Leaving Eternity's Parking Lot
Choices of putting things off are as valid as choices for putting things in order
I wrote most of this a couple of months ago, but moved it over to this new “fresh-start” page, and I made changes. I wanted to close out old “stuff”, keep what mattered to me. Some of you may have read it but either way I don’t think you mind. You get it.
Some great people have read it, and I’m grateful.
I think I’m okay.
The other morning, Dad came back in a dream. He was dressed like he used to be, in a middle-blue polo shirt, he was as he was a few years ago, before “everything” happened, going back 3, 4, 5 years ago, when my conceits were what are now frivolous worries and wants. There were a handful of other “visits” but this was the first time, that he was like he was. I didn’t mind.
The following morning, they carted away an old wooden dresser, with a big broken drawer. I put off dealing it with that and other things for years. It’s gone now.
Mom is doing better thanks to a very expensive med. She’s stronger, and in recent weeks has been doing a lot. Two specialists the primary recommended seemed satisfied. She’s come a long way from 18+ months ago, in a good direction.
There’s still more to do, like the writing of these past 18+ months. I’m almost done with the second book, started like “book #1”, in one writing community but finished in another. I have a dozen more pieces lined up for this site’s draft folder, pieces of my mind.
There’s all these great writers (correction, great people) I want to share them with, along with kind readers who made time for me. You can’t buy that.
I’m also writing for someone who finds me, years from now. If that’s you, it’s nice to meet you. I have stories. Worlds of words are coming.
LEAVING ETERNITY’s PARKING LOT:
Nobody tells you “the when” but you know it will.
There is a line in my life, drawn 18-plus months ago when my father was laid to rest.
For 3 years before that line, life was about putting off all except taking care of Dad.
I put off worries, regrets, and notions, and delusions of reinvention for myself.
You’re riding in the cab of a 10 ton tractor trailer with an engine, which once started doesn’t turn off until some unknown unpredictable day. It’s a cross-country long-haul, its final destination is a parking lot in eternity.
Nobody tells you “the how” but you hope for the best.
You do your best to drop a cinderblock on the brakes.
You think you can make it stop. You think you can grab the wheel, hit the gas, and veer off. But all you can do is slow it down, and it’s going wherever it’s going.
For a while, it seemed there were years ahead of a simple life of looking after Dad.
That changed during the week before Thanksgiving 2019 but we didn’t know it at the time. A mistake leads to sepsis, then the hospital, where they found a “mass” which became a monster after years as a benign nuisance nestled near Dad’s brain.
I hoped after the hospital signed off, that transfer to rehab would help Dad learn to walk again, and maybe that his mind would clear. It did not work.
For many, 2020 was isolation, pandemic, strife, and a new unreal unintended quiet.
For us, we managed to get Dad home from a rehab right before total lockdown. It felt like the last helicopter off the top of the last building standing before a takeover from forces unknown. He was home after so many months in strange rooms, fading away.
In isolation at home, we cared for him in a house I rushed to modify. Just weeks before, there was a home invasion, and a ransacking, but all we could do is clean up, file reports, and let the authorities do their thing. I put off thinking about it to the point of almost forgetting it happened, like it was a footnote about a minor errand.
Priorities decide what comes first, including the order of procrastination.
The priority was caring for Dad, after the doctors and therapists did their part, did their best. They could not bring “him” back as he was just a few months ago. I was with him everyday but it wasn’t the same anymore, but nothing else was either.
A bathroom was repurposed, with an entire wall removed. Everything was rearranged for caregiving with a transport chair, for someone who could no longer walk. A living room transformed into a bedroom. A rug rolled up. Anything glass removed. A bed was rented. A table became a station for medication and medical equipment.
We did everything that nurse assistants did. This was life for an indefinite period.
The priority was simple. Everything else was put off until “whenever”. One day, months later, sepsis came back in late summer. Dad came back from the hospital, even worse off. One infection too many. One problem too many. Bed-ridden 24/7.
The truck went off the cliff. There was nothing I could do to put it off or fix it.
The virus we shielded Dad from for nearly a year, was caught in of all places, in the hospital where he was sent. Then a stroke. We put off the pandemic but it came at last. His last Christmas was alone in a hospital room, plans were made for a hospice.
In January 2021, I laid him to rest. Over 18 months, I asked myself over and over:
Did I make the right choices, in deciding what to put off, and what came first, for him?
Did I put off the right things, and put right all the things that needed order?
Why didn’t I make some things a priority, years earlier, why did I put them off?
Why didn’t I put off other things as unimportant, why did they need doing?
Nothing is as convincing as having the roof of the world come crashing down to reset the order of things, about what needs doing, and what to put off.
Since then, I picked up the pieces of the “truck”.
So many things, documents to get from another country, an insurance company to hound (politely), bills to pay. Then one last item, the sale of a property.
It turned out relatives I haven’t seen or spoken with in years owned a part of it, and wrote to me 6 months after I laid Dad to rest, asking about selling it. Their message was all about avoiding their problems, not one word about Dad. I wanted it over with.
I said yes to what would take a year to do. I would have put it off had they not mentioned it, so it turned out to be the last right thing to get done.
Over the summer, the property was sold, at last.
People lived in that house for years, children went from toddlers to teens. I had to empty it, tenants, memories, and so much stuff left behind in the basement. The past had accumulated into a pile that had to be picked apart and put in good order.
That was one of his phrases, “good order”.
After solving every little issue under the sun about the property, closing day arrived. All the parties signed what they had to sign, and even documents that were requested at the last minute, were supplied. I had the help of an old friend of Dad and trusted advisers to overcome months of surprises and frustration. Closing and closure at last.
I handed over a bag of keys, decades old. Another family would start their story in it.
