It’s been 37 years since you left this earth at the tender age of 57. Your human presence has disintegrated, but your words and philosophies live on in me. You were such a curious type of man, a loner, practical, self sufficient and opinionated to a fault. You were also extremely intelligent, articulate, polite and charming. You revered David Susskind, William F. Buckley Jr., Shirley Bassey and Nat King Cole. You turned me on to Ravel and it was magic.
You could cross your legs, light a cigarette and carry yourself with class and dignity in any environment. I admired your vocabulary and the way you could make someone feel like they were the only one in the room. Your sisters tortured me with how wonderful you were.
Although 12 of us lived in one flat on a busy street in Somerville, you remained a mystery. You showered at work, took your meals outside for the most part, and on Sundays you parked yourself at the end of the couch in a cloud of L&M cigarette smoke, barely speaking to anyone until Curt Gowdy’s voice trailed off into early evening. Just before Davy Crockett.
The words “Dad’s home” could silence or evacuate the whole house. The sound of your car pulling up the driveway would loosen our bowels. I remember you taking us to your father’s grave on a rainy Sunday afternoon and telling us how he broke your nose when you hit your sister. The serene, accepting, look on your face gave me a chill. Maybe that’s where your violent nature began. If it didn’t, and we were the cause, it’s unbearable to contemplate.
With all your admirable qualities, you remained outraged at your lot in life and the circumstances that brought you to it. The teeming squalor and social pressures we found ourselves in, were overwhelming and embarrassing and nearly drove you off the edge. Your dark side legacy lives on in my male siblings through mostly loving, doting fathers, who would love nothing better than to “punch your face in” if provoked. Law of the jungle.
In my advancing years, I have to say I think I get you now at some strange level. Certainly, I’m sure you never anticipated what was awaiting you as a young man with the world as your oyster. I sometimes wonder if your spirit exists somewhere out there and you feel some remorse for the terror and injury you inflicted, both physically and psychologically.
Once, during one of your “chastisements,” I could see a glint of what I think now was a sad confusion in your eyes and I felt for you in some strange, sick, way. Stockholm Syndrome maybe?
Remember when I asked you why you had all these kids and you said you didn’t know? You were pulling my leg, right?
Just before you passed, I went to see you at the hospital to try and recover something, anything, from you that would give me the strength to carry on in my alcoholic haze. I desperately needed you to tell me that you cared about me, that you were going away and you would see me later in a better place.
Your frail, cancer riddled form lay there in the dark when I entered the room and I heard you say something to your departed mother in your semi-conscious state. I remember waiting silently for you to come around so we could have a final moment together. Just us.
When the moment arrived I moved over to the bed and sat down. I didn’t see your pain ravaged leg until I felt it under me. You screamed in agony and asked me what the hell was wrong with me. Just like old times, I thought. Anyway, you left us not long after and we never had our famous final scene.
I’m still trying to sift through the fragmented memories to pick out the gifts that were wrapped in disappointment and despair. I have, I hope, become a better man in spite of myself, as I know you already must have.
As I get closer to the end, I hope we can ease the pain of the past and forgive and forget all the nonsense we endured on this planet. I am however, eternally grateful to you for all that you have given me. Whether you meant to or not.
Bye for now, Bobby.