A Young Man’s Strange Erotic Journey Around the Globe

One Year After Part II - Life After Death Chapter 40 – One Year After

Chapter 40 – One Year After

In my family, we like to “celebrate” fractional birthdays. When I say celebrate, I mean my siblings, my parents and I send texts to one another sayin stupid shit like, “Happy half-birthday!” or “Check out my man, 5/12ths birthday boy!” or “Has anyone ever called you fractional birthday girl before?” and other stuff like that. And the objective is to be the first one to wish the other sibling or parent (or in my parents’ case, child) a happy fractional birthday. As a nurse working the night shift, my sister often had the advantage and would wish everyone their happy fractional birthday as soon as the clock strikes 12, and this would give her the right to brag about bein “the only good kid.” Some people might think this is “gay” or “dumb,” but it’s what we do. It started as a joke to make fun of one of my brother’s classmates from grade school whose parents threw him a half-birthday party so he wouldn’t feel like all the attention was bein focused on his recently-born little sister and has evolved over the years into what it is today. Man…I can’t believe that the half-birthday party that started it all was like twenty-five years ago already. Time really does fly. It’s crazy. But anyway, that established, here I just wanted to share a short unedited text message conversation I had with my dad back on July 26, 2018, when I was still in the Air Force studying Arabic at the Defense Language Institute out in California.

Dad (around 7:20pm Pacific Time): How you doing in Monterey half birthday dude?

Tim: Hey man, I’m good. How’ve you been doing?

Dad: Good. I’m getting about 6 miles walking in every day that I don’t. work.

Tim: Wow, damn. That’s a lotta miles.

Tim: How’s work goin?

Dad: Work is good and I’m not wooking I get out and do a couple miles with my I pod.i

Tim: Ah okay, that sounds like a good routine

Dad: It is. I know a lot of people on my walks and they always say hi Dan How are you doing today?

Tim: And all your dog friends are there too!

Dad: I don’t like the dogs too much but I hate the bike riders that speed past me and say on your left.

Tim: Yeah, fuck those guys

Dad: You got that right. I don’t like the little kids with their parents always ringing their bells and saying on your left.

Tim: Yeah, sounds pretty rude of the

Tim: them*

Dad (several hours later, after I’d already been asleep): Sorry I didn’t get back to I almost dropped my phone

Tim (the following morning): It’s okay man. Don’t worry about it. Hope you have a good day.

Now, I don’t know if you’ll recall, but way back in one of the earlier chapters – “Chapter 4 – The Man I Know as Miles” to be specific – I was explaining about my dad’s daily habit of goin for walks in the Bunker Hill woods near our house on the far northwest side of Chicago. In that chapter, I also talked about the interactions he’d have with other people he’d meet over there then come home and tell me about. Out of everyone, his favorite people to run into on the path’d been “Mike and Judy and little Elvis” – that’s the way he’d always say it. Mike and Judy are a couple probably somewhere in their fifties I’d say and Elvis is their bite-size ankle-nipper of a pup that my dad actually liked in spite of – as he himself said in our text convo – not liking any of the dogs he’d regularly see out on the trail. My dad and them were buddies, and a couple days after he’d died on May 11th of 2020 – it musta been the same day or the day after we’d submitted his obituary and photo to the staff at Cooney Funeral Home to post on their website – they’d somehow heard the news and printed up the obituary/photo and taped it to one of the trees right next to the path that my dad’d walk back and forth on several times a day. At first, we actually didn’t know it was them who put it up. We thought maybe it was one of my dad’s sisters, but when they said it wasn’t them, we had no idea what to think. But then my dad’s one sister Kathy who lives in the area did a little investigating on this neighborhood-based, social media type website called Nextdoor Edgebrook and found out it was “some guy named Michael and his wife Judy. Do you guys know who that could be?” she asked and our eyes lit up when we heard this. “That’s gotta be Mike and Judy and little Elvis!”

