Sunday, January 20, 2013

Ten years feels like forever when you are young...

About a week from now, 10 years ago I got on an airplane just as sunrise was hitting the Madison winter sky. It was the first time I had been on a commercial jetliner in my life as far as I know and I was scared out of my mind. Sure I had flown before in my Uncle's little four seaters that he would fly in from Des Moines and pick my brother and me from the tiny strip of an airfield on the outskirts of Lodi for weekends with the Kenworthy side of the family. So the flying itself didn't scare me. I knew my Uncle, trusted him, so getting in the plane wasn't a second thought but being on a big ol' jet was a different story. That was to give up control and put all my faith and trust into a pilot that I had never met.
Scary stuff.
Didn't help that around that time I had been struggling with my first bout of panic attacks (only to rise with a vengence years later) along with I now know as wicked I.B.S. I had a limited script of Xanax specifically for the trip since I was still 5 months away from being able to sit at the airport bar and have a dose of liquid courage or two. As the engines were firing up my Dad grabbed my hand and said to me, which I'm probably paraphrasing due to passage of time, he said "there is a Native American tribe that had a custom of waking up each morning and would greet the day by saying this: today is a great day to die" And looking at him I felt a little more at ease. Not entirely because my stomach was still doing acrobatics under the seatbelt but it was somehow reassuring hearing it from him.

We were on a plane bound for Las Vegas via a stop in Minneapolis(first time being there, though technically it's Bloomington so not MPLS proper.) My Dad being Assistant General Manager for Devil's Head Ski and Golf Resort and also the purchaser for the pro shop of said resort had to go out to Vegas for a Ski and Snowboard buyers convention at the Mandalay Bay Hotel where he was to meet with vendors and see what new lines he might want to bring over to sell in the pro shop. With me working at Devil's Head since two days after I turned 14, he was allowed to take me along. Though I'm not sure if the resort covered my ticket or he footed the bill, my Dad had invited me along with him for the 4 day trip. I had bought tickets to see Henry Rollins do a spoken word show at the Barrymore Theater that fell right in the middle of the trip, but seeing as how I had never been to Las Vegas and this was the first time my Dad had ever offered to take me anywhere that was just him and me I had to say yes.

My Dad and I had for as long as I could remember an adversarial relationship. Mostly because we were so damn much alike that anything we clashed over was a test of wills, who would put aside their bull-headedness and concede. Growing up we were at each others throats more times that I wish to remember (even though I do). 
SO being asked to accompany him, I was pretty honored. I suspect he asked me partly because he knew I had been struggling with my anxiety and stomach pains and such to which he probably felt I needed something good. That was my Dad, he could be a prick now and again but he knew how to treat you well when you needed it. 
On this trip I got to see a bunch of awesome snowboarders and new products, I got a bunch of free swag, hell I even got mistaken for some famous snowboarder by a group of girls in the hotel hallway where they asked to take their picture with me all giddy. I was confused but said sure. I got to see palm trees for the first time and was amazed, not to mention how cool i thought the escalators that took you over the streets were. I wandered through all the other casinos while he was busy in the convention. One night we went out and walked around a bit before I had a pretty big panic attack episode. I could see how bad he felt for me so he said we could go back to the hotel and call it a night. On the way up he stopped at one of the little mini convenience stores just off the casino floor and bought a couple tiny bottles of whiskey. We spent the rest of the night hanging out watching whatever movie was the free HBO and he showed me how to drink whiskey "like a man" without mixer or chaser. It was enough to relax me and really nice bonding time. 
We didn't have many of those. My brother was always along or some how stole his attention so being sole focus of his was something I don't think I had with him since... hell maybe 1984 before my brother was born, honestly. That trip was a really great memory for me. 

I remember a lot of things about 2003. It was the year I was coming up on turning 21 even though I had been going through a short "straightedge" phase. He and I surprising my mom with a party for her 40th birthday in April, the last week in June having to go the doctor for stomach issues and after I got home he came into my room and tried to cheer me up. We had a nice conversation that I remember so vividly. Of all the conversations I'd had with him that one is the one that sticks out along with a quick one just over a week later. The friday before the 4th of July my Dad snagged my and my brother each two tickets to see Ben Harper and Jack Johnson. Which was right as Ben's "Live From Mars" double album was in heavy rotation in my car. Excellent show even with the drama of my brother and cousin drunk in the car behind my friend and me.

Then 4th of July 2003 I had gotten myself and my friend Michelle tickets to see Brand New and Moneen play in LaCrosse. It was an hour and half drive up there so as I waited to be picked up I came out of my room with my Dad relaxing after work in the easy chair watching golf with the dog curled up next to him, which as typical of an afternoon home from work got for him. We exchanged a quick few words before I told him I was gonna go and wait for Michelle in the drive way and he turned and said "be careful tonight, there's gonna be a lot of drunk assholes out on the roads tonight" and I said something like yeah I will, don't worry. Then I leaned down and kissed him on the cheek and gave him a hug. Looking back it was very unusual of a thing for me to do. We weren't very touchy-feely of a family. 
Michelle came and got me and we got on the interstate north. We pulled into LaCrosse 'round 7pm and I clearly remember feeling "off" when I looked at the dashboard clock. Anyway we got to the venue and it was so damn hot and the venue was in the top floor of a three story building so packed with kids moshing and bouncing around it was sweltering in there. Both band put on a really fun show, I was having such a great time, we even got to shoot fireworks off with the bands after the show, mostly bottle rockets out of a soda bottle duct taped to Moneen's lead singer's head. Hilarious to watch. But the bands hopped in their tour vans and we made the trek home sometime around midnight i believe and we didn't pull into Lodi well past 1am. 
I remember thinking as we pulled up to my house "looks like the party has moved to our place" after seeing my brother and a few of his friends hanging out in the drive way. It gets fuzzy after this, I remember as soon as I stepped onto the driveway on that very muggy night being confronted by my brother and I looked over his shoulder and saw his friends crying not being merrily stoned as I had assumed. My brother was the one to tell me...
Dad's dead.

