Father's Day (contains spoilers)

Posted by Job O Brother, June 20, 2010 09:16pm | Post a Comment

It's a Hallmark card not yet writ

Oh, dear reader, I am a bundle of anxiety these days. I feel like the sky is filled with clouds made mostly of footwear, and any second now a lacey lightning bolt will strike and everything’s gonna be raining dropped shoes. Just think what that’s gonna do to our automobiles!

Today is Father’s Day, which always makes me very quiet inside, and small. I listen to my boyfriend casually gab with his Dad on the phone, and it sounds nice and makes me glad. I say nothing.

I was living in den Haag, Nederlands in 2001. It had been a long night of art shows and squat parties and socialist-style vegan feasts. Me and my gang had returned to de Illusie, the huge and surreal squat in which we made our home. I was still living in the temporarily vacant room of a pretty Polish girl I didn’t like while she visited family in her homeland, and I was getting high on hashish with my dear friend, Miranda, as she explained why reggae and dub were so vital to her. (To this day, I love these forms of music because of her, and my associations with them are not with Rastafarians and Jamaica, but cold, gloomy, Dutch days, getting gezellig over cups of koffie verkeerd and endless games of Ace to King aka Suzie's Crazy Game.)

The door opened and in came Isak, holding his cellphone and looking right at me with buggy eyes. He held the phone out to me and said weakly, “It’s your sister. I think there’s something wrong.”

I took his phone and heard my youngest sister, Jacquie, say my name, heavy with the distortions of sobbing. Powerful, awful adrenaline immediately washed over me before I even asked her what had happened. She told me that my Father had died.

I had to get off the phone instantly, which I think surprised and startled her, and I promised I would call soon, but that I couldn’t – just couldn’t – be on a phone at that moment.

Miranda and Isak weren’t moving, but stayed focused on me. I told them the news in one concise sentence and there was nothing but quiet for a moment – then something that felt like falling inside happened – and I started crying.

The next thing I remember was walking the night streets of the city with Isak, Miranda, and the wild, red-haired artist Ilene. I was drinking a 40 ouncer of beer as quickly as possible, in a terrible rush to get drunk; a rush like being a kid too far out in the deep end of a pool, desperately clawing at water for the edge and finally, some easy breaths and no movement. I did get drunk, but still was the last person to fall asleep that night.

I woke up the next day a robot, methodically making arrangements to fly to Los Angeles for a make-shift funeral, and to retrieve my Dad’s ashes. I was easily annoyed with everyone – pretty much resentful of anyone doing anything other than dealing with the fact that Pop had passed away.

There was one bright side: I could have my Mom bring down my CD collection, which I could bring back to den Haag. Life without my music library had been tough, and I’d spent way too many guilders on pricey European albums since I’d been without it.

Dr. Ernest Howard Fogelberg, aka, "Pop"

I didn’t get close to my Dad until my 21st birthday, when he and I took Ecstasy together under the advice of my then-step-dad, who thought it would be a catalyst for intimacy. Not the most conventional exercise in father/son communication, but one that proved to be surprisingly successful, and remains one of the only positive things I can say about my third step-father.

But I didn’t get very many of those good years with my Dad, and while we shared some truly deep and loving times since then, it was brief. He was already in his late 70’s, and died at age 80. So there’s always a heavy sense of loss for all the time I didn’t have with him.

Since then I’ve been real pushy amongst my friends to get as much Dad time in as possible.

“Make no mistake about it,” I’ll counsel, “There’s few things in life as lame as a parent dying. You will hate it. So fill yourself up on them as much as possible.”

Pop, me, Mom, step-father
(Note Pop's breakfast-inspired shirt, handmade by his 30 year old girlfriend.)

My Dad’s great loves were pretty much these: Polynesian culture, Swedish culture, and huge, female bosoms. There were other things, too, like language studies, mixed nuts and powdered milk, and organized nudism – but anything took second seat to the above-mentioned trifecta. Even so, what follows is a small collection of stuff that he was keen on...

Betty Page!

Pop with dear friend Joe Keawe, Hawaiian falsetto and treasure

Pop & Mom dance the hula, not long before I'm conceived

Pop as a knight, participating in a man-sized chess game

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