About three or four days after having solved that little mystery’d been the day of the private little covid-restricted funeral service we had for my dad over at Cooney’s in Park Ridge. After the service, about twenty or twenty-five of my cousins and aunts and uncles from my dad’s side of the family joined me, my brother, my sister and my mom for an honorary lap over in the woods. As we were walkin along, everyone stopped in front of the tree with the obit on it and crowded around to catch a glimpse and pay their respects as if it were some sort of religious pilgrimage site. While we were all there, someone suggested we take a group photo. I mean, we all had masks on, but given the fact that everyone was supposed to be social distancing at the time, most other walkers on the trail avoided our big group like the plague. That said, we were eventually able to stop a stranger who wasn’t afraid of germs to take one of our cell phones and snap a few quick pics for us. After that, we kept walkin down to the corner of Caldwell and Devon the way my dad always would, then turned around and went back the other way.

On our way out of the woods, once our lap’d been finished, when we’d been walkin back out into the parking lot across the street from the corner of Tonty and Caldwell, there’d been a man and a woman with a little dog headin right for us, makin their way into the woods. I was walkin next to my mom at the time and she was like, “Do you think that’s them – could that be Mike and Judy?” And I was like, “Eh, I dunno. A lotta people walk in these woods, so…what are the odds, ya know?” But sure enough, she decided to ask and it turned out to be them – Mike and Judy and little Elvis in the flesh. Like, I’d been hearin about these people for so long in my dad’s stories, it felt very strange to finally put some faces to the names, ya know what I mean? And they musta felt the same way about us because – although they never woulda recognized us by our appearance alone – they knew me, my brother, my sister and my mom by name and knew what we were all up to with our lives from all the times my dad’d stopped to talk with ‘em out there in the woods. They told us how nice of a man my dad was and we thanked them for posting Dad’s sign. Following a few minutes of idle chatter, we each went our separate ways.

Even though Mike and Judy’d adhered that eight-by-eleven piece of computer paper to the tree really well with what appeared to be clear packing tape, it proved to be no match for the spring rains which soon had their way with it, soaking the paper, causing all the ink to start running down, and leaving my dad’s photo lookin like somethin out of a horror movie or a bad acid trip. I’m not sure who, but someone eventually ended up taking it down.

At certain points all along what’s known as the North Branch Trail System, there’re these benches where you can sit and relax and look at all the deer that’re always around, and enjoy the peacefulness of the surrounding nature. Some of these benches have little plaques on ‘em on the part you’d rest your back up against and some don’t. All those that do are usually dedicated to one person or another – probably now deceased – from their loved ones. In the time right after my dad’s passing, it just so happened that one of the benches along the stretch of woods that he loved to walk every day didn’t yet have a plaque on it. My sister thought that – unlike a paper obit on a tree – this would be a really cool, more permanent way to honor Dad out there in a place where he loved to spend a lot of his time. She wanted to scoop it up before anyone else did, and started doin a little research. She found out it’s called the “Adopt a Bench” program and costs a thousand bucks a pop. She saw the one she wanted was still available and told me, my mom and my brother that she was gonna do it either way, but if any of us wanted to help chip in, it’d be greatly appreciated. I honestly wasn’t too jazzed about the idea at first. I mean, to me, that was the whole point of opting for cremation – like, I didn’t want my dad to become a physical place I’d hafta worry about maintaining or feel obligated to visit or anything like that. I just kinda wanted to give his physical form back to the universe, scattering his ashes in a few of his favorite places – the woods included – and just be able to visit him in my mind whenever I felt like it. So, that said, I think I only ended up donating a hundred bucks towards the cause.

