Category Archives: Personal life stuff

Tarot Allies galore

I recently returned from a much-anticipated and somewhat-feared solo retreat at Christ In The Wilderness, a retreat center located near Stockton, Illinois. It’s a really lovely space, and offers what is (for me, at least) something particularly precious: solitude. I spent four days and three nights there, alone with a journal, music, some books, a walking stick, rubber stamp carving tools, and my Tarot deck. It was a challenging time, but one that brought a great deal of peace and some renewal that I really needed. All in all, I feel really privileged to be able to give myself this gift.

While there, I did a series of ally/lesson draws. I began with an overarching ally for the retreat, and then looked at the subsequent cards with that first one in mind (essentially: with **insert first card here** as a larger guide, how does today’s ally/lesson speak to me?). I don’t want to forget the cards or the initial responses I wrote at the time, so here we go, for posterity:

Day 1 (about an hour after arrival): What card is my ally for this time here?

Card: Nine of Wands

So, if wands are fire and passion, here we have this dude literally injured by passion. He’s standing in front of eight wands, each taller than him, and he has a bandage wrapped around his head, presumably where he has been struck. He’s also holding tightly (to my view, anyway) to one other wand. He’s not holding it defensively, but instead seemingly to support himself, to remain upright. His expression has a very slings-and-arrows vibe about it, all wide eyed and cautiously looking over his shoulder.

I note that while the wands behind him aren’t set at exact intervals, it seems to me that the one he’s holding did come from that row off wands standing behind him. What does that mean?

I think it means that he has chosen what passion he will claim for his own. He’s navigated other worthy pursuits, and has – eventually – said no to them. They are as worthy as his, but they are not his. He carries the scars of those “nos,” but I think they will fade. This isn’t the end of his story, but the start of a next chapter. The passion and fire he holds will strengthen his spine even as he provides the fuel for its manifestation.

What is mine to do? That which inspires me to reach for it. That which draws forth my sacred ‘yes’.

Day 2, morning: What card has the lesson I most need today?

Card: The Hermit

I didn’t even get to shuffle the cards properly for this one. I held the question in my mind for a second, began to shuffle, and this card just fell out, face up in front of me. I decided that this was an obvious enough signal that I ought to just go with it.

So, another Nine. Another staff, or wand. He’s an old man, our Hermit, lighting the way with a star lantern and standing straight and tall with his staff for as support. He’s looking down…to find his way? To rest? To question his purpose? I’m going to wonder about that one for a while. It’s interesting that the Major comes on the second day, not as the larger intention of the trip but in service to it. I like that – the Major 9 in service to one of the minors.

Okay, let’s look at him more closely. His eyes are closed, and he’s standing alone on a rock. Not moving, at least right now, and he doesn’t appear to be in preparation to move. There’s not a sense of…anticipation, for lack of a better word. He’s standing still, straight, holding up a lantern, but not using the lantern.

Oh. He’s a lighthouse. Warning passers-by and sailors of danger. Showing those same travelers a path to safety. But he’s not, I don’t think, concerned with whether they head that way or not.

How is the Hermit my ally today? I think he’s reminding me that my inspiration and illumination move beyond me, whether I realize this fact or not. I can be alone, as he is, and I’m still casting both light and shadow.

I’m here. This light I hold illuminates this spot. Use that information if and as you will.

Day 3, morning: Who is my ally today?

Card(s): Page of Wands (and Strength)

Goodness, it’s a Fire week, isn’t it? I love the Pages so much, and particularly this one. He is so in love with the wand he’s holding. It’s as if he intends to memorize every part of it, to take in all that it can teach him. I always have that sense of joyous apprenticeship from this card, and it stands in some contrast to my own relationship with tools. I often say that it doesn’t matter which tool or which model one uses – only that one uses it consistently. I think that’s true to a large extent, but this philosophy seems more appropriate for a King or Queen, not a Page. The Page says, “What can I learn?” while the King asks, “How can this serve?”

