The Table: Moving Out and (Not Quite) Moving On

“Circle of Life”, The Lion King. My daughter doesn’t really like to eat. In order to entice her, I show her videos on youtube. She loves this song. It takes me back to my freshman year of high school when my girlfriend at the time was obsessed with Disney. We went to see this movie on opening weekend and I secretly loathed her for it. But now, every time I see Simba raised up in front of his father, I come near to tears. That I start this post with this song and memory will make sense, I promise

As my brother may have mentioned in an earlier post, I haven’t been posting as much for a few reasons. One is that I have gotten steadily busier with work; the other is that, after living in an apartment for a year (only after giving up a house we lived in for four years to move downtown in our adopted home city), we realized that even the spacious 1500 square feet was too little room for two toddlers and two organizationally challenged adults.

So, we house-shopped, made some offers, lost some houses and finally closed a few weeks ago. After some horrors, we moved last Friday. I took the kids to daycare, cleaned out the old apartment and took them home to our new house.

“Old Apartment”, Bare Naked Ladies. I loved this song when I first heard it in 1996. I still do. The band, however, was really good in 1996, but that whole American Pie thing ruined them. They used to perform some badass medleys of current pop songs. I saw them at a free show put on by our local alt-rock station in 1997. They were better than good.

Now, despite the mound of student loan debt I mentioned before and my general qualms with our debt society, my wife and I have had a really good year (financially and otherwise); we started a business last spring and have beat all projections. The numbers were good enough that we bought a house we both would have thought unattainable last year.

The most embarrassing thing about this house? It has a wine fridge. Seriously. The last owners put in a massive wine fridge. And a special beer fridge.

“Sports and Wine”, Ben Folds Five. I have loved this song for a long time and not because it is one of Ben Folds’ best but because its contents seem so real and relatable. So, while the hook and melody of the song are less than memorable, its content keeps it running through my head.  For the record, my father didn’t care much for sports or wine.  I like sports some, but wine I can leave or take.

And the good fortune really kind of runs over. Our children are happy, healthy and beautiful. Both of us work in the careers we trained for and are happy in our jobs. Not only did I receive tenure this year, but I also have a book coming out in a few weeks along with some articles here and there.

In fact, it seems that we have been so lucky that to complain about anything would be beyond the pale for inappropriate behavior (well, there’s always global warming and Guantanamo Bay!)

“Open Book”, Mates of State. Yeah. I’ve put this one up before.  Sue me for loving it.

But, during all of this good fortune I have felt the absence of my father more keenly. Every month when we analyzed the business numbers, my wife and I knew that the one person related to us who would really understand them and be truly and ungrudgingly happy for us was my father. When we shopped for a house, I wanted him here to look over the foundation and the roof with me. I wanted him to talk over the numbers with me. I wanted him to tell me that we were doing the right thing.

This feeling of absence and loss only got worse when, during the move (because we decided to sell or trash many more impressive items), our movers asked me what I wanted to do with this rickety, marred and lilting table they found in the closet.

Table

See, our father, truth be told, used to get intoxicated and build furniture. That’s the unvarnished truth (to pun a little to lighten the mood…). He helped us build a mammoth bookcase and he built us this little, unfinished, soon broken bedside table that we kept around because our cat liked to scratch it. After the cat died? I kept it because my father made it. We disposed of half of our furniture last year, but I kept this and moved it again.

“Get to the Table on Time”, M. Ward. So, yeah, I picked this song because it has the word “table” in it. But M. Ward is still a great musician and song writer whose work hasn’t been mentioned enough on this blog.

So, now  I have carried this table from NYC to the middle of Texas where I have moved it five times. I have waking fantasies about fixing it—filling the holes, straightening the leg and giving it the finish it needs—but I don’t know if I ever will. I even imagine myself in my fifties, looking for hobbies and picking up the word-working craft my father learned halfway from his father but never taught to me.

But none of that is going to change the fact that I would be trying to sand away the pain of the years without him; or that no matter how much time passes (or because time passes) we are defined by what we have lost. But this is what love is, isn’t it? It is the brevity of our time with each other that gives it true worth and embitters even the sweetest memory after its passing.

“Daddy’s Home”, The Heptones. So, I know this track from Toots and the Maytals, but what’s hipper than the Heptones? To be fair, this is about a lover being home. To be Freudian, though, isn’t it the lost certainty from childhood’s memory of parents that we are always trying to replace with lovers’ embraces?

