I know I have been advertising the Family Bed all week. But, you pretty much know my sleeping arrangements, and my lack of sleep. Quick update, we’ve been doing the five minute intervals of crying it out for the last three nights. It may have actually worked. She sleeps for longer intervals. But, what has been on my mind all day is the box.
Dad always wanted to be apart of Jeff’s and my projects. We had just started working on our first one, and Dad told me that he was available if there were any roles for old men. Unlike my step-dad, Dad actually thought me marrying an actor was pretty cool. He was always pretty artsy himself, a natural comic, and not one to have regular employment or a steady income. So being an actor was right up his ally. Bob was much more traditional and wanted to make sure I married someone who could take care of his family. Jeff does, we’re just different from traditional families. But, that’s a whole other post!
Dad sang off key, but played a mean harmonica, made up his own songs, and learned to play the guitar left handed due to missing two fingers on his left hand. His most famous comic routine was “learn to spell with Darnell.” I wish I could remember some of his better ones, but the only one that I can think of is, “Learn to spell with Darnell. Today’s word is axe. “A” “X” “E”. Axe. Now let’s use it in a sentence. I need to axe yous a question.” Off color, but clever and hilarious, unlike my example. He wasn’t as obvious as I just was. He could take any word and turn it into a Darnell sentence. And it made us laugh, and roll our eyes, and man I wish I would have paid more attention to how clever some of them were!
Dad always played with us kids. I remember him trying to play Barbies with me and I was doing him a favor of letting him play with me. He paid attention to us, sent us books with taped recording of him reading them to us when he lived out of state, spent ridiculous amounts of money on us when he had it, and gave us his last penny when he didn’t have anything else to give.
But, there was also a the irresponsible side to Dad. He wanted to get rich quick, and was witty and personable and could talk anyone into investing their savings into any one of his half a dozen companies. Companies that wouldn’t last more than a year or two, then it was on to the next adventure. We’d live in a house for six months to a year, then we had to move again. I moved in with him when I was twelve, and by the time I was in high school, just two years later, we had already moved four times to four different cities. I didn’t realize that they moved before they foreclosed. They would find a non-qualifing, assumable loan, move in and move out before it all went to hell in a hand basket.
Dad wasn’t a bad guy. I learned from him that there isn’t a good or bad person, but we’re all complex mixes of good and bad. He meant well, but always manged to screw over a lot of people, including family, with his big ideas for riches. I never saw that or understood why we’d have family friends for a few years over at every holiday, then they’d just disappear. They were investors whom I’m sure lost their shirts on my dad’s projects. I’m sure he didn’t mean to lose their money, but he could barely manage his own life, so managing a company and other people’s money was probably not the right career move.
But Dad was smart and talented. He could draw anything, paint, write songs and poetry, and do absolutely anything he put his mind to. But he was addicted to a good time. And an alcoholic. He loved a good party and that took precedence over everything else. Including his wives and children. More than alcohol, he was addicted to anything that made him feel good and kept him feeling young.
After being married to his third wife for almost twenty years, my step mom who we lived with throughout middle and high school, Dad just up and left her. He’d stay with Jeff and me here and there, and finally came to stay with us for a few weeks. It was nice having him around since we’d been estranged basically since I’d moved out in high school.
Let me back up just a sec, I moved out right after high school and my relationship with my dad and step mom was non-existent for awhile, strained for the longest, and then minimal when I had Syd. I needed something more stable, and had to find myself. It was a long struggle, and other than getting pregnant early into my college career, I learned and grew up quickly. Dad was so proud when I bought my first home. He kept telling me how cool it was that I was where I was at in that stage of my life. He was proud that his child was more focused and grounded than he. It made me feel proud that he was so proud of me, and to this day when I accomplish something, I still think of how proud Dad would be.
So, Dad came to stay with us. He was usually the Dog and Baby Whisperer, but for some reason Reno was not a fan. She went from being a quiet and sweet wiener to a man hater and barker. We still don’t know why or what happened. Dad kept showing up late, or completely flaking out on us. Then, we found out he was leaving my stepmother. What’s funny is I had given him a gift for he and my stepmom, and a gift card for my stepbrother to take back home when he went down to San Antonio. Somehow I saw that Nathan had that gift card, and he told me that Dad gave it to him for Christmas. That was my dad.
