Sundays are going to be different from now on. For the past couple of years I've tried to call (on the phone) my old Dad, hence the title of this C.P.E.. I wrote the title that way, because that is my usual pronunciation. No more shall I dial up "the old guy" (as my brothers and I once called him), and announce "Ola' Papa-san, this is #2 down in Cruces". That's history now, it's over. Pop died.
It ain't like this caught us all flat-footed. We were not blindsided by a shock. It was much more like the snow arriving in due time, just about six weeks after the first morning frost is spotted in late October. He just kinda ran outta juice.
I suppose it's inevitable that kids imprint upon their parents. I mean, what would the other option be? I imprinted as a boy, very heavily upon Carl N.M.I. Labor. By the time you hit your 30's or so, it becomes clear that you have become "more like your Dad (or Mom). . . than he is!". At minimum, such was the case with me. Now, as a side note; it is not entirely clear to me, whether in this essay to refer to the guy in the past or present tense. So there might well be some slop, category-wise herein. Anyhow, Pops was/is as much a "think" guy as you're likely to ever meet. It was all about cognitive brain action with the dude. A big word with Dad is, "to grasp"; as-in to understand a concept or idea. He loves puns, riddles, word problems, history and all things factual. A sort of one-man reality committee perhaps? Big conceptual word formats here are "realistic, unworkable, and actual" that there kind of thing. That is to say, he was informally at war with the entire schmeer of the "hold onto your dreams" school of thought; which has (until today at least) captured the imagination of the "West".
See? It wasn't really "all about" whether (or not) you were personally all fulfilled in life, realizing goals and whatnot. That junk was for rich kids. Us blue collar types, who in fact do the WORK required to make the world go round, don't have the leisure to hang around bellyaching about some vague sense of unfulfillment. There is altogether too much work for us to be doing around here, to allow for any standing around, whining about whims not realized. . . I drank deeply at this well, so too my brothers and sisters. The whole "hip generation" thing just basically mystified him. Uhm, them there swingin' cats who are out to "get in touch with themselves", so to "tune in, turn on, and drop out" are just so many ill groomed morons to Carl.
I think my favorite story of Dad's, was told just a year or two ago. He was really depressed, and so I just changed the topic on him. I said; "Pop, Christmas will be coming up pretty quick, what's the single most memorable Christmas you recall?". Without any hesitation, he jumped over into 1930. He was nine. He said; "You know what I got that year?. . . An orange!". It was the height of the Great Depression, and immigrant dirt-poor farmers (with a house full of kids), dug deep; and were able to outfit each one of their children with precisely one orange each! Hey, in the 30's it's not like you stroll the aisles of your friendly neighborhood grocer and pick up fresh produce gathered from across the world. Oranges were rare at that time of year! He said; "I took it upstairs with me up to bed. I peeled it carefully, and enjoyed like hell each and every slice! I saved-up the peel, and nibbled on it, until it was all gone. Best damned orange I ever had! Hell, I didn't even realize that our family was poor until I was about 14, when it dawned on me that Mom and Dad could not afford shoes for us boys.". So, the whole hip-generation thing with it's "angst, and the terror of being", or some darned thing, just was not a pressing concern for mister no middle initial. It was about work, it was about survival, and making the best that you can, of a bad situation. That's Pop.
The one word that comes to mind when I think of the man, is "integrity". He loved using words like "honesty, common sense, and judgement". I do not recall him ever once smirking slyly that someone "got away with" something or another. He firmly believed, and said; "It will catch up with them eventually. Just you wait and see.". The very idea for instance, of seeing a coin fall out of a stranger's pocket, and keeping it himself, would be laughably improbable. Such a thing simply would not occur. . .ever. Carl was ever and always on duty, keeping guard on his own soul, on his own appetites, and passions. Order, always and ever trumped chaos, and Pop was the man who made it happen. So if his word was/is "integrity" I prefer to translate that into mike-speak as "word-oath".
It was very difficult to anger him, (I managed it a few times only) but what surely drew his ire was "politicians", or more accurately "those dirty bastards". The entire problem here rotates upon the axis of word-oath. A man is as good as his word, and no more; and no less. Black, white, young, old, immigrant, native, educated, simple, none of that crap ever mattered a hoot. What the solitary measure was, was promise and it's fulfillment. Marriage sworn to death, was a playing of hardball on this score, and there was zero "chance" of him ever, ever "backing out, because we fell out of love". Such blather as that, was "incomprehensible bullshit", and that's him being charitable! Either you were a man. . . or you weren't, and the only working codex available so to determine that measure-by (in his book) was the "rock" of a man's word. This was Carl. "In the end you have to live with yourself, and your decisions. A man never went wrong by being honest". Oops, I appear to be channeling over here. But my point is this, "those dirty bastards" promised! Before God and man, with hand upon the Bible, they swore! They said they would uphold law, they said they would govern for the benefit of the whole community, not for the enriching of their stinking miserable cronies and goons! Dad could never forgive that. Ever.