So anyway, Teresa ended up adopting that particular bench and then the deadline was approaching for what we wanted the plaque to say, and she had no fuckin idea what to put. So, she asked us on our family group chat on Whatsapp if anyone had any ideas. I was headin out to wash some windows that day and got the text on the way to my first job. I didn’t immediately have any suggestions, but got to thinkin about it as I got to work washin the windows. I don’t typically carry my phone with me while I work – I usually just leave it in the truck – and that day was no exception. At one point, I came up with somethin I thought everybody might like and made a special trip out to the truck to share my idea with the fam, then left my phone out there and got back to work. Later, when I went back out to the truck for lunch, I checked my phone and saw that my mom and Danny said they liked it.  My sister said that she liked it too, but also said it was too long as per the listed requirements on the Cook County Forest Preserve website. Then I saw in a subsequent text that my brother’d shaved off a word or two here and there, turning what I’d written into, “In loving memory of Dan Lally – Life’s a walk in the woods. Rain or shine, appreciate each step along the way.” Teresa said that that version did fit the requirements and everyone agreed that that’s what the plaque would read. So basically, I threw up the alley-oop and my brother slam-dunked it.

So, eventually – I dunno, maybe a couple months later – they put that plaque on the bench and all my dad’s relatives regularly visit it now and some of his old window washing customers who live in the area tell me they’ve seen it out there too, and I hafta admit, it’s pretty cool. Everyone seems to enjoy it. I mean, I still maintain the belief that my dad is not a bench, but I’ve actually made the habit of goin up and touchin the thing each time I walk past it – that is, when it’s unoccupied; cuz like, I don’t wanna creep anyone out, ya know? Since his death and since I can no longer text him stupid shit the way I used to for each and every one of his fractional birthdays, I’ve made the habit of goin to “visit him” in the woods on the sixth of every month and walkin a lap on his favorite route. It takes about an hour to do and – rain, shine, snow or ice – as of writing this, I haven’t yet missed a “seis of the mes,” postmortem fractional birthday of his out on the trail.

My mom said that – even though her nursing home had super tight covid restrictions – my dad’s sisters managed to take my grandma outta there one day last summer and get her over to the woods to see the bench, and to sit there and relax on it for a while. She loved it. She thought it was great. I mean, she’d had a pretty tough year, ya know what I mean? Like, within a 12-month period, in addition to losing her second-oldest son – my dad – she’d also lost her two remaining siblings. And beyond those major blows, she was dealin with some other difficult life changes on top it. Ya see, until a couple years ago when Grandma fell and broke her hip – I believe it was the same year my dad fell off of that roof if I’m not mistaken, 2018 – she’d always been a very active lady, volunteering for stuff at the church and goin out to visit with different friends and relatives every single day and all that typa stuff. With that accident, she lost a lot of that independence and started relying on the help of her children – mostly my aunts – more and more. Eventually, a year after the accident give or take – and not just because of Grandma’s hip but also because Grandpa was startin to become a bit of a handful, gettin up in the middle of the night and doin odd things that could possibly result in injury – they had to sell the house they’d been livin in and relocate to the aforementioned nursing facility. Although that in itself was a tough adjustment for Grandma, at least she could still have regular visitors, and come and go from the facility whenever she pleased. That all changed eight months into their residence there when covid struck and the place was suddenly locked down tighter than Alcatraz.  Ever since all those rules’d been put in place, Grandma hadn’t been doin too well all cooped up for so long with nothing but her grief and an ever increasingly demented husband to keep her company. I think it was for these exact reasons she was so happy to be able to get outta there for a bit to go breathe in some fresh air out in the woods and to spend the afternoon sitting on my dad’s bench.

