Tomorrow I will lie to him will tell him when he asks, at least the first ten times he he does, that she is doing fine, that she is a tough old bird, that she’ll outlive us all, that she’s a Taurus, the bull and he will remember the end of their marriage, the Battle Royal that was the war of divorce, and he will smile a bit, and say, “I miss her,” and I will agree with him. I do miss her a bit, but even two and a half years of death have not grown the size of my missing appreciably. We will move on to other topics, will circle back and rerun the tape for with him every day is a series of scenes from Groundhog Day, but in his world, it never snows.
When I die, my friend Larry said one morning in the third inning of a double header of stoop ball, I want to be burned, not that I intend it to happen any time soon, but when it does. They burned my grandfather I think it was Dachau, but unlike him, I want to kick some ass before it happens. Just let them call me Jew boy I’d like to hear the sound of their balls imploding up into their bladder. They burned my grandmother too, years later, until all that was left was the cancer eating her stomach, but I want to be burned in an oven set up properly for the job, my ashes cast into the wind or maybe in the infield of Buffalo’s War Memorial Stadium if Luke Easter is still playing first base for the Bisons. It was only two days later that Larry tripped on the curb outside the variety store on the way home from school and later that day they took his kidney and laid it, all bloody within, on the steel tray. When he came home his mother said he had to be careful when you have only one kidney you can’t fool around and you certainly want to avoid the strain that comes from kicking any ass.
First Appeared in Afterthoughts (Canada), Vol. 2, No. 4, Autumn, 1995.
They come when you least expect them appear seemingly out of nowhere at first so small they go unnoticed but never unheard, for what they lack in size, they make up for in volume. The get beneath your skin, take root, steal into your heart, and find themselves in the brain’s synapses. Before long they cannot be ignored like a drug for which you need ever increasing doses as they become more scarce. You know you are hooked, you know that cold turkey withdrawal is never an option, just something about which you read about and twice a year you cast logic and economics two winds of fate, spend lavishly for you know parents who spoil children must be admonished and abhorred and grandparents who do not should be treated equally so.
The problem with youth isn’t that you misspend it, or even don’t appreciate it as it is happening, or even expect it to go on forever, for those would be the simplest hurdles to leap even at your now advanced age. The true problem with youth isn’t even those around you, grandchildren, high schoolers that overrun the Starbucks near campus are caught in the midst of it while all you can do is jealously watch. The ultimate problem with youth is that you recall it so well, the sights, sounds, the textures but what you did last Thursday you can’t recall for the life of you.
He is four today. He’s been practicing being four, so it is somewhat second nature. But he made a decision. Next year he will be five. He was going to be 27 next year, but decided that can wait another year. I asked him why he was delaying, he said, “You get better presents when you are four or five.” I confess his logic, but wonder what I should do with the tie and cardigan I bought for his next birthday?
The money wasn’t really real then, it came in a box with a board, dice and property deeds, and it was in colors, one for each denomination, (kind of like and Canada and other countries). It was fun having a lot of it until the first time I snuck some out of the house and went off to the variety store, I’d had my eye the magic kit they had tucked in the front window, forgotten, now clearly the only one of its kind. I asked the shopkeeper how much, he said it’s been here so long I can’t remember, so it’s yours for a buck. I gave him a 10, pale yellow he laughed, said that’s foreign so it will be 990 for the magic kit and I can’t make change but I’ll throw in a Mars bar if that’s okay. It was the one and only time that trick worked.