Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Orphans' Holiday

It's almost 10 o'clock and Thanksgiving is nearly over.

My relatives and I did the restaurant thing in our neighborhood and it worked out fairly well.

It was a beautiful day here in New York and I went for a nice long walk before stuffing my face. It has turned much colder and I can hear the oil burner coming to life as I type this. Oy, that oil bill...

It's hard to believe that neither one of my parents is here with us on this day that celebrates families.

With my father's death in January, my siblings and I are officially orphans.

I actually had to ask my sister what we did last year since I kept drawing a blank. She reminded me that we first went to visit my dad at the nursing home in Coney Island then took the train to my aunt's place in Manhattan for dinner.

Ah, yes, I remember it well. It was raining something fierce that day and we took the bus to the Stillwell Avenue train station.

I remember going by Nathan's and seeing the place was open and serving customers.

I'd like to go back there one Thanksgiving or Christmas and interview the people who are eating hot dogs in a fast food joint instead of turkey with their families.

But not this year.

I'm taking Friday off, so I have a nice four-day weekend coming to me. I started things off last night by going out with some friends in my Bay Ridge Meetup last night.

On the way over to the Salty Dog, a bar in my neighborhood, I saw a group of young men--I think they were Arabs--hanging around a store front on Fifth Avenue.

One young man had gotten out of his car, which was haphazardly parked in a bus stop. A young woman was holding his face in her hands and speaking to him in hushed tones.

My instincts told me something was wrong and I felt this urge to cross the street. But sometimes if you make it too obvious that you're avoiding a certain group of people, you can provoke them and still end up getting your ass kicked.

This is life in the urban jungle.

So I walked right by them as I did, the young man broke away from his girlfriend, got a baseball bat out of the truck of his car and raced right by into the middle of the group.

"You mother fuckers!" he shouted, wielding the bat.

The group of men--there was about six of seven them--backed off, a couple of them told the bat boy to calm down, take it easy.

I kept walking, but I turned around in the middle of the block to see what was happening. The guy with the bat got right into one fellow's face.

"How about you, mother fucker? You got a problem?"

The guy apparently didn't have a problem, since he turned away. And I did the same thing, vowing to listen to my instincts next time and cross the freaking street.

I didn't know any of these people. I grew up in this neighborhood, but more and more I'm feeling more like an outsider.

I have no idea what this near-brawl was about, or who the psycho with the bat was or how the whole thing got resolved.

I don't believe there any serious injuries, as nothing cropped up in the news this morning. But it was strange having happen right in front of me.

We've had some brawls at holiday dinners over the years, but nobody ever reached for a baseball bat. At least not yet anyway.

A Spoonful of Sugar

In other news, the army thinks my father is alive. I say this because I got a package Tuesday from the V.A. filled with my father's medications.

I got used to receiving this package for the longest time. I'd open it up and put the pills in my father's medicine dispenser.

But since he died in January, I have no need for these pills and neither does he. I don't understand why just out of the blue they decide to send out medication for a deceased veteran.

It doesn't really bolster my confidence in the V.A., which admittedly has been nonexistent for many years now. I saw how these clowns operate and I guess I shouldn't be surprised at this latest blunder.

My dad used to refer to doctors as "pill rollers," a derogatory term that came from the army. He might have been on to something.

But it's a waste of time and taxpayers' dollars and it's just a little creepy. Pills for a dead man--it sounds like the opening for a "Twilight Zone" episode.

I also got one of these robot phone messages this week for some hospital claiming we owe them a balance of $265. I suspect this has something to do with my father's treatment.

I called this particular group of idiots on Wednesday, but they decided to take the day off. Well, they ain't getting a dime out of us.

It just seems that these weird things crop up right at the holidays and the people you need to speak to, the ones who can straighten all out, are not around.

It's like they've done their stupid deed of the day and now it's time for turkey, gravy and football.

Right now I'm thinking of a scene in Rocky when Rocky takes Adrian out on their first date.

"It's Thanksgiving," she protests.

"Yeah," he responds, "but to me it's Thursday."

Now I know how he feels. Without my parents around, and without a wife or children of my own, Thanksgiving loses a lot of its appeal.

But don't get me wrong. I am thankful that we had my parents for as long as we did. Most of my friends lost their folks a long time ago.

And am I thankful for the life I have now, my friends and family, the roof over my head and the food on my table.

You can become spoiled about until you see just how many people around the world don't have these basic items that make up a decent life.

Sometimes I complain that no one ever told me losing my parents--especially my mom--would hurt this much.

But what's the point? There's no way of describing this pain; you have to go through it. And you can't prepare for it. There's no vaccine, like a flu shot that will help withstand the heart ache.

You just have to stand on the tracks and let this freight train rip right through you. And then you have to get on with your life, even though it doesn't make much sense any more.

My life is shifting now. I'm making new connections and rekindling old ones, so it's kind of exciting.

I know my parents wouldn't want us to crash and burn after they died, but damn it, I really do wish they were here.


Calamity Jen said...

I'm glad to hear about the exciting shift in your life. In spite of the sad undertones, this post has a healthy amount of optimism to it. Finally!

Rob K said...

Thanks, Jen.

There's not much we can do about loss and change, except try to adjust and, one hopes, thrive.