pensive alligator says…
“Life is like a cheap hot dog. It’s full of lips and a**holes and it tastes pretty all right. Enjoy it now because you’ll pay for it later.”
Guys, I know I’ve been weird lately. Perhaps I’ve offended some of you with my off-color analogies. If I’ve made any of you uncomfortable, it was not my intent. These last couple of years have been the most trying years of my life and maybe my way of expressing myself has been more intense than usual. Waiting for the next disaster to come down the pipeline could cause a gal to be a little bit anxious. And then it went ahead and did just a couple of months ago.
This most recent bout of awful began with a dream I had in May. I dreamed my husband and I were spending a Friday or Saturday evening with my dad and his sister Joane in Norman (the small college town where Joane lives). It seems like it might have been for their birthdays, which would have been in August. We talked about eating at IHOP around midnight but Joane wasn’t feeling up to it and Dad just wanted to go home. Getting back to the city and dropping Dad off at his house must have been fairly uneventful, but we ended up driving back by his house again at about 3am. I saw Dad sitting on his porch on a wrought-iron settee covered with large reddish orange pillows. There are actually sodium lights lining his street, and there isn’t one directly in front of his house – but there was on this night.
The sallow cantaloupe light exposed him as exhausted and sad, and his positioning on this large iron settee was askew. The pillows sort of swallowed him up. He was dressed in heavy dark work clothes, indeed very warmly for an August night. He wore a matching dark baseball cap. He seemed crumpled and frail beneath his loose clothes and worst of all, he wore an eye patch over one eye. Our eyes met as we drove past and I waved tentatively, and he waved back tentatively once he saw it was me – the longer we waved to one another the more terrified the expression in his one visible eye grew. He knew he could no longer hide it from me, whatever it was.
I immediately turned back around in the car and was in his house, washing dishes, worried about whatever was in the sink. It suddenly dawned on me to go check on him in the other room. He was playing with dolls or stuffed animals and was emphasizing that the one he was holding in his right hand represented me, and he made the one that represented him in his left hand say of the other “…and I want this one to be happy.”
And that was that. His father wore an eye patch at the end of his life. I woke up with tears on my cheeks and a lump in my stomach because I knew what it all meant. But I had no idea this would be happening so soon. Stupid me, assuming I had more time with him.
grandma and grandpa moran, dad and me
Just weeks after I had that dream, Dad began to complain about back pain. By the last week or two of June, he could no longer walk. He was eventually admitted into the hospital and was given a diagnosis of stage 4 lung cancer. There were tumors along his spine and one near his very low vertebra had grown so large that it cracked it – which explained the back pain and inability to walk.
I’ve been watching my gentle, beloved father die an excruciatingly painful death. I’ve been inconsolable to the point of dysfunctional. I’ve tried to do what I thought was the right thing, sometimes I was lucky enough to get it right and other times I didn’t. It’s been an unwinnable situation for everyone involved, and there’s nothing like unwinnable + extreme grief to put anyone out of sorts.
Dad never grew into a fully responsible adult, which was both wonderful and frustrating. He was superficially irresponsible in that he wasn’t terribly interested in keeping a “real job”, but as a dad and as a source of guidance, he excelled and was naturally suited for the task. He never let his feelings get too hurt and every time he saw me or spoke to me on the phone, he told me he loved me. He always made me feel accepted and wanted – his love for me felt so pure and I knew that if I asked, he would do almost anything for me. Simply knowing that was enough because this was not a daddy’s little princess kind of relationship. The gifts and favors my father showered me with were ones of knowledge and time. Instead of buying me fancy crap, he bought me LEGOs, books, marbles and whoopee cushions. We looked at stuff under the microscope, caught toads in mayonnaise jars, hiccupped and giggled about Mad Libs until after midnight, and played catch in the living room with his balled up dirty socks (much to Grandma Moran’s chagrin.) He taught me how to ride a bicycle and occasionally surprised me with new girly bike accessories on our weekend visits.
As I grew up, Dad encouraged me to produce the best work I was capable of, and to snub convention and still manage to be successful within the parameters of the law. He asked me what I thought about things and was genuinely interested in my answers. He was inarguably a genius with oil paints on canvas. The whole family thinks that if he could have buckled down and adhered to traditional standards (such as creating a cohesive body of work that a gallery could show) he could have been wildly famous. He was also one of the best jazz drummers in Oklahoma City in his earlier days. He built fantastic furniture from wood and built tools out of wood to make his woodworking tools work more safely and efficiently. This man never spent one moment of his life idly. Even when his body wasn’t working, his brain was hard at it.
dad, me and my blue birthday cake
Now he’s gone, and there’s one fewer person in this world who loves me without condition or pretense. His last wish for me was for me to be happy. It’s going to be a lot more difficult without him here, but I’ll promise not to let life stomp all of the sparkle out of me.
So long, Dad. I could not have asked for a better father.
Lionel Gautier Moran, Jr.
8/8/40 – 8/24/13
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