I love that this Page isn’t armored. He looks like I’d like to feel when learning something new – excited, full of anticipation. This story is so different from the one shown in the 9 of Wands, in large part because of the Page’s youth.

Also along for the ride today (the cards simply would not separate, so…again, let’s go with it) is the Strength card, the 8 in the major arcana. It’s the Lady and the Lion, with an implication that she’s taming that beast, that passion. She’s all in white, with flowers in her hair and at her waist – purity and nature both? The lion is all fiery, passionate orange, seemingly being calmed into quiescence by the woman.

Here’s a thought. What if it’s in reverse? What if the Lady needs the Lion’s passion in the same way that we may first see the Lion as needing her direction? I can imagine her walking through the countryside shown here to do her duty, to perform her task – as priestess, as symbol of nature or fertility, as whatever. She has that look of ceremony about her, at the least. And then along comes this powerful, wild, passionate creature that knows nothing of ceremony but is filled with life. And the beast inspires her to pause, to reconnect with that wildness and that untamed spirit. No longer just doing her solemn duty, she moves forward with a joyous, almost feral, inspiration to do her Work.

Day 4 (taking a pause while packing up): Who is my ally for manifestation and integration of my experiences here?

Card: Judgement

Wow. Another major, eh? I don’t get this card at all, to be honest. It’s the calling forth of the dead that I’m freaked out by, since it’s so not how I see the universe working. I’m no angel sounding the trumpets, but that’s for sure. But okay…let’s think.

What’s coming forth from the water and the crypts here? The naked dead. So, nakedness is vulnerability. We don’t bury people naked, we put them in their Sunday best. But here, they are whole and nude and opening themselves to the heavens, to the Sacred. And it’s interesting that they’re in the water, too. Softening, washing away rough edges, healing. Sustaining.

What if all of the parts of myself that I’ve locked away have been held and sustained by healing and love all this time? What is now ready to come back out into the light? Do I dare to find out?

You may have had good reason to lock away these parts of you, but now it’s time for some of them to emerge once more. Welcome them with the same joy they have in being returned to the light.

A year of Justice? Sure, why not?

My birthday was a week ago, which means that it’s time to offer some ill-informed ramblings about my new year card. Last year, as I talked about here, was a Wheel of Fortune year for me, and I certainly experienced a good deal of that on-the-edge whirling throughout the past twelve months. I feel like I navigated the year fairly well, all things considered, and I’m curious about stepping into the next twelve months. I use the Rider-Waite-Smith deck (because it has a lot of people in it, and I like cards with people because I suck at interpreting any image that’s remotely abstract), so for me the “eleven” year is Justice.

So let’s take a look at this thing, shall we?

maj-11.jpg

It seems straightforward enough. We have an androgynous person sitting on a stone chair, wearing a golden crown. There are pillars on either side, and the figure is holding a set of scales in their left hand and a sword in their right. They’re wearing formal-looking red robes with yellow/gold trim. This feels like a very aptly named card, since we have the scales of justice and a sword of judgement/punishment at the ready. I note that a lot of other images associated with justice include a blindfold, and I find it interesting that this one does not.

Within the context of personal work, though, that fits. This isn’t about passing judgement on someone else, after all. This isn’t IMPARTIAL justice – it’s about weighing things in my own life. That stuff is sometimes out of balance; hell, I’d argue that it’s almost always out of balance to some degree. The sword, I think, is a tool for cutting away what doesn’t serve and bringing those things back into balance. But I think the eyes are open because discernment of this sort requires looking at things openly and clearly. I might see that something in my life is out of balance, and if my eyes are open and clear, I can decide what to do about that. Do I choose to just deal with it, which sounds terrible but frankly is sometimes the best option? Do I use what I learn from my examination of the situation as a starting point to negotiate? Or do I say, “fuck this noise,” and bring the sword down and cut it away entirely?

