I walked away from the burial ground after we said the mourners prayer and found myself walking into the rented limousine that would take us back to my parents house to begin our week of sitting Shiva.
Memories flooded my mind but kept being interrupted by the need to console and others consoling me. I kept seeing his face and his smile. His stern look when he was at work and the look of frustration when I told him I could not follow in his footsteps.
“This job isn’t good enough for you? it fed us, built homes for us, took us on vacations, gave you the best education and look at you now? ‘I want to do my own thing.’ Do you see me as an asshole or something? Do you look at me and feel that you need to vomit each time?”
“No dad – I admire you. I really do. You have your name, your achievements – I need to have my own.”
“I will open a division for you to manage – achieve there and make a living.”
“Its not about the money pop.”
“Well, you are right. Because I wont be giving you any money once you move out.”
“I haven’t asked for anything from you in the past – you paid for my schooling and my upbringing. I am 21 years old now I don’t need anything from you.”
“You dont need anything from me? Lets see how far you go. Anything? Ha. OK.”
“Dad, I love you and I am grateful for everything you have given me and done for me.”
“But now you are all grown up and just the thought of ending up like me scares the shit out of you so-“
“That’s not it. Its just I want to try to -“
He saw me for the first time during that conversation. The anger and the sadness that had brought about a sheet of ice that blurred his vision had melted. The tears welled up disguised as the melting ice and he turned away and left the room. I sat down on the couch and felt suspended in doubt. Suspended in time and suspended in pain. Were these part of life’s “growing pains” one needed to face in order to get to the next level of growing up? Was the entrance to each new level as painful or would it increase each time?
My mother was crying now and I put my arm around her.
“He loved you.” She said.
“I know, mom, I know.”
That night the house was being visited by well meaning comforters; friends, cousins, co-workers. People from each of my family member’s circles who seemed to come to console us. All of them knew who I was and some kept staring at me as if I was a curiosity. Some old friends came to see me and it brought back memories of some good times; some of which I had documented in my stories. We had kept in loose touch, once every couple of years we would speak. But now came the “lets get together for good things, Bobby.” At 34 years old I was one of the only unmarried guys from our group of friends.
“You need to settle down and get married.”
“Why does he need to be in prison like us? Have fun.”
“I heard you dated…”
“Was it true?”
“You don’t know life until you find someone to share it with. Have children with.”
“Suffer with, cheat on…”
All assorted opinions of the married life which kind of drove me away. Until my old friend Craig came to see me in the middle of the day when the crowd was light.
“Hey Bobby, I am so sorry about your father.” He bent down to embrace me, I stood up.
“Craig – how have you been?” I was genuinely pleased to see him. We were never best friends but whenever we did get together we would have great conversations about baseball, religion, family and girls. Always girls.
“I was at the funeral – so many people – sorry I didnt get the chance to see you. I needed to get back to work.”
“Its OK you are here now. Come lets go sit inside and have a cup of coffee.” I led him into the den where no one was sitting and my niece brought us some coffee and a plate of stuff we should say blessings on in the name of my father.
We sat there talking for over an hour. He asked me about my life and how it felt to be a success.
“I don’t know what that feels like yet. I guess I haven’t found ‘success’ how its defined.”
“But you are doing what you love to do, isn’t that success?”
“It should be. Enough about me tell me about yourself.”
He had gotten married when he was 23 to a girl from Roslyn Long Island. They had a child together, who apparently was the reason for the marriage in the first place. They realized that by staying married for the sake of the child would be more detrimental to him than any good so they divorced amicably and he kept close to the child, a son named David. His father’s business, a wholesale children clothing manufacturer, had closed down after several big clients went out of business or stopped buying from them. Whoever was still in business wanted the cost of the product so low that they would lose money on each sale. The big blow came when a big order they shipped to Wal-Mart was rejected because of some technical glitch in the shipping process. Wal-Mart refused to buy the goods and stopped doing business with them. That’s when they closed shop.
“When was this?”
“This was in 2010? I then took whatever merchandise we had and sold them to local businesses across the country. I didn’t make much but it paid for the traveling expenses as I drove to Los Angeles stopping in all the states along the way. Smalll cities, towns – I met a lot of cool people and a lot of pricks. But it was a month that I needed just to disappear and remember who I was. The problem was, when I got back, that revelation fell off the Brooklyn Bridge and once again I found myself with ‘no direction home.'”
“Ha – I feel you. I have been ‘there’ so many times it began to feel like home.”
“Where do you live?” He asked me.
“Beverly Hills.” I say. “But I am going to move back to New York.”
“Being here reminds me that one of the things that are missing from my life is perhaps the thing that I once ran from. Family.”
We sat there talking for the afternoon until it was time for the afternoon prayers. He stayed, we prayed and then we promised we’d get together again for better reasons.
I walked him to the door and I realized how happy I was to have seen him.
“I just want to tell you that you made me really happy. I felt distant from everyone and you reminded me that there are still some people I can connect with.”
“Me too buddy – me too.”