Inheritance

It’s 2013, and I’m at a gas station in Nevada, having the best phone conversation I’ve had with my father in a long, long while.

The details behind the conversation are long and complicated and best left for another time and another storyline.  I am on the phone, early morning in Nevada, closing in on noontime in Boston.  I had braced myself for whatever the call would bring, but instead of what I had anticipated, I have an effortless and connected talk about road trips.

I’m in the middle of my road trip to San Francisco, just a day’s drive away from California.  My father is hours away from being discharged from the hospital, brought in for what would turn out to be simple dehydration.  And from his hospital bed, he tells me about driving to Mt. Rushmore, about trekking across Wyoming with nothing but his camper trailer and his two buddies by his side.

There is a camaraderie in how we talk, as if this has always been our relationship.  I eventually hang up, carrying the thought, “So this is what it’s supposed to feel like,” with me as I return to the car, as we set off for the Pacific Ocean.  It is our best conversation in years — decades, potentially — and it will be the last good conversation we ever have.  And I don’t know what tires my bones more: the fact that it would be our last good, meaningful conversation before he’d pass, or the fact that it would be two more years before he’d pass.

*

There was a man I never met, a man I wish I had met. Continue reading

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Dashed Upon the Rocks

Part 1.

My favorite thing about flying out of Boston is the aerial view of the islands.

Almost every flight does some type of turn above the Boston Harbor Islands, and I watch them until they go out of sight.  The islands hold something familiar and mystical for me.  They hold teenaged and early college memories.  They hold a source of pride as I’d point out Peddocks and tell anyone who’ll listen, “They shot Shutter Island there!”  They hold a reverie and solace as I remember the ocean waves rolling in, the view of the islands from the mainland, the feeling as the harbor island boats gently bumped against the docks.

But they also hold something heavy.  They hold a memory of my best friend calling me up one night, telling me that she’s heard there’s been an accident on one of the islands — an island another friend was currently on — and that she couldn’t get ahold of him.  A memory of me and my blind optimism, saying that it was all alright, that she’ll get in contact with him soon, that there is nothing to worry about.  A memory of me learning how naïve I had been, learning in the light of day the next morning that he was the one in the accident — that he didn’t survive, and that absolutely nobody, directly and indirectly involved, would ever be the same again.

To this day, it makes me think of all the mistakes we are granted clemency on in life.  All mistakes that could’ve — or should’ve — killed us, and the fact that some of us don’t get that grace sometimes.  Sometimes dumb mistakes cost you your life and you don’t get a chance to look back and say, “Whew. That was a close one.”  Some are not given that opportunity to dodge a bullet and feel grateful that they’re alive. Continue reading