All of these things are possible, and I believe they all have their place. The critical thing, I feel, is that I use my objective tools (the scales) and also my subjective tools (my eyes, my heart, my personal experience) to examine the situation from as many angles as I can, and then take action. In this image, it looks like the only “action” tool available is the sword, but that’s never true. The mind is a tool for action. Words are a tool for action. My body is a tool for action. For me, the sword is a reminder to DO SOMETHING, not a suggestion that there is only one thing to be done.

Here’s another thing that I’m finding interesting with this viewing. There’s a cloth behind the seated figure, sort of draped between the pillars. Now that’s…weird. I’ve seen the card a number of times, but my eye has never been drawn to that before. It gives me a very “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” feeling, and that’s very curious. Is it a suggestion that this is just a piece of theater that’s playing out before me, and it’s not real? That doesn’t feel quite right, but I’m really not sure. I’m going to sit with that for a while and see what comes up.

Even with that last piece of uncertainty, I’m pretty good with starting a Justice year. After a year of being on the Wheel (and sometimes way out on the edge of it), I feel like I’ve gathered a lot of information, but without a lot of time and space to integrate it. This feels like a good time to look carefully at what I’ve learned, identify those points of imbalance, and take some decisive action.

In defense of the edge

‘Wheel never stops turning, Badger.’

‘That only matters to the people on the rim.'”

-Malcolm Reynolds and Badger, Pilot episode of Firefly

I’m about seven months into a Wheel year, which means that, from a numerological standpoint, the year that started on my last birthday has been (is being) ruled by the number 10, which corresponds to the Wheel of Fortune card in the Tarot (if you believe that stuff, which mostly I don’t, but sometimes I sort of do). This is a card that usually, to me, at least, invokes some feelings of anxiety and worry. That wheel goes round and round, and it’s scary out on the edge, man.

One of the things that I’ve been told about dealing with the Wheel in general, and a Wheel year in particular, is that you want to stay in the center to take advantage of the stability there. And I think that is a wise thing, for sure. Standing in the center isn’t about ignoring the change that manifests with the Wheel (or, rather, the change that’s always going on, but perhaps seems to be magnified during this time) – it’s about being in a place of centered stability, from which I can engage with that incessant change without being flung off the side.

Here’s a thing, though. What if the change that’s happening needs to be engaged with differently?

For the past four months, our home has been in various stages of a remodeling project. So: decision-making, packing, culling, demolition, rebuilding, finishing, culling, unpacking, more culling, swearing, more decision-making, and so on. It’s felt like an immense project, and for me it’s been at least as much emotional labor as it has been physical (to be clear, professionals are doing basically all of the physical work with the exception of packing, unpacking, etc). When we moved here in 2010, we had intentions that turned out to be wholly beyond our ability to manifest. A combination of factors have contributed to that – circumstance, personality, foolishness, shifting priorities, and good old-fashioned overconfidence and naïvete. So the place I’m living won’t be a lot of things that I had hoped for – it’s not going to be a housing cooperative, and we won’t live here with a family of choice that treats the space as shared and communal in the way that I hoped (and sometimes still ache) for. Instead, it’s a place that in the long term is as much an investment as a home for me. And that really makes me sad, a lot of the time. The improvement of the physical space, as welcome as it is, also serves as a reminder of that fact, and of that failure. This whole process has been – still is – very difficult for me.

All of that is true. What’s also true is that the change, the transformation, the shifting of the physical space to match the reality of what is true and what will be true for the foreseeable future is a crucial thing. Hanging onto the symbols and trappings of that dream-that-was has made me ill, made me angry, made me feel the loss and sting of failure all the more.

