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California Son

Frederic_Edwin_Church,_Abandoned_boat

I started watching Californication today. When it comes to television, I’m way behind the curve because I don’t have cable. But I’m always searching for a way to run from myself.

I mean, it’s never a good choice to run. Sometimes I can run far but it’s always me who’s waiting at the end of the escape. I didn’t run far this time before I slammed right into my own face.

The main character Hank is a writer who doesn’t write. His life is a mess. He’s a good man but doesn’t hold much esteem for himself. While charming, he admires women and is chivalrous. He screwed up and ruminates on what was lost. He’s sharply critical of the culture he finds himself in and not afraid to call bullshit when he sees it. He runs from love while aching for it and ends up in self-destructive situations. He’s got dad issues. His heart is broken. He’s rather tragic.

The similarities end with his chain-smoking, prior success with writing, and the 100% more sex Hank gets.

I wish I shared everything but the cigarettes.

Episode eight was where escape turned into pain. Hank’s asshole dad dies. Hank runs away through alcohol, drugs and sex. He refuses to go to the funeral. His ex reads to Hank a letter from his father, one that Hank couldn’t bring himself to open and read but kept sealed and in a drawer until his father’s death. She sees the wounded pain he feels and makes love to him in a selfless act of healing despite the irrevocable death of the love they once shared.

And even though I know the fictional scene drips with tragic romantic cliché, my heart both breaks and burns with envy. How I wish for that kind of love, to be soothed of pain I cannot end myself.

I was driving to Carmel, somewhere between Los Banos and Hollister, for my sister Tiffany’s wedding when I found out my father was dead. My wife was sitting behind me, next to our then four-year-old son when her phone rang. The inflection I heard in her voice meant bad news. Then she abruptly said, “Cab, your dad is dead.”

I said nothing.

“Are you okay?”

“No,” I answered, my voice trembling.

Tammy and I had decided to divorce not long before. She had pushed the issue with a confrontation, not wanting to continue what for months was essentially a dead marriage. It was shit or get off the pot moment. She certainly would have tried to amend our rifts had I agreed. After a long silence, I said what I had been too cowardly to admit for months. I’d buried it so deep, the shame too much to admit even to myself. I said I wanted a divorce and watched her heart break as the words left my lips. I gaged on the shame even as I reveled in the relief of finally speaking the truth.

Then came the eventual informing of family, and it wasn’t long before my father called. We had only met less than a decade before, shortly before I turned thirty. Our communication was sparse, usually confined to the platitudes of holiday gatherings and family events, so I was surprised of his call. While my half-siblings that he raised from birth were welcoming, he remained distant despite my offerings of a clean slate after I found him. He asked if it was true that Tammy and I were divorcing and I confirmed. He said he was disappointed.

I almost broke out in laughter. And at the same time I was filled with rage. How could he dare judge me after his utter abandonment of me? He never once attempted to know me my whole life. And now he had the gall to profess his disappointment in me at the end of my marriage? Why couldn’t he find the parallels to his life and offer his first born some compassion? He couldn’t of hurt me more.

As much as I wanted to lash out and tell him what a hypocrite he was, I simply said that I was disappointed too. The pain of his words were too much to bear or defend against. That was our last conversation before he died.

Tears filled my eyes as I drove down the road and thought of the end of any possibility that I would have a father. At the same time, I was angry with Tammy for not having the common sense or compassion to have me pull over before blurting out that my father was dead. But, such had been our marriage… two people trying to love but not quite knowing how. I know she meant no harm, but we had never really shared a deep connection. Our hearts were too guarded from our pasts to allow passage of an intimacy where love could thrive. And now the gulf between us was too great to span and offer any semblance of comfort.

We drove in silence for a few more miles while I grappled with the fact that my father had abandoned me one last time. I had offered forgiveness and received indifference. There would be no confession, no reconciliation, no amends, no understanding. We would never know each other. We would never love each other. There were be no letter like the one Hank got.

As I watched Hank’s ex read the letter on the screen, the tears came fast and hot.

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Diana September 18, 2014, 2:19 am

    To Cab, the writer

    After reading this, can there be any doubt?

    Diana

    • Cab September 18, 2014, 10:50 am

      I’m good at doubt. So, yes. 😉

  • amber September 22, 2014, 10:20 am

    I wish there was something to say, anything to say, that would offer anything.

    • Cab September 22, 2014, 11:12 am

      It is what it is. xo

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