I may be a bit of a train wreck. And, I definitely feel like that guy in Apocalypse Now, who leaves the boat, while tripping on LSD, only to encounter a wild tiger. He makes it back to the boat,after triggering a firestorm, screaming 'I'll never leave the boat alone, I'll never leave the boat alone!!".
Well, I should never go out alone.
And I know this. Yet, day after day of just bambini...sometimes, I just yearn for more....at least a balance. When I feel this way, I always reach out - but it usually is so spontaneous, that it just ends up me.
Today, while collecting silent auction prizes for Andrea (we help each other solicit prizes for our bambini's schools) I went to the World Sport Grille. A Sega venture. The management turn over there has been staggering. They've had 11 managers in the last 3 years. This would be the third time I was stopping by to see if I could get a gift card donated for the silent auction.
As usual, the bartender ran interference. I told him "I'm Dave from next door at Barnes & Noble. They told me to come back to see the manager Monday before it got busy." Bartender, sporting a Chicago Bears jersey, looks around conspiratorially, and concurs "Well, it ain't busy.". I told him I was rooting for the Bears tonight, as I have Matt Forte, their running back, on my fantasy football team.
This seemed to motivate him and he disappeared.
A young lady came out, hand outstretched and said "Hi, I'm Naomi, director of marketing." I said, "What's your last name?". She told me "Green".
"I sold you a house 7 years ago."
To which she retorts "I thought I recognized you...the gray hair threw me off.". Nice.
So, I told her what happened to Kim, and, of course, blamed the gray all on her. It's not like she can refute it. Naomi had met Kim and the kids during the home buying process Naomi, generously, gave me a gift card and game card for the silent auction.
When I got my Realtor's license, over 8 years ago, Kim was a huge part of the decision. She told me "I will be your secretary". She was more than that. She would map out the homes we were going to see (we had no GPS back then), she would come with me on signing appointments, with the bambini. She sent congratulations cards and Christmas cards. She was the heart behind the operations. Naomi remembered her instantly.
Later, I thought back on that time. Showing the Green's homes. And who had referred them to me? One of the cooks at Viro's, Mark.
I hadn't thought of Mark in many years. Last I saw him, he had just gone through a violent separation with his wife. And he left my children wide eyed with a recount of how he had slaughtered a goat for Easter. And he wore sweat pants. Like in the Soprano's.
The last time I had run into Mark, was at Chuy's. He recounted the sloppy separation from his wife...who chase him, out the kitchen window, with a butcher knife....So glad to hear they were reunited...
Side bar: The little bambini have been traumatized over the last few days. Their ride, the Hopkins, our neighbors, are moving...and the bank moved up the date they needed to be out of their house. "Who will take us to school?" they worried.
"Do not worry" I told them. "It will all work out."
Turns out, our other neighbors, Rachel and Dave, have a daughter who is going to Cottonwood, in kindergarten with Ami Bunch, Cody's kindergarten teacher. They heard about the Hopkins moving and said they could help. So, we went over there tonight to cement the deal (Dave's in construction, thus he pun) The bambini, so satisfied they were settled for rides to school (Rachel asked Antonio; "So, Tonio, do you think it will be alright if we take you to school?" and sweet Tonio nodded his head and smiled "Yes, that would be good".
By now, I had worked 9 hours, the kids had been in school all day, it was after 6 and everyone was hungry. I had nothing. I began to text people to see if anyone wanted to grab something to eat...
...and he idea floated into my head...Chuy's. Monday Night Football.
I ended up there with Aut and Tonio. I told Aut "You let me know if you recognize anyone that walks in." "Why?" She asked, wide eyed. "I don't like to be surprised." I answered.
Not only surprised, I just don't like going out alone anymore. The first six months, hell, more like the first year, I didn't even wear contacts out, because I did not want to run into anyone I knew. So hard to talk. Especially without losing it.
Yet, imagine my surprise, when I felt a huge, beefy hand, land upon my left shoulder and whisper in a rasp "Dave. How you been?"...
What I felt were goosebumps. As if I had just crossed over and was cold...
"Mark? F**K, I was just thinking of you". Which was not a lie. When I met Naomi, Mark was who came to mind.
Without prompting. And certainly without me asking, Mark pulled down his collar to reveal a massive, gnarly scar down the center of his chest.
"WTF?" was all I could manage.
"Dave. I died. Three times. Two years ago." Again. F**K. Kim began her ascent two years ago. "Wha happened?" I asked as I sloshed the remainder of my beer down and asked for a dozen more. This was not going to be pretty.
Turns out, the cholesterol meds Mark was on (same as I'm on) caused a massive heart attack.