Again it was pretty fuzzy, I recall not believing him, trying to walk away, at some point my Mom coming out closely followed by her Mother. Michelle must have seen something was up in her rearview because she had come back. Then I just started walking, walking downtown to find whatever cop was on duty that night to confirm what I had been told. Appropriately enough, much like in the movies it started raining, not hard but rain none the less. I sat on a bench on Main St. until finally an officer pulled up and I got a bit more detail. 
My Dad had the house to himself, Mom was up visiting family who were camping, Cody was out drinking or drugging and I had gone to see a show. He must had decided to go for a quick ride on his motorcycle, a big touring bike that I told him looked like "an old man's bike". I say a quick ride because he didn't bother to kennel the dog which he did if he planned on being gone along time. So he was headed out of town north most likely to take a ride around Lake Wisconsin but when he reached the city limits a few minutes after 7pm a drunk driver hauling a large boat turned in front of him and before he slow down, he had to lay the bike down and ended up hitting the trailer and knocking the boat clear off into a neighboring parking lot. 
I'd hear conflicting reports on if he was conscious or not, possibly breathing on his own at first but I guess somewhere on the Medflight trip to University Hospital in Madison he was gone...

just gone...

The next month was a blur, family was around, friends came and went, the funeral. It's strange how sometimes I'll get flooded with images or sounds of events or conversations that took place throughout July that any other time I blank out on. Even still it happens here and there. 
Looking back, these intervening years I can't believe how much life has changed. I've plowed through so many peaks and valleys. 
-The whole trial of the drunk driver.
-Finding great friends and mentors in Dan and Jules.
-The following year taking a road trip back to Las Vegas.
-Protesting in New York City in 2004.
-riding two days on a Greyhound with the intent on moving to Florida and a week later moving back home.
-Meeting my first real "adult love".
-The argument that led to me moving out of my parents home and Lodi.
-Another road trip out west.
-Starting college then quitting college only to start again a few years later in another state.
-Great job with friends working in "my church" a movie theater.
-Leaving that job to move to Minneapolis, MN.
-Losing my first real "adult love".
-Living on my own in a strange city.
-Crawling into a whiskey bottle for the better part of two years.
-Minneapolis becoming MY home.
-Shitty jobs.
-Fun jobs.
-Losing my job on the same day as my roommate. 
-Meeting such amazing people that I was lucky enough to call friends.
-The insane fun and just plain insane times I had in Minneapolis.
-Becoming a barfly at the C.C. Club.
-The numerous tattoos that now adorn my body.
-Flying on my own half way around the world to Australia.
-Meeting the beautiful woman who would become my wife
-Coming back from the verge of alcoholism.
-Being gifted with a healthy, gorgeous, inquisitive and intelligent daughter.

All these fantastical landmarks in my life and as much as I wouldn't trade those experiences for the world, I didn't get to share them with my Dad. So many times on my road to where I am now could I have used his guidance, advice, a verbal ass kicking but more than anything just for him to see. See where I am now and how I got there. I don't know if I would have had the courage to do them if he was still here though, I'd probably have just played it safe and lazy. Thats the fucking catch 22. I wouldn't be the Me I am today if he were here to see the Me now. I'd be a much different person, I can't say better, I can't say worse.

Even with him gone I am very much influenced by him. I've got an enormous amount of his fault wired into my personality yet not enough of the traits that made me love him so much. 
Anyone who has spent a large amount of time around me knows how I have very little patience, a short fuse and I approach projects with a half-assed midset. I'm gung-ho to start something then I fizzle out towards the end. My mom and I use to joke that we are so half assed that between the four of us we'd barely make a whole ass. 
I also got his lone wolf mentality insomuch as after a day of work all he wanted to do was unwind in front of the tv without anyone bugging him. If he/I have to do anything else before we can relax both he and now I get frustrated and pissy. 
I did however get his love of learning, self-teaching about the world around him/me, be it politics or other random trivia. I could never decipher where his politics were I thought for a while that we were on the same page but the more I look back I think we'd differ on a lot of issues. 

Come July 4th, ten years, TEN fucking years. How has it been this long. It still feels like a fresh wound. I realize I don't talk about these things save for a passing mention. It's too much to take in and sort out.  Sometimes I'm sad about it, then sometimes I feel like the pressure is off, like I don't have to live up to something and watch his face when I fail to meet that. Mostly I miss him because in that last year or so I felt like we making that transition from father/son to becoming friends. I'd waited the majority of my life to get to that point and I never saw it fully realized. 
But the worst of it I think, is I don't get to see his famous ear to ear grin that he would have surely gotten when Lucia would first say "Grandpa Pete".

Yeah, that definitely is the worst.

But as our shared favorite author would say "So it goes..."

1 comment:

  1. Hey bro, writing it out instead of just stewing over it like so many guys...good for me to read this, as I sometimes forget that I need to express myself more fully...PeaceMark