Later that year, a few days before Christmas in December of 2020, me and my mom’d taken Grandma to one of her doctor appointments and, on the way back to the nursing home, we stopped at a Walgreens where my mom ran in to pick up some prescriptions. From the driver seat, I looked at Grandma in the rearview mirror and asked her what her plans were for the 25th. She said she didn’t know – maybe just watchin some Christmas movies in their little apartment at the nursing home, because nobody could get together with all that covid stuff still goin on. She started talkin about what a crazy year it’d been, and commented to me how the death of my dad and her siblings’d been weighin quite heavily on her, and how she just didn’t have much of an appetite anymore. I mean, she was struggling with a few minor health issues, but nothin really serious, ya know – like, nothin that was gonna kill her…at least that’s what the doctors were sayin. They said she was depressed and gave her some medicine for that, but even so, she still just didn’t wanna eat anything. And as the months went by, she kept losin more and more weight. By April of 2021, I think she was down to under ninety pounds and my dad’s siblings were all startin to talk about hospice care and gettin everybody in there to the nursing home to see her one last time before she goes – not together as a group (though she woulda like that; she loved seein all her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren in the same place at the same time) but in pairs and individually, in accordance with the current covid restrictions set in place at Resurrection Nursing Home.

Grandma ended up passing away on May 4th which was a Tuesday and just one week shy of the one-year anniversary of my father’s death. I can’t remember if it was Saturday or Sunday, but me and my brother got over there to say goodbye during the final weekend before she slipped away. Unlike his and my goodbye visit to our dad almost a year beforehand when he was pretty much braindead and only bein kept alive by the machines he’d been hooked up to, Grandma was surprisingly with it – as sharp as ever. Even as she lay there on her deathbed, as always, she was still on top of what was goin on in the lives of all her twenty-somethin grandchildren. That said, in spite of her mental acuity, she appeared extremely gaunt – like, shockingly so. I mean, she was thin back in December when me and my mom’d taken her to that doctor’s appointment, but now she was just skin and bones. Me and Danny could tell right from the start how exhausted she was and told her we didn’t wanna take up too much of her time and energy. She said she was glad to see us and wanted us to hang out there with her for a bit, but she warned…

“I apologize in advance if I fall asleep on you guys,” she said. “Sometimes lately it’s been hard for me to stay awake.”

We told her that it wouldn’t be any trouble at all. She replied that when our Uncle Tom’d been there visiting the other day, he was talkin so much that she just couldn’t help it and fell asleep right in the middle of a story he was tellin. I laughed and thought of the story that my family’d told me about my dad back when he fell offa that roof a couple years ago when I was away in the military. They said that Dad was super agitated and didn’t know where he was, but refused to sleep and kept tryin rip his IVs out and climb out of his bed to go to the bar or to go smoke a cigarette or whatever, but then Uncle Tom visited and started talkin and suddenly Dad was out cold, snoring away.

Grandpa came into the room at one point. Beyond stickin our heads into the living room area and sayin hi real quick, Danny and I didn’t really talk to him when we entered into their little apartment. Like, Aunt Kathy let us in and we made a beeline straight for Grandma’s bedroom because she had a lotta people to see during those last few days and we didn’t wanna monopolize her time and mess up the visiting schedule. I mean, it’s not like we weren’t plannin on chatting with Grandpa for a few minutes after having seen Grandma, but I guess he was gettin bored of sittin out in the living room watchin TV with Aunt Kathy, so…he decided to crash the party. As he inched his way into the bedroom using his walker for support, he gave the two of us a generic greeting then playfully grabbed my grandma’s toes at the end of the bed and said, “Eh, she’s fakin it!”

“Faking it? Ha!” Grandma let out a weak laugh.

