On the night of September second, 1973, my father stopped his own clock.
After..... the mechanics of disposal take on a soylent green efficiency and before you can click your heels three times, the person you knew is gone. All that is left is a fading memory of what they used to be.
That and the great wide open.
As horrific as that night was. And how I wish there had been a way to side step it. I am not sure I would change much. Not looking back at it from the 40 years out.
I would never wish that end on a soul. Especially not my father. But his single minded dedication to being the agent of his own undoing lets me grant him permission to be a dumb ass and give my self a break long enough to realize that I became who I am because of what he did. As opposed to having his desires and failed aspirations dominate and mold me into someone I am not.
My relationship with my father had just started that frictional phase. That phase when the nascent man starts chafing under the yoke of his fathers expectations and rules. Before it became critical, he was gone.
I have wondered about the years after his death. I drank a hell of a lot. Within a year I could out drink most adults. I was 16.
Was alcohol the answer?
It was if the question is what's for breakfast?
Did I do what I did to blot out the memories of that night?
Or did I do what I did because there was no one around to tell me not to do them.
Does it matter if you're having a good time?
I didn't go out and become a criminal. Except for underage drinking and indulging in the chronic. Back then the legal age to drink was 18.
I think it was the opposite. Before that night I hunted and fished and blasted the shit out of anything that moved. I was a bit of a bully. I think I could have become a lesser Barbarian.
After that night I never picked up a gun again with the idea of killing an animal. I still had to. If a skunk or possum was having a go at my grandmothers chickens. But it was duty and not killing for sport.
I grew my hair down to my shoulders. My polite demeanor became completely real. I practiced the guitar until my fingers bled and then I practiced some more. I played with some professional's and I had to act adult if I was to be allowed to sit in.
I smoked a little pot. And maybe a little more pot.
Nixon had just stopped drafting kids for war. So I had that much going for me.
I drove a 66 Volkswagen with out a baffle in the muffler. People could hear me fire it up from a mile away.
Those were the best years of my life. So help me god I wouldn't change a thing about them.
Call me a weed, but I bloomed where I was planted, and I bloomed with absolutely no influence that didn't appeal to me.
Especially not my mothers.
I went from being the most root bound, up tight, boy scout, (in the literal sense of the word) to being unfettered as a bird and tripping the light fantastic. Emphasis on tripping.
I wasn't disrespectful. There was no rebellion. There was nothing to rebel against, and no one to rebel to. I was as polite and humbled by the presence of elders or anyone deserving of respect as I ever was. But I did what I wanted when I wanted to do it.
I found an after school job. I finished high school. I moved out and started college after I graduated high school. But on a Friday night I earned the right to do what I wanted to do and I did exactly that.
There was no confrontational breaking free from the ties that bind. No one really gave a shit what I did or didn't do. And I liked it that way.
I might have gone the manifesto route that typical teens have to go. All the edicts of independence and the lists of rules that were not going to be adhered to from this date forward.
But no one gave a shit. I would have issued edicts to no one.
There were no rules to run afoul of.
There was no one to give me any rules to follow.
I had the least captive audience in the history of adolescence.
And I liked it that way.
In that respect my fathers death was the most liberating and serendipitous experience of my life.
PS* I did live with my grandmother until I was 18. And writing this does give me a clue of how the Barbarians actions had been processed by her. I had completely forgotten this conversation with her until now. The first time I came home about 3 in the morning, she had waited up and was going to give me the clamp down parent act.
I almost slid into the part of the petulant child, but didn't. All I said was Really? You want to give me grief for coming in late on a Friday night knowing all that mom had going on around me all my life?
And she just said," Well call me when you are going to be late getting in."