Last month, the Living Out Loud column started its eighth year in CityBeat. That’s a little amazing to me, but maybe it shouldn’t be. Those who write here are observers of everyday life. If you’re paying attention to that life, you’re always going to find something to write about.
Sometimes I believe a person can't control his or her own thoughts. As Christmas approaches this year, my mind is on my father and our relationship. It's much too late to change anything now. My father is dead. I'm going to take you back to a Christmas that happened close to 20 years ago. This is what I remember. This was on a Christmas afternoon eight months after my divorce.
I consider myself a pretty decent guy. With people that I see and meet, I try to be nice and polite. I make the attempt to treat other people the way I want to be treated. But let me be honest here. Maybe I am a horrible person. When I pay attention to the people around me, so often it leads to questions I want to ask but don’t dare.
Most of the leaves are off the trees now. In walks that I take in my neighborhood, I watch neighbors rake up those leaves — a job I haven’t done in years. However, I remember the last time I did, and it always brings back memories of an old friend. In the early 1980s, my then wife and I decided we wanted a puppy.
This story is basically true, but I'll be changing a few facts around. I don't want Mary — that's the name I'm going to give her — to recognize herself. The reality is she probably won't be reading this anyway, as she doesn’t like alternative newspapers. The Wall Street Journal is more her thing. She’s a businesswoman who works downtown.
I could hear the three of them making fun of me as they started to get closer. I’m guessing they were teenagers, 17 or 18 years old. I was walking back home from a convenient store carrying a plastic bag full of grocery items. One turns to me, “hey, motherfucker, what’s in the bag?”
On most mornings while at the bus stop downtown to catch a Tank Bus over to Kentucky, I see this guy. Before he gets on the bus, with his hands, he makes the sign of the cross. I'm smart enough to know this is a Catholic ritual. That's all I know. One morning, I got curious about what he was doing. I asked him why he went through this ritual.
I must have been on some kind of list of people to notify when she died. I didn’t know the person who delivered the sad news. A few days later, on a Wednesday morning, I took a bus up to that funeral home on Glenway Avenue where she would be laid out. I wanted to show my last respects.
I’m the kind of guy who usually comes around to modern technology sooner or later, but most of the time more later than sooner. I resisted e-mail for years, wasn’t all that interested in the Internet and was one of the last people on the planet to get a cell phone — still I came around to all of it. Thing is, modern technology doesn’t stay modern forever.
Weeks after this chance encounter, I'm still shaken by it. Sometimes memories of people from my past don't need to be updated with their current reality. On Race Street downtown some weeks ago, I was standing at an ATM taking $40 out of my checking account. I heard a voice I vaguely recognized.