Grandpa started talkin to us about somethin totally irrelevant, but I don’t remember what. We talked with him for a minute or two about general stuff goin on in our lives and how we couldn’t believe it was almost a year since our dad died, and by the end of the interaction it still remained unclear to me as to whether or not he understood who we were. Like, I could tell he was very aware that Dan was his son, and that Dan was dead, but I don’t think he caught on that the two of us standin there before him were Dan’s sons. I mean, as I mentioned, he’d been losin his mind for some time now. My cousin Jack said that on the night my dad died, his mom Peggy was over there with our grandparents and that Grandpa had this stream of lucidity during which he talked about my dad when he was growin up and when they were on the fire department together, and then at the end of it, he raised the glass of water he was drinkin and gave a toast. So, he was on-and-off back then, but I’d say he’d gotten considerably worse in the almost-year since my dad’s passing and is more off than on these days. Like, a few months after Grandma died, my mom and sister went over to visit him and he had no idea who either one of ‘em were and he told ‘em so directly, but’d at least done so in a friendly manner, and proceeded to talk with ‘em for over half-an-hour. Obviously I’m not the one that’s over there takin care of him all the time and can’t say for sure, but from what I can gather, at least he seems to be one of those relatively pleasant-mannered senile dudes who’s happy to chat with whoever about whatever and not one of those angry old dickheads yellin and swearin at everybody all the time. Anyway, that said, at the end of our little chat, Grandpa left us with the line, “Alright Marie, I’ll leave ya in here with the men – you always were a flirt!”

A flirt?” Grandma laughed again as Grandpa scooted outta the room. “He’s crazy.”

Not long after Grandpa’s departure, Grandma said to me that she still has the Compostela I’d given her the year before, sittin around there somewhere in her room. Since this ain’t exactly what I’d call common knowledge, a Compostela is a certificate sayin that someone has successfully completed this long walk called the Camino de Santiago in Spain. The Camino is considered a religious pilgrimage of Medieval origin in the Catholic faith, and although I wasn’t necessarily walkin the trail for religious purposes, I was nonetheless granted one of these Compostelas for having completed the 1000-kilometer hike from the south to the north of Spain in January and February of 2020 just before the pandemic struck. And like, Grandma was really religious and’d gone on several pilgrimages of her own in her day – she’d paid homage at Fatima in Portugal, Lourdes in France and even Medjugorje in Bosnia and Herzegovina – so I thought dedicating my walk to her’d be a nice thing to do. So, upon my return, I wrote her a letter and gave her my certificate, sayin that I’d earned it in her honor.

“One of these days,” she said out her once round but now skeletal face, “I gotta get that thing framed and hung up on the wall in here.”

After all the small talk was outta the way, Grandma wanted to say a thing or two to us about our dad.

“He was a pretty good guy, wasn’t he?” she said. “Most of the time, anyway…” she answered her own question, “…when he wasn’t bein so goofy.”

Every time we had a problem with my dad over the years, Grandma was one person we knew we could always rely on to help us out. My mom knew that come hell or high water with my old man and his crazy bullshit – be it another injury, another stint in rehab, whatever – Grandma would never turn her back on us and’d always been only one call away.

“I just wish there was something more I could’ve done for him.”

Not long after that, we said to Grandma that we didn’t wanna take up any more of her time and energy because we knew she had a lotta people that wanted to come visit her. We went back out to the living room of the apartment and our Aunt Kathy – who’d pretty much been living in there with Grandma and Grandpa during this time – went in the bedroom to be with Grandma. Before leaving, as I mentioned we would, we took a couple minutes to stand there and chitchat with Grandpa. I still don’t think he knew who we were, but that didn’t stop him from tellin us how worried he was that somethin was gonna happen to Grandma. He said he’s not as strong as he used to be and wouldn’t be able to carry her to the hospital. We did as much as possible to ease his mind before bidding him adieu. On our way to the door, we took one last peek into Grandma’s bedroom. She was now sitting up in a rocking chair. She smiled, waved and said she loved us. We did the same and then headed out the door.

Grandma’s wake was on Friday, May 7th at Cooney Funeral Home in Park Ridge and then the funeral was the following day at Our Lady of Victory church in Jefferson Park. Unlike the year beforehand at Cooney when we had a really tiny limited-occupancy service for my dad because of covid, here we were able to pack the room out with hundreds of people and give her a proper Irish-style send-off. The mass the next day was very nice, and my cousin Thomas did a great job delivering a eulogy that was collectively written by a buncha the cousins on a shared Google Doc – the theme being all the things for which Grandma had been known and would be remembered.  Outside the church, a bagpiper awaited a few of my male cousins and I to carry the casket down and set it in the back of the hearse. We then drove over to the cemetery where we placed the casket over the grave into which it would be lowered after each of the grandkids set a rose on top. A prayer was said and Grandma was lowered into the ground.

