For a couple of weeks, I haven’t wanted to do anything. My exhaustion goes all the way to the 90-mile horizon and back. I’m getting plenty of sleep but still want more. Understandable, perhaps, in light of the end of the year-long effort to empty and sell two mobile homes 600 miles away filled with furniture, coupons, family treasures, and crap.
But it’s more than that. You know it is.
I’ve been tensed up forever, just like my old man. Even when he “relaxed,” it made you nervous. He looked out for us, but approval had conditions, and I often wondered where I stood. Sometimes he felt oppressed by fate or circumstances. While the Air Force and his family meant lot to him, he also wanted things he must have thought he couldn’t have. (More rank, respect, another life, another woman?) When I went to college in the ‘60s and declared the rules were obsolete, it hurt him in a fundamental way. One Christmas my sister hit him with astrology on top of going on about the war and scared him half to death. Either would have done it, frankly. When I supported her, he looked at us as if he thought we ought to be committed.
Believe it or not, my parents later sort of tried. They sanctioned lying and abuse from a family shrink to get me to change the way I looked—and presumably believed—even after I was 23 and married. The idiot thought every longhair was a repressed homosexual. His own son committed suicide! He meddled with my draft board and employer (a junior college). There was no one I could turn to.
Emotionally, I had to live like I was on the fucking lam. I got divorced. I ran away to Austin every weekend. My stash was buried by a rock beside the highway 20 miles outside of where I lived, so I could pick it up and drop it off on every trip. I can’t believe they never caught me, zooming down the back roads in my VW bus. The damn past, rising like a mist down in the holler after sunset.
He died at 67, lung cancer raging in his chest—got the news at Christmas, gone by April 10th in 1987. I buried the ashes by myself. My mother lived for 25 more years. We locked her up a year ago until she died on April 3rd. Her ashes are in my pickup truck, but not for long. I’ll tuck the box in the storage unit until I can drive us back to Maryland and dig another hole, underneath the pine tree, where the big stone that says “FARR” lies covered in bird poop and sap.
But it’s over now, all of it. Everything I fought against and ran from. All the shit I had to shovel, all the good times, too. OVER. Sanctified by the ritual of the last 12 months. And none of them can hurt me any more, to state it plainly. This is quite the feeling. On top of that, I feel virtuous as hell, since I also did the hero-good-son thing and cleaned the whole mess up. Physically and administratively, I mean. I was perfect for the role, even the blood on the floor—as if this was why they had me. Imagine that. And now, completely on its own, some unseen business straightens its shoulders and begins to work. This is not at my direction. What does that tell you about the world?
I don’t know why I remembered my father this time. Credit the unseen business. But I feel good. My wife cracked what we can call a “test joke” yesterday and was astonished that I laughed. She needn’t be, but this is what I mean: I can’t believe that I’m still here. I can’t believe there isn’t any test to pass. I can’t believe I’ve never rested, either, without feeling guilty, so no wonder I’m exhausted.
I just can’t believe that everything’s all right.