My father was waiting up for me. I had moved home for a few months while I decided whether or not to get married. Some people accuse me of making rash decisions but in reality I can take forever. Or not. It depends on my mood and the importance of the decision. This was an important decision but I knew divorce was a viable option. Hey I have always tried to be honest with myself.
My father looked uncomfortable as he stood next to what we have always called “the marble” in the entry way, as it’s made of Carrara marble. “The marble” is a sort of catch all. I have known it most of my life and can visualize it perfectly but don’t know how to describe it as I have never seen a comparable piece of furniture anywhere.
“Dave Shapiro’s father died tonight, and so did JohnnyB.” As nice as Dave, a member of my high school class, was, I really didn’t know his father. JohnnyB on the other hand had been the first boy I sorta dated in college. Johnny was tall, blond, sexually confused and had been a dancer on two TV shows Hullabaloo and an up with people type show.
When I had been living in Israel I had this horrible feeling that Johnny would die but had no idea either where the feeling came from or how to tell him. I told my boyfriend who believed me and together we tried to think of a way to warn Johnny. It was too late. One day his girlfriend called me–I never did understand that relationship and told me that he had passed out the night before. His revival was quick and gratifying but he was throwing up blood. She took him to Roosevelt Hospital where they gave him medication despite her telling them that he had hepatitis. JohnnyB lapsed into a coma.
The nurses told us that he got more phone calls and visitors than a Mafia member who had been shot in the head during a salute to Italy parade. I loved JohnnyB and his demise hit me hard. My father was droning on:
I don’t understand Pia. I lived through the depression and World War Two and you have more dead friends than I do.
Is it a contest?
I knew what he was really saying. I knew too many hardcore druggies, and people with problems. Though JohnnyB had given drugs up years before. My boyfriend didn’t do any. Me I liked the passing of the pipe or a doobie only. That night I appreciated the effort my father made not to say more. But those two sentences stayed with me forever.
We both started laughing and went into the kitchen where my father sat while I made us tea and made phone calls. I wanted to ask my father why just once he couldn’t make the frigging tea himself but he did buy all his employees coffee, treated women with respect, and he was not just my father but my boss that year. He gave me the week off to go upstate to stay with JohnnyB’s family, before during and after the funeral. It was my first Irish wake, and I couldn’t get myself to look at Johnny’s body. After all it was just his body, not his spirit that had gone, I thought, two months earlier when he went into the coma. But I couldn’t look at the body.
I had forced myself to go into his hospital room where he was hooked up to many machines. I was rather horrible around sick people, even ones in comas. Especially ones in comas That one day I would become a geriatric social worker was unthinkable.
Johnny’s father was an engineer for IBM. He had always been ashamed of his bright handsome sexually ambivalent son. Other fathers would cry to me, later, but he was the first. It didn’t make me uncomfortable. I liked the role of comforter. Johnny’s parents left New York for the mountains of North Carolina where Johnny’s father became a carpenter. I have always hoped he found peace.
I’m getting into this. It’s becoming fun.