Our move happened to come on Father’s Day weekend. I told myself and my brother that I wasn’t going to write another maudlin father’s day post—that I was going to keep things light, but these moments of transition make it impossible not to reflect on what we have been and what we are.

See, we are figures built of our memories and the space(s) we inhabit. By moving into this house with my children, I knew we were doing something permanent, undergoing a metamorphosis of our own choosing and moving that one step farther away from the day my father held his first grandchild, my daughter, in his arms.

To make matter’s worse? Next week is my brother’s birthday. The US release of my book? My father’s birthday, July 2nd. He should have been 64 on that very day

“Birthday Pony”, Fugazi. This song is not as well-known as some of the tracks on 13 Songs, but it showcases some of the great rhythms of the band as well as the characteristic muscular vocals. But it also seems a bit more fun than other tracks. I didn’t include this song on either birthday list I made. What a jerk. So, happy birthday Brother.

The day is also important because it is our wedding anniversary. I cannot tell you how much it made my brother happy that we chose to wed on his birthday. Screw it, here’s another song for that theme:

“The Wedding Song”, Paul Stookey. One of my most embarrassing memories is from when my mother coerced me into singing this song for my cousin and his recent bride when they came to visit. It makes me blush because it is lame but also it gets worse when I think about the context: my cousin knocked up a stripper and married her. He came to visit us and then his younger relative gave him a bad rendition of this song.

And the sick thought that kept going through my head as we selected, bought and moved into this house was what would I give up of what I have gained since he passed just to be able to say goodbye? The business, house, book, well they can all fuck off. I would lose them in a second to speak to my father again.

But the next and most fucked up thought that occurs to me is whether or not I would have delayed the birth of one of my children to have him back (in whatever strange world I am imagining where I can bargain so). And, without a moment’s hesitation, I know that the answer here is quite different.

“No Children”, The Mountain Goats. Ok, this is a brutal, brutal song about the self-loathing inspired by a romantic relationship. Yet, it is still akin in a way to the reflection and self-analysis that can come from any good relationship. The hyperbole as well is as suited to a father-son relationship as any other.

See, as The Lion King teaches us, and as everything about life instructs, sons bury their fathers and are in turn replaced by their own sons. I can’t say if there is any metaphysical calculus that made the death of my father necessary for the birth of my son and my niece. But I know that the love I feel for my son is so strong that losing that would dwarf the death of my father. And that’s an understatement.

So, if we post just a little less over the next few weeks, understand this: we have things to celebrate (my daughter’s third birthday, my brother’s 28th, a sixth wedding anniversary) and things to mourn. This is the perpetual exchange of life, though, the cycle of sorrows, regrets and bliss. One constant? This table I carry from place to place.

Happy Birthday dad, brother and daughter.

21 comments on “The Table: Moving Out and (Not Quite) Moving On

  1. Mother Mary says:

    Joel, the eloquence of your last blog was incredible. You and Josh always put into words what I am feeling for all of my children and grandchildren who have to live without their father and grandfather. In spending time with each of you and each of the grandchildren I see little things that remind me of him. Facial expressions, a way of waving, red faces in anger and frustration, quick movements(he always walked away fast), certain fatherisms which I actually enjoy hearing with just a shot of melancholy, and when I see any of two siblings together. He would have loved Aalia, Kander, and Abigail more than his own life. I look forward to reading more of your writings after your period of celebration. Mother Mary

    • theyoungerj says:

      I predominantly write with my laptop resting on a minifridge in the basement jam spot which itself rests on a table John made for me when he first started building stuff when I was in high school. The fridge sometimes falls off and it is certainly rickety but I don’t get a new one. Our perspectives are different on the old man for a slew of reasons, the biggest probably being that I live in the house we grew up in and see different examples of his workmanship on a daily basis. I think it’s great you have the table and I know as much as you do that he would be incredibly proud of you and all you have done to make a good life for your family. He would never say it out like that, just as when people constantly tell me at my band’s shows that my dad would be so proud and would be right there. He would be proud and I feel like he’s always right there, but we both know he never used his words and he would give us a nod and wander off to collect his thoughts or whatever it was he did when he wandered. He is proud of us and I’m proud of you.
      As a post script, i almost forgot about my birthday. 28 is just a minor road sign to thirty anyway.
      Great piece.