I think it’s at this time – when the casket’s bein lowered into the ground – that everyone normally disperses and starts walkin over to their respective vehicles and headin to wherever the funeral luncheon’ll be held, but neither the priest nor the funeral director gave us any indication to do so, so everybody just kinda stood there around the grave. A couple impatient cemetery workers who’d been waitin nearby with a truck full of dirt essentially told us to get the fuck outta the way. So like the Red Sea parting at Moses’s behest, the crowd of those mourning the loss of my grandmother split in two, and one of the guys put the truck in reverse and rolled over a couple adjacent graves on his way to my grandma’s. The other guy’d been standin next to Grandma’s grave tellin the driver to keep backin up, keep backin up, keep backin up, annnnnnnnd stop. I don’t think we were supposed to be seein any of this, but no one turned away. We all stood and stared at these dirty sweaty workers pouring and packing down hundreds of pounds of dirt on top of the box containing my grandmother’s body.

So then right after that disturbingly macabre scene, we all went over to some place called the Wildwood Tavern for the funeral luncheon. The food was fine or whatever and I sat and talked to some cousins whom I hadn’t seen in at least a couple years. Then towards the end of the luncheon, when we were about to leave, Uncle Tom was helpin Grandpa make his rounds, goin from table to table and thanking everyone for coming. At one point they came up to our table where I’d been sittin with my mom, my siblings and a few of the aforementioned cousins. I don’t think Grandpa knew who any of us were, but what he said to us was that, “She was the best woman I ever knew. She never did anything wrong. Anything that ever happened in that house was my fault. It was me thinkin to myself, ‘I gotta get outta this.’ None of it was ever her fault.”

Now, I can’t be sure exactly what Grandpa was talkin about when he made that “I gotta get outta this” comment, but figured he was referrin to the time when he left my grandma and the kids to go live with another woman for the better part of a decade. I of course never heard this from the mouth of my dad who’d never talk to me about anything that’d ever happened in his house while growin up, but my mom’d filled me in back when my dad first started gettin outta control around our house and I became her shoulder to cry on. I was told that while Grandpa was gone, no one was allowed to say a word about it. Like, anytime someone called the house or came to the door lookin for my grandpa, instead of sayin he was gone, the kids’d just hafta say that he wasn’t home or somethin like that in order to keep up the appearance of bein a big happy family. I think this large-scale cover-up scheme’d been masterminded by my grandmother in an attempt to save herself from the shame of havin been abandoned after giving this man eight children. I don’t know for sure though, because like I said, Dad never opened up to me about anything. And there at the funeral luncheon, I didn’t feel like askin Grandpa to elaborate on that episode or askin him why he had to be such an asshole in general to everyone in his family over the years.

Like, I figured it just doesn’t mean anything at this point, ya know? Like, all of that stuff. I’m tired of the narrative. At this point, it’s just like…to be honest, I just don’t give a fuck anymore. Perhaps thirty, forty years ago if my dad’d heard those words – heard Grandpa say, “Anything that ever happened in that house was my fault,” – it mighta made a difference in his life. Maybe he wouldn’t have hated himself so much and been so depressed all the time. Maybe he wouldn’t have felt the need destroy himself with all the booze, cigs and doctor-prescribed happy pills over the years. Maybe my parents’ marriage wouldn’t have been so shitty and my life growin up wouldn’t have been such a rickety rollercoaster ride because of it. Maybe Dad’d still be alive to walk my sister down the aisle at her wedding a month from now. Or maybe not. Like, who the fuck knows?

