According to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary, "86" is a slang term that is used in the food service industry as a term to describe an item no longer being available on the menu. It's not the only definition as some would say it means banning someone from an establishment or throwing out an idea.
I had always heard that it came from the old speakeasy Chumley's in the West Village in New York City. The official address is 86 Bedford. During prohibition a cop would call the bar and say to "86 the customers," meaning have them leave from that exit.
Part of the reason for choosing 86ed as the title is that my dad's age now after celebrating his birthday January 1. In September I will be half his age and the same age he was when I was born.
He's doing pretty well. We ended up being lucky that there was no cancer in the brain, and he has responded very well to his treatment. Not to get too deep into the weeds, but his PSA levels have dropped astronomically, and we hope that he will have some more time with reasonable health and we'll be able to continue to say "not yet."
I'm not alone I'm sure in greeting a new year with melancholy. Time is like an ocean with waves that grow larger by the year. I'm on the shore and I see the surging waters, but I'm hopeless to stop them. I'm Walt Whitman and the sea is saying "Death, Death," and lately that just feels like all there is and will be is loss. There isn't anything more true than that. What makes the difference, of course, is how I live with that. My kids are growing so fast, and I'm getting grayer, and balder, by the day, and no I'm not having a mid-life crisis, or maybe I am, except I don't have a girlfriend or a convertible.
I don't have a desire to hold on to my youth. My younger years were fun in a much different way than my years now, but these years are good. I mean, how often will I have a six-year-old little girl who grabs my neck and says, "I love you so much, Daddy. You're my favorite person in the whole world." That blows my heart up you know? But, I can't help but temper that with knowing when she's 16 and has no time for me and I'll be the least cool person on the planet.
We haven't had live TV in the house for a while, but over the break I got YouTube TV for a bit, partly because there was more time for TV, and I wanted to play a Lifetime Christmas movie drinking game with Alison, which, we have kids and never were able to do. Anyway, I was forced to watch commercials and this one just brought a catch to my throat every time I saw it.
I don't know what Ellie will listen to to remember me. I think it's more likely to be Beastie Boys or A Tribe Called Quest rather than Waylon and Willie, but that's almost the ideal.
Sam's a little behind where Ellie was language wise and his words are so cute now. His favorite thing is to ask us to pway with him. Ellie is Eyee, yellow is yeyow, and for about six months if he said his name it was something like Tcham. Yesterday he said Sam for the first time, and while I cheered him on, that one little piece of me was breaking just watching the time go. He's at what I call "peak cuteness" stage right now, like all I want to do is squeeze him and bite him and make him giggle. We're playing hide and seek a lot and while it can be tiresome, the giggles make it all worthwhile. He hides in the same place every time between the corner of our couches with his little feet sticking out plain to see, and a giggle that makes him impossible not to find. When it's my turn to hide, he's missed the concept that he needs to close his eyes and count. He just follows me around, knows where I hid, then goes looking for me. Wait, is my son Forrest Gump? Will I have to be like his momma to get him into school?
But these years are tough too. Lurking behind the beauty of the kids and this time in their life of innocence and laughter is the reality that innocence is slowly being chipped away by life and age. While Ellie is aware of death, it's a concept that is still not real to her, and I'm not sure has caused her to be scared yet. Good, but my head knows that it's coming and I dread the weight of it for her. I think she's too much like me for it not to.
I'm just at the point where I've got these little beauties at home full of life, and at the same time I'm waiting at the hospital with my dad to find out just how soon he might die. I'm going to the funerals of friends' parents, of teachers, and even friends my age. It's waves crashing all around and the ocean never calms.
I don't know how to look at them, or even look at life, without equally knowing that it's all going to change - that it's all going to end. Nobody has been able to help me with that. No amount of positive thinking has changed that. No amount of God, medicine, or any hoodoo changes that. Woody Allen spoke years ago of a pervading feeling of the ephemeral nature of life and that it was always with him even in the good. The irony is that I I'm more aware of time's passage when times are good. Last night after Ellie's shower I put the towel over her head and picked her up, and she looked at me and smiled. Her favorite part of shower time is my favorite time when I give her a big hug, a kiss on the nose, and pick her up and carry her out of the bathroom just like a baby. Something about that look and the way I'm feeling lately just brought a few sobs. I had to hold her tight so she didn't see. How would she understand? She asked, "Are you crying daddy?" Me, "Just a little because I love you so much." Her "I love you so much too, Daddy."
Man, what would I give to forget that moment's already gone pretty much the moment it happens. I carry that love today, though, and I will carry it until I see that last flicker of light. She'll do the same and see that little flicker in her little one's eye - that is unless the world bakes and all the ice caps melt and people resort to eating each other...