I can’t believe it’s been five years and three days since you died. Five years. So much has happened that you’ve missed, much of it things you told me you knew you were going to miss. You were like an oracle in that hospital bed, pointing at the television, telling me my name was going to be on that screen with “written by” in front of it, and that you wished you were going to be there to hold a book with my name on the cover. It makes me wish you’d told more about the future lives of all of us instead of that tangent about the girl you took to prom, the one with the bacne.
It’s always painful when the big moments happen and you aren’t here. But those, in some ways, are much easier to get through. Mom, Bosie and I will call each other, or the moment is big enough that there’s a friend around or many friends around, or it’s happy enough that the joy quickly fills up the ache. It’s the little moments that get to me. It’s hard to get through the moments when you are the only person who would have been able to understand.
The other night I thought: you’d really hate edamame. Boy, would you think this is a stupid thing I put in my mouth once or twice a week. Soybeans? In pods that you can’t eat? And you kind of just heat them up, toss salt on them and then slide them through your teeth? And then you’ve got this pile of withered old, mouth-sucked pods stacked in front of you like you’ve accomplished something? And that’s food? I can see you with that one eyebrow raised, going, “Forget it.”
Last night I couldn’t sleep, and I heard your voice in my head saying, “Well, Bummo, that’s life.” It made me want to ask you… why did you always call us bums, or some variation of it? I never noticed it before. “The Bum.” “The Bumski.” “Bummos.” All of us, some kind of bum. What’s that about? By the time you came home, we were done with all of our work. We were tired. Is it because you’d often find Tyson and me on the floor of the spare room playing Tetris? We were fourteen! We were in Katy! That’s literally all we could do! Like we were lining the hallway with our hands outstretched, asking you for a dime. Bums. You even called the cats and dogs bums. All of us, bums. Like you were a character from some Mamet play.
I think you’d be pretty proud of your bums these days. We’re doing all we can, and we’re trying hard to get things moving in the right direction. We’ve had a rough time over the past couple of years. It’s times like this that I do hope you can see us, and you’ve found some peace in seeing Mom and Bosie in your old home. I realized when I was sleeping there over Christmas, that I was lying in the exact same place in the house where you slept the entire time you were growing up. In all the places we’ve moved and relocated to over the years, who would have thought we’d end up right back where you started?
By the way, I think Mom’s semi-secretly relieved that the sitcom isn’t going to be made. I say “semi” because I heard the sigh of relief right before she said, “That’s too bad, honey.” She shouldn’t have worried. You and I both know that Mom’s way too humble to be a sitcom character. I had to heighten and exaggerate so much that Mom wouldn’t have even liked the character based on her. Bosie, however, was pretty much the same. Bosie also wanted me to make sure she got to BE on the sitcom. Not as an extra, not as a bit player. She wanted to play her own character. And I just got this image in my head, of walking up to Bosie on the set, asking, “Why don’t you read your lines that are in the script?”
And she’d say, “Tss. I’m not saying that. I wouldn’t say that.”
And I’d say, “But that’s what your character is going to say, so you should say what we’ve written here.”
And she’d go, “Ugh. But I’m playing ME, right? So you don’t know what I’m gonna say. Here. Ask me what I’d say, and that’s what I’m going to say.”
“You haven’t memorized a single line here, have you?”
“I don’t have to. I just go up there and say what I’d say because I’m me, so go over there and let me go be me. And I’m gonna smoke in this scene too, because I would.”
So, you know, it’s probably best for everyone that I come up with a sitcom that doesn’t have anything to do with my family.
I watched Amadeus for you on your birthday. I want you to know that I still have the same plans for your ashes. I know I’ll be breaking a number of laws, including at least one international one, I’m sure, but since you never said what you wanted, we’re all stuck guessing. And I think Mom’s going to give me only part of you for this journey. I’m guessing it’s for a number of reasons, one of which is that it’ll be sad if you get confiscated and your ashes are stuck at JFK International forever, and it’ll be sad if they get swiped by Mozart’s Homeland Security system, and you’re trapped in a Lost and Found. But I also think Mom wants to keep some of you here, with us. Since you didn’t tell us, we have to guess, and we just want to find places that would make you happy. I know this means I should go to a craps table at the Flamingo Hilton and dump all of you on “Don’t Come.”
Oh, and I cut my hair. Which Mom hates, but I knew she would. You’d love what she said about it. “It’s just… it makes you look young.” I told her that young was good. It’s good to look young. “No,” she said. “Like a little girl. You’ve got a little girl head on a woman’s body.”
So I turned right around and put that line in the script. Allison’s been saying it for months now. “Put it in the sitcom, Pam.” I think we’ll still be saying it years from now. It’s the new “Serenity Now.”
Dad, there’s all this stuff going on that I wish you were here to talk me about. As hard as you could be on me about certain things, like what I was doing for money or what I was doing with my money or how I was treating my car (I got an oil change yesterday, just for you), you were always surprisingly kind when it came to my heart. And whenever I got really scared or sad, that’s when you talked to me the most directly. It was never any bullshit about something you’d read in the paper, or how people are “supposed” to be, or what you fear. You’d calmly, and quite reasonably, sympathize and empathize, and then tell me I’m going to be okay. You didn’t tell me what to do, which either required enormous restraint on your part, or you somehow admitted you simply had no idea how to tell a young woman to run her life. But it’s when you really listened to me, and you seemed to appreciate the fact that I didn’t have all of the answers. You and I were always playing the game of Who’s The Rightest Right Now, and I think we both appreciated when the other one dropped the fight and realized there was no point in being Righter about some things. Some things didn’t have a right or a wrong. They just sucked, and you needed to be there to listen.
I remember doing that for you the last couple of weeks, when you’d get frustrated that people were calling. I remember sitting outside the Beverly Hills Library, listening to you, hoping you didn’t mean me, that I was one of the people who could call every day if I wanted to just to listen to you complain. Dad, why did you get a new driver’s license two weeks before you went into hospice care? Why didn’t you write a will? Why did you delete everything off of your computer? Why did you do a combination of things that make no sense for a man with terminal cancer to spend his last days on this planet doing? Getting new glasses? Waiting in line at the DMV to get a new picture taken? Did you think Heaven was going to require a passport, and all of your medication filled?
… Maybe that’s it. I’ve been wondering those questions for a long time, why you did what you did knowing you didn’t have much time left, and only just now, when I wrote it out like that, did I understand.
You didn’t think of it as dying. Maybe you knew you were going on another journey, and you had to prepare yourself for the next thing. Get your files in order. Make sure you have enough medicine, that your license isn’t expired in case you have to go through airport security. Get new glasses just in case you can never ever get new glasses again in the new place. Delete all traces of your existence in this world and get ready for the new one, where you can watch us. Bet on us. Universal Casino, where your family is your bankroll. That’s why you didn’t leave a will. You needed us to figure it out on our own. You can’t play if you’ve given us any help.
Well, Dad, I hope I’m helping you break the bank up there, and I really do hope you can see us, so that you aren’t missing out on anything. (And congrats on whatever you just banked for the sidebet on Scorsese.)
We miss you every day. Kiss Sage for us.
I love you.