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ISAAC SWIFT

Unnecessary Person

Writings of an Old Man 

I'm not a writer. I figured I would go ahead and clear that up while it's on my mind. No, I'm not an author, a laureate, a poet or a literary savant by any means or sorts. I have never been a person prone to spending long nights compiling the next nationwide bestseller, nor have I found interest studying stacks ďhow toĒ material. Teaching a struggling sponge of a mind the ins and outs of grammar usage, punctuation and use of dialogue wasn't something I went after.

I must have missed my calling when it came to that sort of thing. I have still found myself from time to time imagining being in the position. I can see myself at that age now. A squirrel-like, pencil thin young man--probably with a few patches of scruff on my chin to give myself the illusion of adulthood--pouring through a library soaking up every ounce of knowledge I can while juggling a part time gig and various co-eds. I am prone to dream, Now more than I ever have. Dreaming keeps my mind intact.

I was saying before that I am not a writer. I write down notes on napkins and pieces of tissue so I don't forget what I wrote. I write quite small so I can fill up quite a bit of space regardless of the room I have to work with. I know nothing about writing. I can write sentences, but I don't think that really qualifies as ďwritingĒ. This isn't writing to me. This is soul therapy. I figure any book editor would have a field day with my mind's imprint. Why the hell do I care anyways.

 I sometimes forget my thoughts easily and I don't tend to keep a notebook stuffed down the front of my pants. I make do with whatever the medium may be, usually napkins I haven't blew my nose on yet. Sometimes I remember to bring a small notepad when I go to the park, but i rarely leave prepared anymore. At least my pen to paper can prove I was here at one point in time. The fact that these lines were created means I left something behind. When I am gone, I wonder how long my words will stick around? Desks are all cleaned out eventually.

Things tend to make me a lot more sad than they used to. Just the thought of the subject crossing my mind does it to me. Of course, this is something society likes to roll their eyes at. When the world peeks through a window and it sees a widowed old man, it rushes to assume. It's like being comforted by someone who has no grounds to relate. The younger generations always assume they know so much more than what they came from, but if they live to be my age they will gain much more than just wisdom. Perspective trumps wisdom, it's no longer the outsider looking in at that point. We always assume we've learned everything once we've taken a few steps outside the crib. It's only once we're standing over gravestones that we realize that our arrogance precedes us. It's funny to think of now. I am starting to ramble.

My hands ache after a while and I have to wait for the ache to cease. I can only spill myself onto paper in segments. Sometimes the wait is too long, and I have forgotten what I was even going to write. I am old, after all. Another stereotype that people seem to press on people of my age-bracket. An intelligent mind realizes that everything that lives breaks down with time. Even minds wind down like forgotten clocks.

I find myself waking up and wondering where Marla is. I have to think for a minute and realize she isn't her anymore. After all these years it still comes a shock to me, strangely enough. My wife Marla and I were married for over fifty years. I still live in the house we made our home in. I bought this place for cheap. It was a fixer upper and I only had a few coins to rub together. I can still hear the hammers pounding and the annoying buzz or the circular saw. Oh, these floors have had the ghosts of many footsteps stomp across them through the decades.

 

My brothers helped me fix up this house, and I was lucky to have their help. Family isn't as strong of an element as it once was, but in my day it was essential to survival. All thatís left is me now, save my younger brother Tony. You can't really call him living, though. Heís on an oxygen tank and can barely tell night from day. I still thank God that I was one of the lucky ones. Though I think the devil makes his own version of hell for every man when they get older.

I have three sons, all born two years apart. I raised all of them together under this roof with Marla, seeing them off into adulthood. Greg lives in Seattle with his boyfriend. He's our oldest. He was never really what I hoped he would have been, but Iím not the type of man to hate his children. I hear from Greg a few times a week. We've remained the closest out of all of my boys. Anyone who meets Greg is automatically drawn to his warm bedside manner.

Greg works for a computer company in Tacoma. He and his boyfriend--I think his name is Tim--seem to have made a good living as a couple. I can't remember what Tim does for a living, though I'm sure he wouldn't hold it against me. Heís a nice enough man and always has good things to say. Greg has a daughter named Dana. Her mother, Kim, has been out of the picture since Dana was around two. She's a drunk, and a person the world would be much better off without. God smites the good ones and leaves the disease to walk around the earth. I don't really understand that notion and I doubt anyone else really does either.

Dana is a sweet girl from what I remember but I haven't heard from in her quite some time. I feel she may be on drugs or be in some sort of trouble, but it's only a guess. Greg has always been one to coat rough subjects, it's just his nature. As far as I know she still lives in Washington State, but I may be wrong. I can only hope for the best in that case.

Our middle son is named David, and he lives in Texas with his wife Heather. David's an asshole and he never calls me. His wife is nice enough but I haven't seen her in over ten years. They send Christmas cards each year and I watch through photographs as the grandchildren I don't know grow older, all the while my son and daughter-in-law grow farther from me. A father can only raise and guide a child. He can't pick the person they decide to be. If I had to speak honestly, I like Greg more than David. At least Greg knows my birthday.

