Born and given up for adoption and adopted
by a nice Jewish couple from suburban Massachusetts with a big house. My new Mom, though, was suicidally depressed and tried to kill herself 7 times while I was a child, she threw herself downstairs and took too many pills and Dad and brother Jeff and I were making a poignant tableau in mental hospital canteens, our sandwiches abandoned as containing mental illness, and we stared through the floor
Mom killed herself successfully when I was 13, in her celery Pinto hatchback parked in the drug store parking lot where she had had her prescription re-filled and
the man who pounded on the car window gingerly to wake the lady up, and I decided this was not my history
the while wrote stories in which some fox/horse/dog ran away and found liberty, shantih, realities at angles to the bad one here, they were magical excursions then I disappeared and I would wander in the forest having faith that I could find a path that led into another realm in which I never found my house again
I would go without food and
I would sleep in cold mud and
like a warrior, but got back in time for supper and defeated, and
ever the “lone wolf,” where the word “wolf” a flattery like a hard candy that lasted in one’s mouth as the dishevelled little girls ride the school bus alone
and oh, bullied at school, so the alone enforced. And brother Jeff and I had a rift when I was eight and never spoke to each other again. I had the basement and my father had the ground floor, Jeff was on the second floor. Jeff and I would pass my father on our way somewhere and he would say “Hey, hey, hey” like Fat Albert as we passed not looking up, Dad sighed into our silent wake and
Jeff was smoking a lot of dope then and had that Farrah Fawcett poster on his wall is all I really know.
And I remember then that posters were important, you could go to the poster store and flip through the posters which were hung like doors, stiff upright pages that you turned on a kind of a hinge, and shop among the fantasies that other people had, then at home they used to sag on their tacks and grow cheap-looking overnight and you would sit and look at what became of your poster of whatever celebrity or tiger cub or movie in the dark and it was emblematic of what had not been provided to you in this world, it was
unfortunate, and Dad had a heart attack when I was fifteen, he claims I never went to the hospital, that’s what really hurt. But I remember standing there beside his hospital bed and he was telling us when he would come home. Really no one ever came home from the hospital, they never really came home and the smell of hospital was something as familiar as a baby blanket crushed to your nose
and I had totalled his car while he was in the hospital, and I got arrested for shoplifting, my trite cry-for-attention things that weren’t cries for attention, they were all you got, that was all you got was that fugitive feeling of excitement when you stole, you couldn’t even steal anything that mattered but the feeling of stealing that would last for a couple of days, like a good book
Dad was always well-meaning, was that cute Dad figure who made dumb Dad jokes, you would say to him “You’re driving me crazy,” and he’d happily retort “Take the bus!” and used to sing “The Ants Go Marching One by One” and that was what America, I think, meant to people of his kind.
But when it went to shit he had not a thing to say, he was as silent as an egg, gnawed up inside that life had not been what he had every right to expect he was a Jewish engineer, with the government job and married, faithful to his wife and he provided and he learned as an adult to be anti-racist, to consider the other guy’s point of view and to appreciate the right of the Chinese to choose a Communist government because they had problems in our relative affluence we could not hope to understand and he was the nice guy
but when it went to shit
and we were kids and unforgiving
brother Jeff and I never spoke.
When I was thirty one I was doing an office job, the office phone rang. And I was called across the room to it, told by the deputy head it was my brother Jeff. I knew that my father had died.
Then I took the phone and said hi, Jeff.
I went there, Florida my father retired where we were having the funeral and I was the only one who wanted to view the body and I stood alone with my father’s corpse in a big room cheaply carpeted, with small windows like the windows you have in suburban basements, so it was meager underwatery grey light and touched his frozen brow and, cold as water, I got down on my knees and cried from a conditioned reflex triggered when a loved parent dies.
Jeff took the ashes of my father. They were in a black plastic box. It was sealed with wax, and the crematory form was Scotch taped to one side. The name and address of the body were typed in the blanks and in the box, the ashes were in a thick clear plastic bag, with the finest ash smeared more like a liquid yet it rose in the air
when Jeff and I sprinkled it in Chesapeake Bay one Christmas Day. There was a Mexican family laughing coming down to the shore as we walked up from the shore: when they saw us they all stopped talking.
Then we drove back to the city with the radio playing