Monday, June 06, 2005

The Second Hand Unwinds...

It's late. Emmy, brilliant dog that she is, has taken to lounging on the floor to take advantage of the air conditioning I put in the windows yesterday. I have Cassandra Wilson's version of Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" from Traveling Miles on iTunes, a healthy two fingers (think devil horns) of Jefferson's Reserve bourbon in my favorite tiki mug, I cleaned my inbox of letters from "Healthy Spermatoza", and I'm an hour away from a long night's rest.

Oh, I also posted my first official entry for Chicagoist today.

"And Mama cooked a breakfast with no hog."- Ice Cube, "It Was A Good Day"

Otherwise, it was an uneventful 36th birthday. Just the way I hoped.

Today stands in stark contrast to ten years ago. When I turned 26, I threw a cigar smoker in the back room of Ten Cat Tavern on Ashland. Of the thirty people who showed up I believe a solid one-third of us either permanently stained our teeth or planted the seeds for a terminal bout with malignant carcinoma that evening. But we didn't care. We were just a large group of people getting together to have a good time.

I thought about that this morning after my mother called to offer her birthday greetings and catch me up on how everyone else is fucking up. This time it's my stepafather. He went for his six-month post-op checkup last week; his doctor found a dime-sized growth- this time on his right lung. So he'll be running through the usual battery of tests to see if and how far it's spreading and likely non-invasive treatment.

Either way, he's been slapped in the face with the reality that his run is nearing an end. And, selfish as he sometimes can act, he fell off the wagon, got drunk, and wound up in the hospital a few days early yesterday, where he's drying out.

If I were to lay down money on his cause of death I would have placed it on cirrhosis- when the man had a pocketful of money he could drink a wet county dry. I forgot all about the harsh cigarettes- Benson & Hedges 100's, Pall Mall Red unfilters- that were his other staple.

I forgave the man for his actions and rtansgressions a long time ago. But I never forgot. When Mom told me about yesterday I wondered what makes a man act the way he does. What makes someone just want to give up and not be a part of the world around him? Mom took it to the logical extreme, begging that when her time is up she doesn't wind up like "that woman down in Florida." Though she tries, she can't hide the fear in her voice.

They'll be married for twenty-six years on the Fourth of July, and it's a strong measure of my mother's character to stay with the man and help him become- if not a better man- at least a more gentler and reasonable one in his middle age.

I hope that he comes to realize that, while he still has some fire left in him, he should treat every breath as though it were his last. I try to envision moments in my life like that smoker ten years ago. Those moments are what make life great. There small moments that pop up like spyware to remind us that we're not without flaws, we should strive for the moment.

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