But Dad stayed up in Dallas more and more, and in San Antonio less and less. He finally told us that he was divorcing my step mom, and that he had hooked up with his high school sweetheart. He was planning to help my mom out with my upcoming wedding, too. I finally had my Dad and minimal drama. Then I got the news.
When I told the doctor that they could pull the plug, I already knew that he probably had drank too much and took too many pills. And I was right. The cocktail that had kept him going finally ended him. He was like a rock star. But, with the way he ended it, and accidentally. And ironically, Rock Star was the song that kept playing over and over when we were up in Casper dealing with the funeral and arrangements. Man I hate that song, but at the same time it’s bittersweet because I think about how cool my cousin was in getting me away from drama and to having fun during the worst time in my life.
Those four days were the longest of my life. The girlfriend and the family told me not to call my step mom, and that she was not welcome. Although less drama was a good thing, I felt terribly, and I had plenty of drama already. The girlfriend wanted some ashes as a keepsake, and my uncle felt that it was wrong to separate some ashes from the rest. My grandmother was offended that I didn’t mention a grandfather I didn’t know in the obituary, and mentioned those left behind- his father and stepfather had been gone for many years, already. And, how much experience with obituary etiquette does a twenty something have? I had it proof read by family, and that was the best I could do. Dad had no money, no insurance no nothing, so we were stuck with the bill. My uncle told me he’d like to help, but Dad owed him money. Who didn’t Dad owe money? It was the most stressful time of my life. And, Jeff and I got into it because I wasn’t emotionally available to him during the most exciting career achievement in his life, up to that point. He had booked his first guest starring role in a television show. He was filming while I was at the hospital with Dad. There wasn’t anyone who I didn’t have a confrontation with, except my dear Aunt B, cousins, and Mom.
So, we got through the funeral, we all went home, and life went back to normal. I’m home alone and the door bell rings. It is the mailman with a brown paper covered box. I signed for it and he walks off. There is a neon green scrap of paper haphazardly taped to the top of the box with a stick figure with x’s for eyes and the words “cremation”. Oh yeah, I had to hear about how no Pruitt had ever been cremated. I’m sorry, but I don’t have $5-$10,000 for a proper burial. The cheapest we could do was still well over $3000, and was a cremation. I couldn’t bring Dad back home with me on the plane, so the funeral home mailed him to me. And marked the package with a neon green slip of paper with a stick figure with x’s for eyes. I will never forget the shock of the shock of neon green against the brown butcher paper.
I am not sure where everyone else was, but I was home alone and sat on the couch for hours, with Dad on my lap and Reno next to me, watching my first ever episodes of Keeping Up with the Kardashians. It was a marathon and I watched episode after episode. Jeff finally came home and took the box and put it somewhere. Then took me out to margaritas and Mexican food. It was a welcome diversion. I indulge every once in awhile, but am scared to do more than that or to make it habitual. But, I needed that. Jeff kept me from getting into the funk that I ran away from in San Antonio.
So for the longest time I didn’t know where Dad was. Until one day I couldn’t find Reno Beano. She was under my bed curled around Dad. The box. And that is where he has been for five years. He qualifies to go to Arlington National Cemetery, but I can’t face his family yet. I am not yet ready for that drama, again. None of them came to my wedding, except dear Aunt B, and I doubt anyone would travel to a second ceremony several years later, but I am not ready. Maybe soon.
So, I wrote a story called, you guessed it, “The Box.” Dad loved my stories. He would have really loved a story inspired by him. Jeff wrote the screen play. And guess who is starring in it? Not me, I haven’t had any acting lessons. Dad, as the box.
My Daily Prayer: Thank you God for opportunities, and guidance, and opening my eyes to your Way. AMEN!
When I have Kardashian Kash: I will have the plushest, most extensive library/lounge. A quiet retreat when I need to just read, with a sunlit window seat.
Monday- My car dealership experiences. Why do I get hounded by half a dozen salesmen on email, but when I tell them what I am looking for, no one calls or writes me back?