Friday, October 16, 2009

The Slipper Boys Volume XXVII

Actually, this is the first installment of The Slipper Boys, but I thought making it seem like one adventure in a long series, which it is, really, would make me seem a more prolific author.

I met pop for a flick today, "Law Abiding Citizen". A vigilante-revenge flick, dad's favorite genre. he loves to see some killing gettin' done, provided all the people (except the hapless victims who generally get murdered at the outset of things, barring the buddy/cop partner who often go down 3/4 of the way through the formulaic yarns) who get killed are "bad".

Dad used to adore the Charles Bronson "Death Wish" films, and got giddy before watching Clint Eastwood's "Dirty Harry" wipe out the punks who somehow managed to evade "justice", dealing out his own brand of Magnum 45 scale-balancing.

When I meet the old man for a movie, or anything, really, I try to remember to wear my slippers. It is dad's great pleasure to wear his slippers anywhere he goes now, not because he is senile, but because (I think but can only guess, really) he says, F*&% it... I can do what I want now."

It may be only as the reality of losing certain pleasures and freedoms approach, that we are able to grasp the true privilege and joy of doing as we please.

Many people feel bad for people in their 70s and 80s, and think, "Gee, it must be tough to get old."

Which is, of course, true, but "beats the hell out of the alternative" as my cousin Fran used to say when she was still alive and kicking, and she sure did kick.

While there are the obvious physical limitations to aging, I happen to covet the freedom that seems to come with age and the right attitude. There comes a time when you seem to stop giving a shit about things that matter only to those of us trapped by the illusion of immortality. A friend told me once that none of really at our core believe we are going to die until we do. If I am immortal, I am going to need people to see me in a certain way, like me, approve of me. But when I genuinely realize that none of us is getting out of this alive" (thanks Don P.) it frees me up to be silly, to not care about anything but being free. Free from boredom (When is my last day on this earth? 2043, as it claimed on a questionnaire I filled out recently? Or sooner? 2025? Tomorrow?) Not out of morbidity, but out of a respect for those who can't go to a movie, I go. I hit Red Sox games, even though they are expensive and often break your heart and it is a pain in the ass to park, ride the train, or arrive by way of air drop.

I say a prayer of thanks (when I remember) when I pee sans aid from Avodart, or without passing a kidney stone. When I drink a delicious cup of coffee,because I can, or poop because all the parts of my body still function absolutely perfectly (well...for the most part.) Coffee, chocolate, popcorn, steak- all things dad forfeited his right to when he let them put a tube in his side to keep him alive when he could no longer take nourishment by mouth.

I'm 43, not 90, but someday my body and my faculties will not serve me as they do now. I know a few folks who would argue that my faculties don't serve me all that well in the present, by the way. Why wait until I'm forced by way of an enema to appreciate the freedom and glory I once had of taking a simple dump on my own time? I assure you, if you lose the ability to do such a thing (as I did for a brief period that felt like a lifetime), you would feel covered in glory after the simple execution a dookie.

Perhaps the greatest freedom afforded the aged is a return a gift God gives us as children, only to see us toss it aside; the freedom from fear of people's opinions. Until it is instilled in him/her by the world, children don't know you're not suppose to put jelly on a hot dog, or wear your jammies to the park, pick your nose or tell the truth about how momy and daddy really act when they're alone, or arguing. Nonexistent one day. the ruler of all thought and action the next, we abandon the freedom to be ourselves voluntarily, and pick up the company guideline. The beauty is that there's a company line for non-conformists, as long as they refuse to conform in an orderly fashion, like the goth kids who often dress exactly alike and listen to the same music. They conform by rejecting everything in sight.

But sometimes something happens when you get close to the finish line. You stop worrying about death, which is of course, inevitable, and start focusing on living, if you're one of the lucky ones, like my dad. A cantankerous old goat, I think he mostly uses ranting and complaining as a means of camaraderie, I doubt he really all that concerned about anything.

He lives like he's on death row, but they're not gonna juice him until Sunday, and they're serving prime rib on Saturday night. He is in the now 24/7. He wears those fucking slippers whether or not they forecast rain, snow or a hurricane. If it is raining now, he'll grudgingly put on shoes, but otherwise, "%^&$ it... I may be dead by then."

The thing is, he says it with a smile. Something about dad's near death and brutal run last winter was transforming. He is basically the same guy, but more so, if that makes any sense. I soak up every moment I can, knowing that while we've sure had a helluva run, it isn't going to last forever.

But mostly, we laugh a lot. While to say I tend toward the reflective would be a gross understatement, my role in the family it to make dad laugh, and it's a role I cherish, and might be the most important job I've had in my life.

So I wear slippers to the movies now, barring the intervention of inclement weather, anywhere I meet pop.

I showed off my slippers to him as he entered the theater, noting that I "was on time for a change." As I paid for the tickets (with his $20) I asked the clerk why it was full price, I thought it was "free if you were wearing your slippers", The clerk looked confused, so I reported to dad, "no deal, dad. Wednesday is the slipper discount day."

When he starts laughing, dad often has this look that says he simply no explanation as what a knucklehead I am or how I came to be that way.

I guess dad's laughter is fertilizer for my creative gene, I guess, as it always gets me on a roll. On the other hand, some of my family members feel my creative gene produces fertilizer.

Seeing dad was having a good time, I said aloud, "I can't wait until I'm a hundred and five, like you. You just don't give a damn about anything do you? Man that must be liberating. When you have both feet in the grave, and are keeping the casket ajar as your fingers get crushed, what can you possibly be afraid of?"

I know it sounds nuts- but he loves this stuff.

"Dad, I'd kill for your level of freedom. F*&^ it, I'm wearing slippers from now on."

He is laughing so hard he is beginning to tear up.

Doing my best dad impression, I said, "What's that sonny- oh you're writing me a ticket? Good luck collecting that, I'll be dead in 6 months, jackass."

I stop before the clerks have time to realize it might be a good idea to deny us entry to the movie ans throw my arm around dad.

"Let's go to the right theater this time, Helen Keller, I don't want to see Rainy with a Chance of Meatballs again because you get lost."

Law Abiding Citizen was everything dad loves in an action flick. As we walked out to our respective cars, dad thanked me.

"Shit dad, I palmed your five bucks change."

"You always do that," he deadpanned.

Laughing, I handed over the wadded up singles, and dad squeezed my hand, looked me in the eye and thanked me. It made me a little uneasy, to tell you the truth, like maybe he knew something I didn't.

I told myself it was just his way of showing appreciation, his equivalent of a grateful audience at the end of a good comedy show, a nodding his approval for the entertainment. But a part of me I tried to ignore used it as a reminder to cease every opportunity I have, as all things fade in time.


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