Cosmic Swaps

May 25, 2007 at 2:10 am (Sweet sticky things, Waxing Nostalgic)

On this day 24 years ago, I lost my father. It was not unexpected; in fact, he lasted about five years longer than anyone thought he would. He died in a nursing home after a series of strokes, at the age of 82.

He was born in 1900. He was a cowpoke until his mid’30s, and had been drafted into World War I. The war ended, and he got a medical discharge. (Yay for me!) After seeing the country as a young man, he settled down in Idaho, and married. They moved to Sandy, Oregon and after his first wife died, he married her sister, my mom.

I doubt they planned to start a new family, but I came along, and a few years later, I got a little sister. (A new dad at 66. High five!) He was a healthy fellow, once upon a time.

About the time I hit puberty at full speed, he had the first stroke. He recovered somewhat, but was never able to speak clearly, and was partially paralyzed. Several more strokes picked away at what was left, and on this day in 1983 we lost him.

Every year since, I spend a little time thinking about him on this day. It was a great excuse to drink, back when I did. I had been sober for almost five years when the twentieth anniversary of his passing came, and I got the itch. Just one night. I could handle it, right?

I called my friend Mizelle, who was freshly divorced and not much happier than I was. I suggested we go out and get hammered. She balked, but when I assured I would do it with or without her, she was in.

We started at the Matador. Cajun Bloody Marys while watching Cannibal Holocaust on a big screen TV. From there we bar-hopped across town. All-Day Sippers and drunked-up tangoing at the Hungry Tiger. A visit to the Sandy Jug, a now-defunct strip club that tried coaxing Mizelle onstage to give me a real birthday present. Maybe if she’d had one more All-Day Sipper? Alas, she could not be persuaded.

The night ended at the Acropolis, Marilyn Manson’s favorite strip joint in the whole wide world. After steaks and too much tipping, we called my bro-in-law for a ride home.

It was a blast, one of the best dates I’d been on. But it brought baggage. It would be fourteen months before I totally quit drinking again. Now I had the death of dad to bemoan, as well as the guilt of fucking up my sobriety, which I had been rock-solid with.

After a long lonesome stretch, a couple years ago I met a gal, and we hit it off in a big way. In the whole getting-to-know-you period, I explained about the drinking, and dad’s D-Day was mentioned. When I told her the date, she got a funny look on her face, and said, “Wow. that’s my daughter’s birthday.”

As I got to know the family, I was more and more grateful for this pixie. Instead of focusing on the departed, I chose to appreciate the up-and-coming. She’s a livewire, a bundle of endless energy, and a force to be reckoned with.

And today she turns nine. So I have something to do. I’m going to go downtown and buy her a big birthday balloon. I’ll use the emergency key to let myself in, and find an obvious place to tie it.

Like the Guitar Hero controller.

Thanks, kid, for being such an awesome distraction.

Happy birthday!

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