There are times in life where, even as you’re living it you think, “This is a watershed year. Things are moving in a different direction now.” That’s happened a couple of times: 2008–2009 with the death of my parents and breakup with girlfriend. Spent the last year and a half sorting through the lessons of all that, the result of which is, in part, this blog. Before that, 1984–1985, when I quit a job of three years to return to school in Iowa. Didn’t finish, but just before summer break landed a long-term gig that lead to all my current skills and experience. And after that, 1992–1993, when I quit that to freelance for another three years. New skills, new experience. Watershed.
Of course these are all big chunks of time, constituted of smaller moments and decisions within those moments that led to the next thing. So, so hard to stay in those small moments. Often I’ll pick over the memory of those choices like a scab; not so much bewailing about whether it was the right choice, but curious about the direction it could have gone had I not made that choice.
Dad was a planner, and proud of it. He was certain you could anticipate nearly every problem and surmount it with a solid plan. I was never entirely sure of that, and still remain unconvinced. Sometimes you just have to take the risk, damn the torpedoes, Geronimo and all that shit. I think there’s a balance to planning and risk-taking—neither is wholesale good or bad. Dad probably could’ve kicked up his heels more, but he took his enjoyment in his own way: going off to fish, often by himself, and, as he would’ve described it, “commune with nature.” Each to his own, Dad included.
One summer before we left Maryland, Dad took us on a family vacation to the Rockies, Colorado and then on to Dinosaur National Monument in Utah. We rented a mountain cabin, rode horses along trails, attended a cowboy chuckwagon-style picnic where Dad had Brian and me photographed for the cover of an old-time Western newspaper: “Maupin Brothers Apprehended!”; Brian befriended chipmunks and I tried to climb pine trees, then we hit probably all the Howard Johnson’s enroute back East.
After Taffy died, the folks got us a new dog, a Sheltie that Brian named “Lassie.” Movers from Mayflower Van Lines packed up the furniture, Dad sold the VW, we piled into the Chevy station wagon and drove to Minnesota.
This is watershed because in December 1972 I buy my first diary (post on that to come) and start a habit I’ve kept nearly to present day. There are over a dozen diaries and journals on my bookshelf, so the blog going forward will have some detail I wasn’t able to glean before I had possession of all the family photos.
Then, another funeral, January 2011. All the hurt of 2008-2009 comes surging back. A former coworker, bright, talented, funny and young, dies abroad. We’re ripped open again. Fuck.
And then Brian contacts me. This is the year we’ll finally “bury” our parents. He’d gotten some information from the cemetery in Greensburg, Indiana, where our mother was raised and met Dad. The plot next to our grandparents was available for us to inter their remains. We have two urns, since Mom and Dad were cremated, and Brian asks if I think we should buy a headstone.
Yes we should buy a headstone. Yes I want to see our parents’ names on it. Yes we need to do this, since it’s been an odd sort of limbo without the finality of a hunk of inscribed stone. Yes this needs to happen.