Something I wrote. A bit of writing that’s a candidate for an introduction to 3,000 Miles, the book I’ve been threatening to write about the past nine years or so of my life.
I’m sorry I haven’t written in awhile. At this point I imagine that apologies are self-indulgent. But if you’ve kept an eye on me all these years, I’m sure you’re well aware of how masterful I am at letting myself off of the proverbial hook.
I’m not sure why I’m writing now. Maybe I need someone to talk to. Who else could understand me the way you could? Birds of a feather and all that. Who else could know what it’s like to stand out in a cold wind and be haunted by memories of a warm, loving home full of laughter and promise? When exactly does the wind whispering through the trees become a lament?
I’m not writing to depress you. Far from it. Hopefully these random words can bring you some odd bit of comfort, whether you’re singing in the choir in Heaven or shoveling coal in Hell. Might it help just to know that I’m thinking of you? That here is a wound that has never healed? That now, in my forties, homeless and largely destitute, with my few remaining worldly possessions packed away in cardboard boxes littered here and there, that now, at long last, I have begun to have a sense of what your life must have been like? That maybe, in some small way, I understand you now?
I hope you’ll forgive me if I feel that this is pointless; mere words that arrive decades too late to be of any use to anyone. And yet words I’ll indulge myself in anyway. I’m enough of a realist to admit that this isn’t really about you. It’s for me. I’m the one who needs to hear this. Who needs the dialogue. However one-sided it may be. We never lose that desire to be close to our fathers. Even if our fathers are little more in our memories than names attached to faces that wandered in and out of our pasts without ever making a truly solid connection.
Forgive me if you are more of a concept to me at this late date than a person. This year marks the twenty-fourth anniversary of your death. Twenty four years that I’ve been scratching my head, wondering who the hell you were, more than a little annoyed that your only parting gifts to me were a lighter, some old 45 records made by Bill Hardin, various bits of junk, and this DNA that’s been ripping me to pieces my entire life, pulling me from one bizarre idea or scheme to the next.
If my will matches my ambition (just this once), I’ll write to you a lot more from here on out. Maybe these letters would have served both of us better had you received them when you were living. But I’ll let myself off the hook there, and ease the guilt, by pointing out that when you died I was only nineteen. I thought we had all the time in the world. Who could have expected that you would die at forty seven? That was damned inconsiderate of you.
Well, it’s late. I woke up at five o’clock this morning with you on my mind. I’ve scribbled these few lines while sipping on Rock and Rye, and it’s beginning to make me sleepy. From the random bustle outside, I’d say the world is starting to wake up. Or at least this little corner of it is. Holding to family tradition, I’ll go hide my head in a pillow, pull the covers over me, and pretend that my life is something more than the mess I have made of it. Hopefully, again upholding family tradition, the warm alcohol buzz will be enough of a raft that I might finally drift away from the shore.
In closing I’ll ask that you stop bothering me for just a little while. I’m well aware of just how similar our lives turned out to be, and I’m uncomfortable with the comparison. Give me a few hours of uninterrupted sleep, and we can continue this in the morning. That is, if you’re up for it and are willing to listen, and even though I’m thinking mostly of myself and am more than a little late.