There is a grief that runs under all of this for me. I’ve had other grief in the past few years, and I’ve discovered something about how that works for me. I don’t process grief from the center of the Wheel. Other people can, I know, and I imagine that it’s a better way of approaching the whole business. But as much as I might wish that that was true for me, it’s just not. It’s a sort of change, of loss and sorrow, that I need to lean into. I need to let it be, let myself be, and step away from the center, at least for a little while.

So I think that’s what I’m going to do for the rest of this scary year. Stop fighting my way back toward the center and hang out on the edge. Lean in the direction of change and know it’s the only way, for me, to begin to turn loss into something else. Wheel

Freshly inked

So…this happened recently.

Tattoo

It started, as such things sometimes do, with a dream. In fact, I think I briefly referenced the dream on the blog sometime last year…yes! I did, appropriately enough in this t-shirt post.

The dream, which took place early in 2012, was simple enough – I had Tolkien’s quote, “Not all those who wander are lost” tattooed on the inside of my left forearm. I remember it being there, specifically, because I wanted to be able to look at the words when I needed a reminder of them. The dream was vivid enough that I was actually surprised when I woke up and discovered that I did not, in fact, have that tattoo. As the only person in my home without ink, and someone who doesn’t typically have dreams like that, it was a surprising experience.

This quote has always been special to me, because it serves as an important reminder that I don’t really know anyone else’s story, no matter how close we are or how insightful I imagine myself to be. It’s a good tool to give myself a nudge to practice compassion for the people around me. Even so, I spent quite a while feeling like the quote wasn’t the whole thing here.

Fast forward almost 16 months. Just before the retreat I took in June, I was reflecting on the image of a labyrinth, thinking about cycles and the frustration that I often feel when I realize that I don’t know where the hell I’m headed. This is, I should note, not surprising material given what’s been going on this year. It occurred to me, finally, that that labyrinth is, for me, a more self-reflective version of the Tolkien quote. It reminds me that my path is never going to be a straight line and perhaps I ought to practice compassion for myself, too, if I feel or appear to be lost. At last! The labyrinth image and the quote needed to go together…somehow. I was resolved to figure out the details and get it done before my birthday.

Being the person I am, I promptly filed that resolution away and didn’t do anything about it until about a month after my birthday. Then I finally reached out to Bek, an extraordinary tattoo artist near Chicago, and said, “Um, I’ve got this idea, but I’m not sure exactly how it goes together. Maybe something with the quote running along the outer edge of the labyrinth? Any other ideas?”

We went back and forth a few times, with several almost-right sketches being sent over. Finally, though, I remembered that what I love most about the labyrinth image is that the path isn’t straight. If you measure the space between the entrance and the center, it’s so short as to be almost negligible. But if you measure the steps it takes to get there, it’s suddenly much, much longer. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a reminder, from time to time, that I’m headed in the right direction even if the way ahead is unclear?

Ah-ha. When do I need the reminder that Tolkien’s words provide me? Not before I enter, but while I’m in the midst of the journey. I need to hear them as I walk, when I feel the most lost and uncertain of my path. In other words, I need to stumble across that message right in the middle of the freaking path, or I won’t notice it at all.

Once that was settled, it was just a matter of making sure the words were spread out enough to not run the risk of interfering with each other. After a handful of minor revisions, we had the final version. I just got it done on Sunday, and removed the high-tech bandage a few hours ago, after the requisite 3 days. I really couldn’t be happier with the way it looks, and I’m excited as hell to have finally gotten it done.

(By the way, if you’re local to Chicago or close to it, I can’t recommend Bek’s work enough. Look her up at www.tattooheathen.com if you’re so inclined.)

Happy fun grieving times

So, some folks have asked how I’m doing, and…well, I guess I got around to asking myself the same question tonight. Oops.

 

The hardest thing, I find, is that I am pretty much incapable of being around strong emotions. I feel like a toddler, at times – picking up on the hurt and anguish around me, but seemingly unable to behave as though it is happening to someone else rather than happening to me. So when someone close to me is upset, I’m not empathizing so much as I’m feeling the same fucking thing. This does not, as you might imagine, make me an ideal person to be around.