  2. professormortis says:

    What a great post…congratulations on the house and book and business success. I felt the same way when looking at/buying houses-I keenly missed my father’s knowledge, and just the assurance that comes from your father being able to give you an opinion on something.

    For what it’s worth, I had a similar experience with The Lion King, at least up until parenthood changed it for you, I not having any children. My high school gf loved the damn soundtrack, and I still can’t hear it without cringing.

    • theelderj says:

      I think that what was impossible to understand before our fathers died and nearly as ineffable even now is that they brought us a simple comfort merely by existing. It wasn’t until after my father was gone that I realized that I had relied on the idea of him as something of a psychic safety net for so long without knowing it, that, essentially, I often took risks because I knew he’d be there to help or bail me out.

      My suspicion of Disney hasn’t matured too much. Every time the indian mentions taking the offspring to Disney World or Land I have a conniption fit.

  3. […] I have written about lately, I have been almost as busy as my brother even though it is my “summer vacation”. This […]

  4. Reblogged this on HarsH ReaLiTy and commented:
    Blog Review #3

    Ok, this was submitted by theelderj who is related to this author. I am assuming the author knows about the submission and is ok with my review. That being said, here we go.
    This article has some very good writing. I was impressed with the word flow used and the grammar seemed spot on. My grammar isn’t that great, so perhaps I am being overly praising, but I enjoyed the general flow of the article.
    I would have liked to see less links and huge youtube windows used. I get the reasoning for the initial Lion King link, obviously, but the rest of the YouTube windows distracted from the strength of the article in my opinion. I like the template and the background is much like mine so I found that very easy on the eyes.
    The reason I picked this article is because I relate in many ways. My wife and I have worked hard for the home we have no owned for a little over a year. I am also self promoting myself for the first time… ever, so I relate to the aspects of this post that speak about business and self appreciation. In all, I really enjoyed this article and it left me with a “feel good” emotion that is not often come by.

    Note: This reblog was written in connection with my post “I will do “Ten Reviews.”

    -Opinionated Man

    • meromusings says:

      I’m glad to see that you review blogs as well, would you mind if I send you my post to review once in a while?

    • theelderj says:

      I do really appreciate the comments and feel compelled to respond in brief.

      I am the author of the post. My brother posts under ‘theyoungerj’.

      We do have lots of youtube windows but this is because part of our mission is to interweave music and memories and we want music to be readily available.

      I know you have debated the merits of long and short posts
      My brother also tells me that my posts are way too long but I persist in this way for a few reasons. First, the digital age privileges brevity but sacrifices depth. And I think depth is necessary to make a real connection. When you say you got a ‘feel good’ feeling, I think part of that is from the sustained engagement with someone else’s perspective.

      When we engage so with others, it makes us all more real. And this is another part of our mission.

      Thanks for reading and commencing. And thanks to all the kind strangers for ‘liking’

      • That makes sense and thanks for providing the additional information. I actually thought he wrote this and not you. I am now glad to know it was yours and I really enjoyed it. 🙂

      • theelderj says:

        I do appreciate the reading you gave the piece. I find especially heartening the fact that you could identify with it and you liked it despite the fact that I know there are differences between us. (From reading your blog, I know there are some staunch political distinctions etc.) One of the things that depresses me about internet writing is that most people only read what they agree with. So I wonder, would you have reacted as positively if I had asked you to read this one instead? http://thebrothersjblog.com/2013/06/26/re-post-for-the-death-of-doma-the-proposition-a-letter-to-mainers/

      • I will have to read it in a bit. While I recognize what you say I don’t think a negative reaction or debate is a bad thing. In fact I rarely agree with an original thought these days because… they lack originality. heh 😉

  5. Nice blog. I like Michael Jackson video.

  6. […] and beautiful people I have ever met. Perhaps I was ready to hear this song because we have been so busy lately and so occupied with being adults, parents and professionals that our time for each other is […]

  7. […] decided that we should all take a break from the oppressive heat of our adoptive state and take our children to California, to see the ocean for the first […]

  8. […] My father loved this song. He like to think that he was bad. Or could be bad. […]

  9. […] without are the ghosts who accompany us to our own graves. We see them in our faces in the mirror, in furniture and objects around the room, in the simple action of turning over the soil from winter for the new […]

  10. […] my fifth father’s day since my father’s passing. His example(s), though fading, […]

  11. […] my fifth father’s day since my father’s passing. His example(s), though fading, […]

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