The very first thing out of my mouth, desperately; "MARK! What do you remember. Bout dyin???"
Now, I told him about my 'separation' from Kim. And what had happened. Not in great detail, as I have not told that story to anyone, but just the basics. He was stunned. Silence, with Mark, is a small miracle.
My story opened him up. "OK, Dave. You OK for this?"
"It's all I live for Mark."
"Last October, we were s'posed to go to a picnic. I wasn't feelin great, so I tells the wife 'just go wi'out me.'" He started. "The next thing I remember, is people all around me, I asked "What's happening? Where are you takin me? They told me 'Kino Hospital'. Isnt' that for crazy people?" He asked with growing alarm. "No, they were bought by University Medical Center."
Ironically, Mark, crazier than a Soprano, was right. Kino had been converted to a psychiatric facility several years ago. Poetic.
When he woke, he saw his wife and asked "I thought you were in Cali?". They asked what day he thought it was and he told them Saturday. It was actually Wednesday and Mark had lost some time. Dead.
"Dave" He told me, with a blurry stare, "I was fishing. With a friend of mine who had died over five years ago. It was a beautiful day. I've never seen the lake look so beautiful. I mentioned it to my friend, who told me 'I can't take you home with me today Mark'. That's ok, I have to get home anyway." Mark told his buddy.
"Dave." Once again, Mark leading off, emphatically, gripping me with his gaze, "I can tell you, invariably, there IS an afterlife."
I was brought to my knees. Noticed the little bambini. Sitting rapt. So still. How wide can their eyes possibly get???? I quickly pulled dollars from my wallet. "Kids" I invited. "Get yourself some quarters. Have some fun!". I implored. They fled, relieved?
Mark left me, and the bambini poured in. "You OK Dad? Want to play Ms. Pacman?" They invited. "Been waiting all night." I told them using mounds of paper towels to dry my face.
I did my best to explain the events of my entire day to them. One late text I got asked if I was kidless during this encounter. I'm never kidless, I explained...just had to incorporate them into the fold. I told them, that they do need to believe...that their Mama is in Heaven. And Mark just confirmed this, by his own experiences. I must have known this was coming, having texted nearly everyone I could think of, and everyone had plans. Which was appropriate - leaving me with Mother Teresa's "Be the one." statement.
"I grieved and I looked for someone to grieve with, but I found none. I needed to be the one."
"Let's play some more Ms. Pacman Dad" Autumn invited...
I tried to take a photo of the intermission, "They meet!", but it was too quick...
And, as we left, there was a horse in the parking lot. The bambini thought this was a great sign! "A horse! A horse!" They yelled.
Yeah. It wasn't exactly ridden to Chuy's. None the less, it seemed prophetic...
The stars were immaculate on our walk home...
"Where's the Big Dipper?" Tonio asked. Gone for the winter, I told him. We'll miss it...
Reflectively, perhaps I've been searching. For meaning. This was my confirmation.
When we returned home, walking the couple blocks from Chuy's and admiring the stars along the way, I took Cody his dinner. He asked that we bring him back some shrimp tacos. He had a lot of homework to do. I told him the story I just told you. I did my best to do it without emotion, but, at the end, it caught up to me. Welling up like a wave approaching the shore. Cody was moved. Asking questions "Really Dad? What else did he say?".
There are a lot of days, where I do not have adult interaction. Or 'me' time ie cards, casinos, concerts, 'date nights', movies, fitness clubs, etc. The bambini are in tune with this. I'm telling you, at the end of each and every day, they individually ask me "how was your day, Dad?". I'll let them know and ask how their day went, too. I guess that I'm always amazed at how intuitive that they are...
Sometimes I do just want to slip away and be alone...but, the kids keep me grounded...Another cook, at Viro's, Dave - when Kimmy left, he sat down with me and expressed his sincered condolences. I thanked him, touched. Then, he told me what I did not know. Three years prior to Kim's passing, Dave lost his wife to cancer too...in three days. That just put things into perspective for me.
He thought it best that I had been blessed with children. Since he jumped off the deep end when his wife passed, before they even had the chance to have children. He told me how he put himself into a drunken stupor. For two years before he woke up.
When I hear stories like that. Or when people I knew died. And came back. And told me what they saw. I feel blessed. Remembering it can always be worse...
Not too long ago..."Dad? Did you have a good day?"....(Autumn)
"Yes" I told her..."Thanks to you guys.".
The grin I receive is beyond priceless....considerng, this is the farthest off course I've been in a long time. I've always wondered, if I'd had a chance to really let go - would it be easier now? Dave, from Viro's 'let go', but for 2 straight years. I just'd like to scream into the night sky. And, maybe have a
I still believe.