‘…disillusioned words like bullets bark, as human gods aim for their mark; don’t fear if you hear a foreign sound to your ear. It’s alright, Ma, I’m only sighing…’ Bob Dylan
In my last blog, I wrote about having a ‘knack’ for writing eulogies because I’d written so many. Never did I think I would be writing one this month for a dearly loved younger family member. The phrase ‘such is life’ doesn’t describe the shock and ache felt upon learning he was and is no more in any conventional sense. This is my attempt to eulogize an exceptional, complicated man.
When I first met David, he was sporting a mullet, and his lip curled ever so slightly when he talked—like Elvis. He smoked like a Siberian chimney, and appreciated fresh brewed coffee. He asked lots of great questions and was willing to try new things—except for escargot. I thought he had the makings of a quirky news reporter or a rock star. Even way back then, he wore his skinny jeans with a sharp press down the middle. I suspected he kept a clean pair pressed between the mattress and box spring of his bed.
Like his father, it was hard for David to sit still, unless something captivated his attention. A large Margarita, juicy steak, racy movie, or interesting topic of conversation could put the man in perpetual motion in chill mode. When he smiled, his eyes brightened and his mouth formed a perfect half-moon. We joked that perhaps he should have a bat for a pet since both of then kept similar hours.
Both tough and tender are words that describe this man. Apologetic is also an apt word. He preferred casual to formal anything, although I recall the Cheshire grin on his face when he donned a suit and dined with us at a five star restaurant in Nashville. I also recall his green round the gills look when his dad chartered a fishing boat for the day in Myrtle Beach. On another occasion, at a fancy Japanese Steak House, where we sat on cushions, and everyone parked their boots outside, he engaged in a contest with another guest. A seven year old girl and David competed in balancing spoons on their noses while the chef flipped food in the air. He let the girl win outright, or was perhaps persuaded to stop by the melting ice in his paper umbrella topped drink.
He had many job titles but I don’t think he took any of his jobs too seriously. However, if someone had offered him a permanent job as a race car driver, mechanical bull rider, or Tennessee wild life documentary maker, that might have changed. David had baggage; it didn’t fit neatly into one valise. You could often tell where he’d been because he left an interesting trail of odd things. He loved surprises and even when he peeked into a bag of presents before it was time, he could fake being amazed with the best of them. At a turkey day get together in Knoxville, David started pulling the wrapping paper off gifts—meant for a woman. He scratched his head but it didn’t deter him. Finally, someone told him he had the wrong bag of goodies. To make me laugh, he occasionally quoted George Carlin, ‘I’m messy but need a place for my stuff—or a smaller version of it. I’m a high tech low life; I’m over the edge, pushing the envelope and under the radar; I’m double wrapped and vacuum packed; I take power naps.’
This unapologetic son of the South shed a tear when we watched The Color Purple. We agreed purple could represent a bruise or hope. We had differing views on several 90’s films: Dumb and Dumber, Scream, Terminator 2, and Wayne’s World. Like Tom Cruise in Top Gun, David had a need for speed and several of you were ‘his wingmen (or wingwomen).’ Together he and I viewed an 80’s favorite of mine The Big Chill. A line he sometimes repeated was ‘I feel I was at my best when I was with you people.’ The plot is a bit like what’s happening now. People have gathered to grieve and memorialize one of their own, who died willfully, rather than of old age or by slipping on a banana peel. “Wow,” he said to me after watching the movie, “you and my dad really lived through the 60’s and all that Motown music.” I replied I preferred the Mersey Beat to Motown, but we both liked the movie’s opening song by the Stones, You Can’t Always Get What You Want.
At times, the man who has now been ‘reinterpreted,’ was difficult to fathom, but had an amazing knack for interpreting certain song lyrics, unusual tastes and flavors, and what an engine’s knocking sound meant. He was captivated by a Dylan poster I’d tacked on a wall so I gave him the poster. It said ‘he who is not busy being born is busy dying.’ It was from a line in Dylan’s song It’s Alright, Ma, I’m Only Bleeding. Over the years, he’d hum a line or two from the song, like ‘it’s only life’ and ‘if you hear me don’t fear me.’ Ever curious and imaginative, I like to think he’s gone on before us to test or explore the waters and landscape of the absolute elsewhere.
A few years after we’d met, we watched a quirky movie called Love Streams starring John Cassavetes. His character said ‘when someone dies, love stops for a second; then the heart rewinds and resumes. It accepts there will always be things we can’t or won’t know the why of…’ I am diminished by David’s passing and mindful of what Kahlil Gibran said: ‘What brings sorrow also brings joy, as the cup that holds your wine was burned in the potter’s oven; for what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and melt into the sun? I’m not resigned, will never let you taper into time. I will always remember you David. By the way, the sun shower you sent when I asked for a sign was a really nice touch.