Saturday, May 05, 2012

My Whole Miserable Existence

I remember being about 12 or 13 and seeing my Dad in a particularly despondent frame of mind. Down in the dumps. He was given to fretfulness * from time to time, but this spell was a bit more severe than the usual "morass of self-pity and despair"(his phrase describing his state of mind after he'd broken his leg and had to spend 6 months in a cast). So I had to ask.
 "Pop, what's wrong?"
 "Aah, my whole miserable existence". 
  Wow. I'd never seen him like this. I don't mind telling you, I was a bit worried about the old man.
 That evening there was a Poker game at the house. He and his card  buddies rotated the hosting, and it was our turn. I was still concerned about him until I heard his trademark guffaw** wafting from the back room where they were playing cards.  Okay, Dad's gonna make it. 

  45 years later, with both parents long gone, here I am with a "miserable" existence of my own. Working a job I've long since tired of( 2 years and 4 months from what I hope will still be the Finish Line for me as far as my retirement), got a dog who's rapidly becoming a Senior Citizen, no prospects as far as women, my social skills in general I feel really suck wind- and I'm sure there's even more I could dredge up..

Sometimes it seems like life just plain sucks, in every way. I understand my Dad's lament, all too well.

But out from under my own(inherited?)morass of self-pity and despair, comes perspective. From my work and the friends I have, I know there are far shittier lives than mine. Bigger, nastier problems. Much more to unravel. 

And from that comes humor. (Hey, you might as well laugh!) One of my favorite scenes in the movie Parenthood is where Frank Buckman(Jason Robards)comes to his son Gil(Steve Martin)for advice, and Gil says, "I mean, how can I give advice? Look at my own life: my career is in the shitter, I've got a kid in therapy,.."

The Jason Robards character just chuckes, and pats him on the cheek. "You worry too much", he says. "You always have". This is something I could see my own Dad saying to me. 

 Yes, Pop. Just like you. 

*Oh yes. Fretfulness. Dad had his bouts with insomnia, and in his book-lined back room there was a whole section of books of the self-help variety on how to get to sleep. I remember there were three or four of them on the shelf, one entitled "Sleep, Two, Three, Four". Maybe he used the books themselves as a soporific.. 

** The guffaw. I can't seem to find the phonetics to duplicate it here(you'd really need a sound clip), but suffice it to say a very distinctive laugh. And just as cats purr to signal that everything's okay, this was my Dad's signal(perhaps unwittingly, perhaps knowingly)to me.