There's a picture of my dad placed near the small sofa by the window where I take my morning coffee. It was taken when he was suffering from dementia, and he thought that I was up to something.
The look on his face clearly begs the question, "What the fuck are you up to?" My dad never used that word. I add it because the picture always kicks me in the ass in the morning, and I've often needed a little more of a thud to get me going. I have a better picture of him teaching me how to tie a tie that chokes me up and reminds me that Pop was always a teacher even after his boys got older and didn't think they needed to learn anything else that he had to offer.
I put this one in a frame though and placed where it can ask me that question every morning and remind me just how stupid the young me was ever to think I didn't need to listen to what he had to say, and just how much I need to ask myself that question every day in the morning before I've had much of a chance to go screw up another day.
I sit there on the small sofa drinking coffee by the window, soaking up some sunlight, and wondering. During this quarantine, I've often looked at the picture and said, "Pop, this is some crazy shit. You would not believe it." This morning I realized that, just like so many times in the past, I was just talking to make conversation and not waiting for a reply.
This time I waited. My dad would have handled this with the knowledge he had gained from growing up in the hard wind driven dust of Oklahoma. He had worn masks before. He would have handled the grief with the knowledge that he had gained with losing his mama when he was young and his teen-aged sister who was also his best friend. He would have looked back at death with the hardened eyes of a cockroach who had watched his whole family die and understood that it had made him into a simple point in time and place from which the new heaven and new earth would originate.
Then I started to think what would he have done when the whole world came to a screeching halt and the powers that be ordered his bow-legged energy to go inside and just stand still?
He Would Have Called Us All On The Phone
My dad was a confident man up until the dementia robbed him of
the ability to place the universe into the framework of the house of his own understanding. There's a scientific name for that place, but I can't recall it. I prefer to think of it as the house he built from scratch using some wood and nails that him and grandpa had carried out from Oklahoma when they came and some boards, sheetrock, roofing, and cement they bought down at Farmers Lumber.
After his sixteen-year-old sister died in a car wreck while he was at boot camp, he developed a deep seated anxiety that manifested itself when he couldn't sleep until all of us were home in bed, and he had locked the door himself.
Even after we had married and started families of our own, Pop would call us every time he heard a siren. He would call us when he heard of tragedies on the TV set, acting like he was telling us about it, but in reality, making sure that we were nowhere near where it was happening, Bangladesh, Bhopal, Chernobyl, it didn't matter.
It wouldn't be any different with an invisible virus that's everywhere at once. He would have warned us all it and told Mom to give some us money to buy some hand soap and pinto beans.
He Would Have Made Us All A Mask With A Strap Made Out of A Leather Belt
Pop was a problem solver. He would have started in making them damn masks before anyone else had suggested it. The only problem with this would be his use of unconventional materials. He would have experimented with making them out of used carpet thinking the thicker the material the better they would work. After mom had informed him, "Dang it! Bill, no one could breathe through that crap," he would have tried different stuff before finally settling on old pillow cases, the thicker the better.
With a leather strap. The man had more leather belts than a dominatrix with a leather fetish. He had a thing about working in leather. I can imagine the grin on his face when he showed me how he managed to attach the leather to the cotton.
He Would Have Made A Big Ol' Pot of Beans
Pop never tired of telling the story about how he ate beans morning, noon, and night during the entire length of the Great Depression. He would often elaborate on the story and tell us that because of this steady diet of pinto beans, he became a world champion gas-passer, winning the blue ribbon for this artistry at the 1932 World's Fair in Chicago. He would laugh himself almost into a fit as he would describe how him and his brother Melvin practiced for the tag-team version of the contest at night while everyone else was asleep.
We knew it was story because Pop had never been to Chicago.
I'm sure the quarantine would have triggered him into breaking out the pots and pans. He liked making beans almost as much as he liked tinkering with broken lamps and radios. They made him feel safe.
He Would Have Done Everything In His Power to Keep Us Calm
My dad went almost straight from the Dust Bowl to a troopship heading for the Philippines. He was like that guy on the Allstate commercial, "We know a lot because we seen a lot."
People like that are worth their weight in gold. The one thing that I'm glad he's not around to see is how the media, the politicians, and some stupid kids in Daytona write us old people off as an acceptable price for dealing with this Virus. I think it's a sign of what's to come.
I am happy to see how people have responded though. We were headed in this direction anyway. Now that people are forced into thinking about losing their grandparents and their own parents and visualizing a world without them, it has made us all think of prioritizing our lives to where there's more time for Granny and Grandpa and less for Gal Godot and her friends.
My dad would have said something like, "We've been through worse; we'll get through this. Might have to eat some beans though."
He Would Have Said a Prayer
Pop trusted in his savior Jesus. When I have my own doubts because of all the people who I've known who have said they speak to Jesus daily, yet everything they do suggests they are lying to both him and me, I think of the changes that I saw with my own eyes with how my dad viewed the world before his own moment on the road to Damascus and afterwards. Whatever him and Jesus talked about that day. It worked, and it left me with the distinct notion that Jesus had a love for corny jokes because you could've distilled moonshine with the jokes my dad told.
He Would Have Died Himself To Keep Us Safe
Pop was that kind of a guy. A lot of people like that are out there still. They are working to save lives even as I'm typing. They aren't real famous, and they can't throw a football the length of the field, nor are they particularly good at pretending to be someone else. What they are good at is resisting the urge to sell their souls for golden mansions and political power.
If there's one thing that we should promise ourselves not to forget if this ever gets over, it is that it has always been the fear of dying that has kept us from feeling alive.
We should recognize what life really means and quit letting the unknowing others, explain it to us.
If we ever manage to get out of our houses. I'm going to blow that picture up to poster size and stick it in my front window looking outward, so that if you read this, and are driving by my house, you can ask yourself the question, "What are you up to today?"