First of all – Happy Birthday!
I know there were plenty of times in the past when your birthday rolled around, and I didn’t call or anything. I know, I was an angry asshole of a kid. I’m sorry for all of that. I find myself wishing someone would build a time machine, so I could roll on back and spend more time with you, and show more love/affection toward you – especially after everything we went through together at the end of 2005.
Secondly – I really miss you, man. Like, a lot.
Nobody busts my balls like you did. Plenty of people try, but it’s just not the same. Maybe it’s because of the shared DNA, but you always had this magically precise manner and a kind of craftsmanship that can never be replicated. Whenever I do something really stupid, I still hear your voice in my head – cracking wise, but with that tone that always said “you’re an idiot, but I love you.”
I can honestly say that there hasn’t been anyone in my life that has had as much of an influence over the kind of motherfucker that I am right now than you. You taught me so much – some of it without even realizing you’d done so, I’m sure. In a lot of ways, you taught me who I wanted to be, and who I didn’t want to be. Sometimes within a ten second span.
Remember how when you were sick you had said to me that the book you’d really love to read would be the one about all the “crazy women” I had dated?
Well, that’s not exactly the book I’ve been writing, Pop.
Instead, I’ve been working on something a little different. I’ve been working on this thing about us, and about what we went through together when you got sick. A memoir-type of thing. It’s really hard to do, to be honest – I‘m trying to balance all of these other memories with the memories of the period of time when you were sick and I was helping to take care of you. Not to mention trying to tell the story without any bitterness attached to it (which is really hard at times, but not as hard as I thought it would be, considering all of the circumstances), and trying to be as emotionally honest as I can be about the things going on inside of me during that period of time.
My friend Melissa just wrote a memoir, and in an interview she said something that really struck me deep and hard –
“People don’t imagine memoirists doing much research, but that’s a misconception. I did a lot of research for this book, and some of it was internal.“
That part is really fucking hard for me, Pop. The data mining in my innermost places. The stuff buried in the code in the back of my head, the stuff that only you and I really know about. There are times I find myself sitting here at this computer, and as I uncoil a sentence or a string of them, I have to get up and walk away from everything. Sometimes I have to go and lock myself in the bathroom, running the tub to hide the sounds that come out of me as I am laying curled up on the floor.
I realize that sounds dramatic, and you would probably laugh at me for it if you saw me sprawled out on the floor – it isn’t a very big bathroom to begin with – but it really hurts that you’re not around anymore.
I know that I wasn’t always The Good Son. I know that there were things that I did throughout my life that aggravated you to no end. I get that. And the same goes for you, Pop. We had many a terrible clash, didn’t we? Whenever I read something about Irish fathers and their sons, I suddenly find myself nodding my head in agreement – the constant struggle for supremacy within the household, the never-ending battle for upper hand, whether it was physical, emotional, or mental.
It was all just a part of the cycle, you know?
As I’ve gotten older, and as a lot of things about you (and myself, for that matter) have been revealed, I’ve begun to feel like the enigma I once saw you as has almost turned into my looking into a mirror at my True Self. We’re just so fucking similar in so many ways that nobody else would ever understand. Kids today like to joke around about so-and-so being their “Spirit Animal,” and things like that.
I think you’re my Spirit Animal, Pop.
I catch myself – almost daily – having some of your well-worn catch phrases rolling off of my own tongue. I find myself yelling at the television when I am watching a hockey game. Like you, I use being boisterous as a way to cover up my almost-sickening level of sensitivity. It has been pointed out to me that I intimidate people with my silence. I brood like you did. I try not to hold grudges, but when I’ve had enough and feel like someone has wronged me in a way that is unforgivable, I hold fast to banishing them from my world much like you would – even when a part of me doesn’t really want to.
But back to the monstrosity that I’m working on for a minute – the time between your death and now has been a really amazing journey. I’m not sure if I can express the right amount of gratitude and respect for you through language. Like I said – I’m trying really hard, Pop. I am. It isn’t easy to cram thirty-five years of interpersonal dynamics into a book that really only spans a period of roughly ninety days or so. Every time I start to write out something that happened in the immediate timeline of events, other buried memories that interconnect come hissing out of me like a slow leak.
There is a lot of chatter out there in the big Literary World, about how memoir isn’t “art,” or “real writing.” Some people out there prefer made-up stories to things that really happened. And you know me, Pop – I’m cool with everyone for the most part. Just dig what you dig, and love it with all your heart. A lot of people also think that writing a memoir is a selfish act, as if by doing so one is doing nothing more than cramming their ego down everyone’s throat.
I’ve done a lot of thinking about this. And for me, I’m not sure that my motivation has anything to do with any of that egocentric shit. If it does, it certainly hasn’t reared up and shown itself to me in that type of light. If anything, I am writing the only story I know I can truly write. At least for right now. The story about how you and I were somehow able to forgive one another for everything without even saying a word about any of it. About how we were able to communicate with each other through our eyes and our movements.
For a while, I was really concerned about the effect this story would have on other, unnamed people. After speaking with some friends who have written memoirs, it became clear to me that it doesn’t matter how the story effects anyone else if I tell the truth. The only people who will be upset are the people who weren’t paying attention to what was really happening. You cannot sue someone for being honest. And if there is one thing I have learned over the years, my Truth is all I really have that belongs to me. If I tell the story as it unfolded, and hold nothing back, there is nothing to be worried about.
And that’s all I really have to say about that.
I haven’t done a very good job of staying in touch with your siblings. I’m probably going to try and call your twin brother tonight to wish him a happy birthday as well, but I’m nervous about that. I haven’t spoken to him for a couple of years now, and well, you know how I get, Pop. Sometimes it’s a little bit easier to just lurk in the shadows of someone’s mind than to actually participate in their life. Maybe that’s something I can work on, you know? Something to shoot for.
I miss you a lot. Happy Birthday. Thank you for being my father, warts and all.