Today I feel paralyzed by the future.
I do on most days, really. Today I watched a movie where a kid dies at the end, and I knew from the beginning of the movie he was going to die, and then he did and I still cried. A little for him, and a little because I remembered a conversation I had with my dad. I can’t remember if the conversation took place after I had the dream while I was on the cruise that he had cancer and didn’t tell any of us, or if it was during a long talk we had when I was home for Christmas, but I know at some point he told me that he wanted me to eulogize him. Those were not his words, of course. He said “I want you to tell people to fuck off.” By that, he meant people who will be at his funeral who shouldn’t be – people who were phony, or mean, or lied to us or him, or who had been his friend but had ignored his efforts to keep in touch. He meant more than that, really, and I knew and I didn’t need him to tell me. I have been writing his eulogy in my head for years.
A couple of years ago, like most of America, my parents got rid of their landline and only have cell phones. My parents are irresponsible cell phone owners. The typical order of operations goes like this: I call my mom’s phone, it goes to voicemail, I call my dad’s phone and just as it goes to voicemail, my mom is calling me back. Worst case scenario, I call my brother, who tells me that dad is asleep and mom’s working 12 hours or she’s driving. My point is, someone always answers eventually. A couple of days ago, I called them, late their time, to tell them that a family friend is pregnant. They didn’t answer, but I wasn’t surprised, I’d call them tomorrow. Tomorrow came, I called my mom, I called my dad, I called my brother. No one answers, no one is calling me back. So the scenario begins. Really, the scenario begins as I’m calling my brother. Maybe mom got in an accident. Maybe dad was in the car. Ring. Maybe she was taking him to go get cigarettes. Ring. Maybe they didn’t know to call Josh, maybe he doesn’t even know. Ring. Maybe he does know and he’s making medical decisions for them. Ring. Maybe Josh gave them permission to pull the plug. The number you have dialed… Oh okay. Josh isn’t answering. Okay. He was in the car with them and no one knows I exist. It’s not like I would be on their emergency contact list over here, three thousand miles away. What good would that do them? And if their phones were destroyed in the crash then…
When my mom called me back 15 minutes later, I screamed at her, the same thing I always say to her when she calls me back. “You people cannot HANDLE only having cell phones! I’m serious, Mom, you’ve gotta get a landline again. I can’t do this anymore.” and my mom started to laugh the way she always does when I yell at her but she stopped when she realized that, when I got to the end this time, I was choking back tears.
When they die, that’s when the life I have promised them, the life I was born into, begins. My older brother, Josh, is autistic and he lives with my parents. He cannot live alone. He can’t drive, he doesn’t understand the concept of money. When they die, he will move in with me. It’s what everything has been leading up to.
We were a movie watching household, obviously, and I can’t remember what movie we always found ourselves watching where they quote that poem “Do not go gentle into that good night / Rage, rage against the dying of the light,” but Dad and I would always try to remember which poet wrote that, and we’d always start out thinking it was Byron.
Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that during the funeral of this kid in this movie who died just like I knew, like everyone who ever has seen or will see this movie knew he was going to, I remembered that poem and I looked it up and it made me cry.
It’s Dylan Thomas.