Pop, for the majority of his life was "outgoing", or so he imagined at least. I (for one) am convinced that somewhen in the 30's, there must have been some type of social consensus "out there" that it was fundamentally a better kind of thing to be an extrovert. See? There are only two kinds of people, givers and takers, workers and bums, contributors and parasites. If that much be granted, then extro is always the better option, and if you'll just try (!) you too can become an out-going "people person"! Let's just say that the results of that experiment are (at best) "mixed". I saw through this, even as a boy. I've always preferred to be alone. I get inspired with one or two (at most) very close friends, in a lucid and interminable all-nighter. Being shoulder to shoulder with throngs, or interacting with strangers, pretending to care is a tax to pay, and it is exhausting. Carl was that way too, but for decades, could not really center in there. This extroverted gig was "the right thing to do", best to be outward poised, and well; that settles that. And it kinda worked (in an awkward way) all those years, until it all came crashing down a few years back. "We can always hope" is Carl Labor, but when it became clear to that very visual soul, that he could never retrieve lost eyesight, he slipped into a depressive pity party that shocked even him. He was scared I think by the depth of despair, and really really did NOT want to "deal with it". His old pattern was finally cracking. The other shoe had finally dropped, and he was panicked to somehow return it to it's "rightful place". Nan and I both knew the dark side; but it surprised the heck out of him. When I said; "So you wanna die huh Pop? Well, take a number, and get in line with every other swingin' dick! You think you're the first on this page Dad? I've battled down suicide for over 30 years, and kicked it's sorry ass. But, I didn't do it alone! Your daughter Nan; you recall her? You know the one devastated in heart, over that lost son? You dig that divorce drill of hers? And you don't think that (just maybe?) that nearly tore her to pieces? Newsflash Dad, she didn't do it alone either!". It was an odd response that I got from him. It seemed to disquiet him that "somehow" he had entirely "missed" major "facts". This sort of thing (if true) breaks the Carl rule you see? The "king of the (fact) world" ought not "miss" such enormities. But, he simply discounted the entire conversation as perhaps a hallucination? I might as well have been talking to a wall. The guy could be fantastically, and wildly rude when "needed".
Not quite two years ago, that whole "me, me, me thing"; with regard to "I just want it to end, I just want to die", slowly ever so slowly began to recede. When you feed a baby you use dinky spoons and lots of repeat efforts. Shovels are for feeding teenagers. 91 year old Pop was a baby, and so in little doses, we cover the turf over and over again, from a hundred perspectives, first close up and then from far away. But the recurring hiccup is him burping up the chow (again) because (oddly) hope "must live", and his appears to be very dead. So, simultaneously he's both right, and refuses to "go there". Hope did die! It happened on a hillside in desert country, perhaps you've heard?
Carl is big on "letting go". For decades, we all hear; "Just let your grief go. Let that anger pass, and we've got to just let go of worry". Sounds easy huh? But the roadblock here was always hope. We needy humans need hope like we need air. We wither and die without it, and Pop simply could not "let go" of his hopelessness. "To see is to understand, to view is to know. Without sight, what am I?". But he could not ever "see" the love all around him, nor could he "see" that hopelessness itself must at some point "be let go of". At least he couldn't see it without help. Pat, not a hundred times but more, Lynn, not Pat's amount, but more-so yet; guide, aid, comfort, and counsel. The world upside down, and the child is leading the parent home? Weird world you got there pal. Slowly but slowly, the wall which was Dad, the rock which was Carl; was being breached. He no longer fought me and rudely walked off, when the topic of Jesus came up. He actually sat still to listen to how the Captain came to find me? After 30 plus years, he finally sat still for that story? Who are you, and what have you done with Carl Labor? The key to the man wasn't really integrity, in itself, but rather; "How in honking hades it turned out that me, poor wrecked Carl, somehow or another apparently ended up with more of the stuff than the Almighty? What am I to make of a god who can't even live up to simple human decency and common courtesy?". He never said that sentence to me, but he lived it, he breathed it.
I think he finally "got it". The Great Depression, and all of those wars, the scandals and crimes, the oppression all across history isn't evidence of Him asleep at the switch. It's damning evidence against us, we collectively giving Him the one finger salute. The gifts and calling of the Great God are "without repentance"! Dad, Adam was responsible for the whole world! Care for the animals, cultivate the plants, guide the rains to their destination, raise those hills, fill these valleys! It was a vast responsibility, entrusted to him and his children. . . for all time! By virtue of him becoming a lunatic who demands to "do it his way", this of itself can never, never revoke the official and real responsibility he bears! If he becomes a worthless drunk, he yet ever remains responsible to defend the woods and seas. If he becomes a violent fraud, he is yet liable for the care of the fishes, birds, and streams. See Pop? You were dead right to demand loyal and good "public servants". You just didn't carry through the idea to it's fulfillment. There is a Real One, a True Son, the One Sane Man. . . ever!
"Well, that's very interesting, I'll have to think that over". Oops, channeling Pops again. How much of our care sunk in? Beats me. All I know for sure, is that the man died at peace. At long-damned last, Carl No Middle Initial Labor is at peace! I look forward to a real good glass of scotch, that and a Cuban, for one heck of a lucid, and interminable all-dayer!
Vaya con Dios Papa-san, go with God.