collection of cassette tapes on the floor and told me that I shouldn’t pay attention to the anti-nuclear messages that these musicians sang about. How the nuclear weapons that the United States had were keeping me safe. he then told me that Ozzy Osbourne wasn’t going to have any of the answers. Then he went downstairs.
I hadn’t been listening to Ozzy Osbourne. I was listening to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Jesus Christ Superstar” – an album that opened my eyes to looking at Christianity from a completely different angle: that of a big con game. My father was not a Catholic, in fact he was a Presbyterian. He never went to church, never had the time for it. He certainly didn’t seem to mind sending his children to private Catholic schools.
There are many other memories that I suddenly remember for one reason or another. And while I don’t really seem much like my father – aside from the fact that I am a mean, vicious drunk as he was – I can see where the puzzle pieces fit for how I got to where I am today. It took fifty-plus years to realize the way those pieces fit together. Like any father-son relationship, my father was a formative part of who I am. But in the end, I am myself. Not the product of what my father and/or mother put into me. I am more a product of my own explorations. Certainly, parts of all of that were influenced by my father. But I am not my father. I am me. And I thank the Gods and Goddesses every single moment for that.