Priorities were reset, something new was brought to the front of the line.
I began to write stories.
I began not long before I laid Dad to rest. I needed to put off what was inside me by writing. It turned out that putting in good order lots of words led to more.
One writing group gave me shelter, writing in bursts of a few hundred words daily, 30 days at a time. I made friends. Some befriended me early on, read my early words, encouraged, and believed in me. I joined in these 30 day runs, over and over, and strung them into a story. The story became a book. I did it again and again.
Another writing community was also a refuge, founded by one of the most unique minds it was my good fortune to encounter. I look forward to sharing words and spirits with him, and thank him for it. Things to not to put off, people, a priority, as are these books inside me, words rolling off my mind’s assembly line.
I write about history and the unreal reality of the future, lyrical historical fiction, made of the past and the next present. The characters are human beings doing their best in an unreal reality, not unlike you and me. It all works out somehow.
I put off the final part of a new book, so I could sell a property, and settle the past.
It’s time to leave the lot, in a new rig.
We’re on the road again, we’ll see how long this long haul of words lasts.
It’s time to finish this (2nd) book. I know there will be no hesitation or doubt. It will be the twelfth time of writing for 30 days straight to finish the book. I have an editor in mind for “book #1”. There’s new things to do. There’s new friends and new places.
It’s time to put away what has been done, and to put new things into good order.
July 30, 2022
Two things that I wrote which matter.
The first one was written after Dad passed away.
It was the tail-end of pandemic rules - Mom and I hadn't seen Dad in many weeks, long before his final day in January 2021. Already in decline, Dad got Covid and a stroke in the hospital before they even got to transfer him to the hospice. Somehow, the system made worse what was already awful. I couldn’t risk having Mom see Dad earlier, she had an immunity issue. The doctor said Dad was gone, it caved in her heart. Mine had been buried after months of dealing with every dirty detail.
After I got home, I sat down and began to write. I didn’t know what else to do.
I posted it and didn’t talk about it or mention why.
More than once, someone told me the same thing, that they were comforted, and even said it was the last thing they read before going to bed, and felt like they could sleep. That meant a lot.
“LOVE IS NOT A SINGLE PLAYER GAME”
There’s an idea that "life is a single player game".
It begins the moment we're born, kicking, crying and breathing.
I say there’s a bit more to it, there’s a next layer game that rides on top of the "protocol" of life: Love.
Love, in so many forms, is not a single player game.
It is humanity's application. It's buggy but it works. It is a massive multiplayer role playing game. It’s been running for eons.
The first level is played as a child. Another link in a long chain of earlier people, back to the beginning.
Soon enough the playing field expands past family. With friends, the game has even more players.
And then it goes beyond people. A thing, a toy, a sport, a book, a place. Sometimes it's a best friend with four legs.
Sometimes it's an idea. A habit, an experience, a calling, or a mission. You gather a crowd, an audience, and they join in and become fans. You are united by a common love for that idea - a passion economy is born. It's a love-in.
A "New player enters the game".
Maybe we found that unbelievable person or founded an unbelievable business.
A "New player enters the game" again but this time it's different. Another player is born. You’re on a different level. A parenthood, a passion, or a new person is born. You’re a coach of the game. You’ve unlocked a whole new secret level.
You're a grandmaster now, you've been playing for years. You’re famous to your true fans. Your kids have kids. Your students have students. Your proteges have proteges.
Then the field shrinks.
Time left on the clock shrinks to single digits. Life, the single player game is coming to a close. What an incredible score was racked up, all the players, people, passion, places and pieces involved.
Life is a single player game - it has an end.
Love is not a single player game - it goes on forever.
“THE DAYS DAD STARTED OVER”
This second piece was written a year later, in January 2022, about Dad as a young man.
This is how I want to remember him.
These were the Days Dad Started Over:
It wasn't easy was it? Your mother insisted you choose for Australia. You obeyed. Tradition, ritual, and honor.
With just a few pound notes in your pocket, you were stripped of your old life and friends. You were adrift. You managed to keep afloat.
That first week, you saw an old man carrying several bundles to his car, and without thinking, you offered to help him. The man, who had seen so many winters away from home, asked, "Young man, are you a student? Do you need a job?" You got a job.
On a bus, you got up to offer an older lady a seat. This widow, raised in England with servants, was charmed by your manners, and asked you to tea the next day. Your new landlady became a tutor on table manners.
A man with a restaurant and casino offered to introduce you to his daughter, so taken he was with your work ethic. You also picked fruit. A grocer had a standing offer for work if you ever needed it.
Word got around you were reliable and trustworthy. You auctioned chickens. You picked berries. Some days you were hungry.
You learned how to drive with an old car on a farm. Later, you went on a long road-trip with a friend. Once you crashed into a tree, and a giant with a good heart carried you to a hospital. Later on, you bought a sportscar.
Another time, you caught lobster on a fishing boat, and cooked them in a barrel filled with sea water. Later, you were on a passenger ship riding big waves. You and a friend ate like kings while the other passengers were seasick.
Your college buddies absconded with a lamb from some farm on a lark, which you cooked. Your best friend was hopeless as a waiter. You found him work as a dishwasher. Years later, he worked on top secret defense projects.
The day came and you had to leave, for Canada. Exhausted after your arrival, you slept 2 days. A long train ride later you arrived in a new city to start over.
You only had a few dollars in your pocket in a strange new land, you were stripped of your recent life and friends. A new life. You were adrift, you managed to keep afloat.
Later, you met your future wife, and you had new adventures together. And then one day…
You would do it again in America.
If you made it all the way to end, thanks so much, I know it’s a lot on many levels.
I owe a bunch of creative friends a lot for encouraging me, they were the ones that urged me to write stories and supported my experiments with the past and future. They made it happen.
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