“I don’t think I’ll get remarried,” was the last part I remember hearin of my 90-year-old grandpa’s rambling goodbye to us at his wife’s funeral, “but ya never know.”

The third day after my grandma’s service was the one-year anniversary of my dad’s death. Believe it or not, as I’m writin this – which is now closer to a year and four months at this point – I still see the guy in my dreams almost every night. A couple days ago, my dad and I’d been in different places, but we were textin each other photos of ourselves drinkin these Three 6 Mafia brand milkshakes. My dad never took a selfie in his life, and as far as I know, Da Mafia 6ix ain’t in the milkshake-makin business. Then just last night, I met him in an Irish pub for a drink. He had a beer and I had a whisky neat with a glass of water on the side. In real life, I haven’t had a drink for over two years. I haven’t officially quit or anything, it’s just that I haven’t had a craving for alcohol at all in any given situation. That said, if the only way I could spend a bit more time with Dad was by gettin totally fucked up alongside him, then hell…I’d sit there and take down the whole bottle.

Anyway, on the day of the one-year anniversary, my mom invited my dad’s siblings and’d wanted us kids to get up early and go to church that morning because they were gonna announce my dad’s name in the “We pray for…” part of the mass. Honestly, I was pretty churched-out after my grandma’s funeral, but went anyway just to make my mom happy. I mostly stared off into space the whole time, and the only thing I remember about that mass was my brother sayin to me about this really heavy-breathin old guy a couple pews back that, “It sounds like we got fuckin Darth Vader behind us.” After that, just like we had the year before, whoever went to the mass all went over to the woods to do another honorary lap on my dad’s route and to say hi to his bench. Unlike the year before, only two or three of my dad’s siblings came out and exactly none of my cousins were there. It was nice or whatever, but when I go the woods, I prefer to go by myself because it’s easier to “visit” with my dad that way. I mean, like…with everyone else around, I’m talkin to them about what’s goin on in their lives or in my life, and I’m not really gettin in touch with old memories I got about my father. I mean…that’s fine. Whatever. It is what it is. It’s nice catchin up with people who are still breathing. I guess those private meetings between me and my dad are what the sixth of the month are for. Speaking of which…

Sometime in the beginning of August 2021 when I was hopin I’d pretty soon be finished writing this book so I could leave the past in the past where it belongs, I got a call from Aunt Kathy sayin that she went for a walk in the woods earlier that day, and that she saw some douchebag gangbanger pussies’d vandalized my dad’s bench with a Sharpie. She was very upset and said that since she knew I liked to go there on the sixth of the month – which was only like two days away – she wanted me to be prepared so the sight wouldn’t shock me the way it did her. I thanked her for calling, told her I’d bring some cleaning supplies with me when I went on the sixth and try to take care of it then. Turns out I didn’t have to. Mike of “Mike and Judy and little Elvis” beat me to the punch and scrubbed it so good, the thing looks like brand new. So, shout out to those guys – you truly were my dad’s best friends in the woods. That said though, before it’d been cleaned up, after I hung up the phone with Aunt Kathy, she sent me a photo of the bench. I saw the shitheads wrote the name of their gang and whatever other stupid bullshit that fuckin losers like that like to do to make their lives feel worth living. Even though I thought it was dumb, I honestly wasn’t that upset by it. I mean, I’m not surprised – cuz like, people are fuckin assholes, ya know? But besides that though, like I said earlier, my dad’s not a bench. So, as I sat there thinkin about how to respond, I ended up typin back to Aunt Kathy that…

“As much as I like to fantasize about hiding out by the bench in the surrounding shrubbery every night just waiting for those guys to come back so I can pop out and shoot ‘em all dead, they’re not worth my anger. My dad’s spirit lives on in me, in the woods and beyond, regardless of what some punk jagoffs scribble on a bench. That’s something that can never be taken away no matter what happens in the physical reality that surrounds us.”