 

And music…damn, there are times when I hate music. Did you know that lots of music is about feelings? And that some songwriters are really good at communicating those feelings? And some of them are not only good at communicating them through lyrics, but also through the music itself?

 

To wit, I offer Nickels and Dimes (go ahead and click the link below, I dare you) which I am apparently incapable of listening to without crying now. Not because of the subject matter, because…well, I’ve listened to this song for years without similar effect. Nathan Davis was a serious songwriter (he died tragically a few years back, because of course he did), and his live album ranks up there in my music collection, but even so. Addiction hasn’t ever been my cross to bear, and this track didn’t really get to me the way that, say, Still Rock And Roll did.

 

Now, though…geez. Apparently when the universe kills off my dad, I get all emotional or something. So we have this song, with the lyrics at the end that repeat over and over…and it’s not just the repeating lyrics, it’s Davis’ freaking delivery, building like he’s sacrificing his voice on an altar of sound, as if he can communicate everything inside of him over the course of that last 2 minutes of the track. Somehow it all just combines to hammer away at my resolve to focus on anything other than grief until that resolve falls away, at least for a few minutes.

I got no alibis, my excuses are over.
Nothing to hide behind, I’m gettin’ sober.
If I could dream of a reason to leave me,
There would be none like the reasons you gave me.

It’s good for me, I imagine. And damn, I hate that shit.

Tarot Draw 13

Three weeks ago today, I was packing up for a trip to Missouri. It was the sort of flurry of activity that I tend to retreat into when I know that slowing down is going to force me to look closely at my feelings, and lord knows we can’t have that. That said, one of my self-imposed intentions right now is to be as present to myself as I try to be to others, so I decided to pause for a moment.

 

For this draw, I pulled two cards. I’ll talk a bit about the purpose of the draw in a bit.

Six of Cups
Six of Cups

emperor

The Six of Cups

So, we have a lovely picture of two children, one boy and one girl. There are six chalices filled with beautiful flowers, and the boy is handing one of them to the girl. In the background, and armed adult stands, seemingly guarding the children from possible harm. I note that there is no threat visible or even implied in the image. So is the guard superflous, or is the threat kept at bay by his presence? Let’s come back to that in a moment.

The adorable children are straight out of central casting, aren’t they? One can almost hear their ultra-serious voices declaring their affection for one another. It’s that sort of interaction that most adults are obliged to say, “Awwww,” when they observe. They’re cute as hell, but what stands out for me is innocence. They seem to have eyes only for the beauty around them – the flowers, the sky, their friendship. If their lives are destined to be complicated someday, they don’t seem to know it. Their affection for one another is the most important thing facing them, and there is an innocent, lovely vulnerability there.

Now, back to that guard for a moment. He is pretty clearly making his rounds of the area. It could be that it’s simply his job, but given the rest of the image, I think it’s a bit more than that. It feels to me like the children are innocent, and innocence deserves to be protected. The guard’s job is to keep the adorable children sae so that they are free to be innocent.

 

The Emperor

I’ve drawn this card a number of times, and I have a complicated relationship with it. The Emperor is a symbol of structure and mastery. His power is the power of tradition and law, of rule and hierarchy. He rules because it is proper that he do so, and his appearance demonstrates that clearly. I mean, look at him. He’s the very image of patriarchal authority, isn’t he? He has his crown, his throne…he appears, to me, to be absolutely certain of his place and his rule.

One thing I really notice about the Emperor is his armor. While his crown and other symbols are golden, his armor isn’t. It appears to me to be functional, not symbolic. I look at the Emperor and see someone set in his ways, perhaps too rigid for his own good, but also someone who epitomizes strength and a willingness to stand and defend his lands and his people. If not for the armor, I think I would like him a lot less.

 

So, how about those cards, man?

Yeah. We have these two two very different images, one of innocence and vulnerability, and the other of strength and protection. The first was drawn for my father, and the second for me. I drew them about 32 hours before he died. There was no question that he was very close to death by then, of course, and I was looking for some idea of what to hope for for each of us, and what to attempt to manifest in myself, and what to try and make possible for him.

I look back at those children now, at their innocence and the single-mindedness that can come about when one is safe and innocent. It’s easy to see my father there. After 67 years of life, several of them spent suffering through a series of a series of illnesses and medical problems I hoped he would be spared, he had only one task left. It was time for him to let go, to set down the burdens that had, in many ways, defined years of his life.

But it’s not ever that simple, is it? In the spiritual work that I’ve participated in and offered, we often say that doing that sort of work requires safety above all other things. Vulnerability requires that it be safe to be vulnerable.

Enter, once again, that soldier standing guard over the children. And enter, too, the Emperor. Strength and power, protection and defense of that which he loves. If the images from these cards were part of the same story, I would like to imagine that the Emperor sent the solider to watch over those children. To do what he could, however little that might be, to make them safe.

Sadly, I am no Emperor, and Dad’s work wasn’t so easy as that of the adorable children…but the intention to be strong and to embody strength and safety for him to the best of my ability? That sure felt right to me. Still does, in fact.

Eulogy

The memorial mass for my dad was last Saturday, and I had an opportunity to speak briefly. I am not the sort to write out what I’m going to say ahead of time verbatim, so this isn’t a perfect reconstruction. It’s fairly close, though.

 

————————–

In my spiritual tradition, we often say this about our beloved dead: “What is remembered, lives.”

 

“What is remembered, lives.” It’s so simple, isn’t it? In the abstract, I’ve always thought of that as a very comforting thing. It feels like it should be easy to remember, because of course I want my dad to live on. I want him to be remembered and to live.

 

Well, after a little less than two weeks of this, I can report this: Remembering sucks. It’s hard. Not because there aren’t good memories and good stories. There are plenty of both. But sharing even the best stories reminds me that there won’t be any new stories about Dad…well, okay, we might make up some new ones, but they won’t be true. And remembering even the happiest times we spent together makes me realize all over again that those memories are a finite resource. We won’t have the opportunity to make new ones.

 

So. Remembering sucks, and it is hard. But I am also newly aware of how important that work of remembering is, precisely because it is hard. Dad’s was a life worth remembering. So, briefly, here are a couple of things I’ll remember about him.

 

The first took place right here. In high school, I served as a lector here at Sacred Heart. I remember one time, I was absolutely butchering a reading. In my defense, 21 years after the fact, I would like to point out that it was a very difficult reading, with lots of names and lots of “begats”. I still remember the expression on my Dad’s face as I stumbled through it. He had a look of complete exasperation that was really something to behold. Some of you have probably seen that expression before. I saw it…well, let’s say it was turned toward me pretty often. While he didn’t say anything directly, I eventually learned something from the experience. What he taught me with that look was that if I was going to do something to be of service, if I was going to do something that mattered, then I had to bring all of myself to it. I should have prepared more for that reading. I should have committed myself to it, if the work was that important to me.

 

The second memory is really a sense of generosity of spirit and welcoming that I always had from him. I’ve made a lot of choices that are different from the ones my dad made. I live a life that isn’t the one he chose for himself. But even so, I never felt anything but love and respect from him or from my mom. There’s a reason that Thanksgiving is, was, and always will be my favorite day of the year. It’s because no matter what, I was always free to bring whoever I wanted to join us for the holiday, and I always knew without a doubt that they would be welcomed and treated like family, without hesitation or question. That unquestioning generosity is amazing, and completely unique in my experience. If there is one thing from Dad’s life that I want to manifest in my own, that’s it.

 

There is one last thing that I’d like to share today, and I’ll admit that I’m a little uncertain about doing so. I mentioned before that my spiritual tradition and my dad’s were very different. As I’ve thought about it, though, I’m struck by certain points of intersection. There’s a quote from Marcus Aurelius that serves as a great example of that for me. Marcus Aurelius was a Roman emperor in the 2nd century, and he was also a stoic philosopher. These words may not reflect Dad’s beliefs, per se, but they reflect how he lived, at least as I observed him.

Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.

 

 

Thank you, Dad. I love you.

Requiescat in pace

My father died Monday morning at about 12:30am. He was surrounded by loved ones right until the end, and while I am heartbroken by his passing I am also exhaling in relief that he is no longer suffering. His last few years were hard ones physically, but always with the sense (until very recently) that once he conquered the current issue, things would improve. Often they would, for a while, and then another problem (or combination of problems) would crop up. By the end, he was just in so much pain that being able to rest is certainly a horrible, relieved blessing.

 

I did make it down here in time to be present for his last hours, which is another horrible sort of blessing in its own right. I am thankful for the opportunity to witness him in those hours, and doubly thankful that those of us who were here were steadfast in our messages to him. The chorus of “We love you, and it’s time for you to rest,” delivered in different words from each of us, will be a haunting reminder of what it really means to love someone so much that you want what’s best for them even to your own detriment.

 

I am incredibly grateful to everyone who has held me and my family in their hearts over the past little while. It means so much to feel your love and support.

 

As for me, at the moment I’m a giant mess. I know that will change in good ways and bad as time passes, and I’m doing what I can to simply be where I am for as much of this process as is possible. I suspect that I will be wildly imperfect at that.

 

I have some more words percolating, ones that I imagine will come out here in the coming days and weeks. For now, though, there is little to say other than that I am relieved and heartbroken.

Just about time now

It’s 3am and I am in the car, 50 miles from my parents’ place. I am hoping to make it there in time to say my goodbyes while Dad is still alive, but I’m (mostly) okay with the possibility that that won’t happen.

Not much else to say right now other than that life is hard. Thanks to everyone who has shared kind thoughts recently, and I’m sorry I haven’t been as responsive as I would like.

Talking about the weather

It was 3 days after I heard the prognosis before I talked to my dad. Mom and I had spoken on the phone a couple of times by then, and I had some good excuses all set up in my head for focusing on her instead.

“I’m sure Dad is tired,” for instance. Or, “Well, Mom said he’s got a lot of visitors right now. I don’t want to overload him.” Or, “What the fuck am I supposed to say?”

Actually, that last one was pretty close to accurate. The thing is, really, that I don’t really talk to Dad about big things very much. We talk, most of the time, about business, or how their rental property is doing, or something ridiculous that happened in our neightborhood in Chicago. On occasion our conversation will veer into more intimate topics, and we both welcome that, but it never seems like neither of us is actively looking to initiate that shift.

It’s not that we have a poor relationship. After a few rough years where I was an adolescent asshole (and a post-adolescent asshole), we’ve been pretty close. Close, but not intimate. So what do you talk about, with someone with whom you are close but not intimate, when one of the most intimate things possible is actively happening to them?

If you are me, you talk about the weather.

Yep, the weather.

Boy it sure is beautiful this weekend isn’t it and wasn’t that snow crazy a couple of weeks back and at the beginning of spring too, hah it sure didn’t feel like Spring, did it? Oh and you won’t believe this but our garage was broken into AGAIN and our lawnmower was stolen for the second time and you know it’s crazy how much I like mowing the yard here which is a good thing I guess since I’m sure not saving any money doing it myself if I have to replace my mower every year. Well it sounds like you have a busy night ahead of you so I should let you go I love you and I’ll call again soon.

Yeah.

Next time I think I need notes to have a real conversation with my father. Maybe something like, “What do you need from me? You know I’ll drop anything I can for you, right? I’ge got your back, Dad, whatever you need.”

Oh, and how about that weather, eh?