David owns his own company which he started from the ground up, which he makes quite a living off of. David has always been the type of person who has something to prove, something which I have never been able to get my head around. He was raised the same way all my other sons were and was given the equal of treatment. I guess being a middle child is suffocating growing up, I canít figure it out any other way. They grow up feeling like the attention is spent being hard on the oldest and being soft on the youngest. The truth is I donít feel like I viewed my children that way, but if I did I guess it was unintentional. Still that bitter air of victory is something completely foreign to me.

Lester is my youngest son, and he and his family live with me in my house, the same one he grew up in. Lester is a hard worker and provides for his family. He doesnít have the atrocious sums of currency that David has accrued through his vicious climb on the business ladder, but being a tax adviser for a private company he has still managed to keep a healthy salary. I see a bit of myself in him, the sense of labor and provision he operates by. I love my son but I canít help but keep a lingering air of disappointment in him, a feeling that is stronger than any anger a father could have towards a child.

Lester has his flaws, every man does. He's a good worker and good provider, but when he gets stressed keeps it all inside of him. You can talk to him and you can tell in his eyes that he is miles away from everything. I know it puts a strain on his family; it put a strain on our communication through his lifetime and still does today.

I've had a long time to learn about things. The basis of any relationships is one of the things I have had the better part of fifty years to learn about. One of the things I have learned about them through my ages of experience is that lack of communication can be fatal. Most couples have had their share of this from time to time. People don't always speak or interact together on the same level. If people don't talk to each other, address issues, it can rot a family unit away at the base like an infected tooth.

People fight in relationships, and that's healthy. When you fight, you and the other person get your feelings out in the open. From there, you both are on the same level and the communication gap has been bridged. You both know what the problem is and you can work together to solve the problem. If anyone were reading this they would be wondering why I even bother to talk about this. Well, everything I have written, scribbled or scrawled down is about something on my mind. When looking at my son Lester, I think of that communication that is so key to human interaction. He simply shuts down and holds in all of his feelings. He doesn't communicate to his wife, and he doesn't communicate to his family. That kind of behavior is selfish. Itís unnecessary, and the earmark of an unnecessary person. By ignoring your family, a man may think he is just saving them the trouble by hearing his problems, but Iíve come to learn through living that a man has to talk his problems out with the ones he loves, and I don't know if my son ever will. My hand is starting to hurt. I have to stop for now.

It's been a while since I have wrote anything down, and I figured I would go ahead and jot down a few things on my mind. My son Lester has two children. Their names are Ruth and Damon. Ruth is the oldest of the two and as ever the apple of her father's eye as a child could be. She works as a paralegal under one of two lawyers at a law firm; I forget the names of the men. She works hard and, just like her father, keeps all her life issues muted and dumbed down through her career. I did say she was the apple of her father's eye, didn't I? Another air of disappointment that I unfortunately carry.

Ruth lives in an apartment with her boyfriend, Jerry. Or maybe it's John. I don't really know. Either way this boy is as appealing as piss and as caring as vinegar. She always claims that he is "a free thinking" man and a "beater of his own drum". I wish I could beat her father in the head for not guiding her more like I guided him. All the good intentions but all the wrong places. Its times like these I wish I was still young enough to be heard and make a difference. But no one has time to hear you when theyíve decided you donít have a voice anymore. You become the old hound dog who sits in his corner and takes up space.

Why doesn't anyone get married anymore? Did it go out of style or did people stop feeling the need to be held together in a sacred bond? I'm no religious man or bible thumper but I feel if you're going to do something at least do it the right way. That's not a shot at my son, Greg. It isn't legal where he and whatever his name live yet. I'm not being hateful, just speaking my mind.

Meredith, my son Lester's wife, isnít my favorite person in the world but I tolerate her (not that I have much choice in the matter). I wouldn't be unwilling to say that he has definitely worn her down a little bit over the years with his cold, uninviting nature. I think people today sometimes forget that other people are humans and need to be treated that way. If Meredith weren't receiving Lester's attention, she probably wouldn't have busied herself with controlling all aspects of my grandson's life. And burying the two of them so deep into credit debt with televised pyramid schemes that they could never afford their own home. Still, people have flaws, but that is their relationship. I let them live here but I keep out of their business. It will be their home soon enough regardless.

My grandson, Damon, was born after a long delivery process. Like Lester, he was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck leaving him practically blue when he came out. Now, Iím not a doctor, but I know that when you donít get oxygen to the brain that it can cause damage. Damon may have gone maybe thirty seconds without enough oxygen, but that didn't stop the overactive imagination of Meredith from seeing the signs of "ADD" or "ADHD" in his still developing years as a toddler and grade school.

Evidently there are these developmental markers that a kid has to meet nowadays and certain amount of attention and energy a kid has to have in school. If you don't meet the standards, you get to be doped up on whatever medicines these doctors come up with. A kid can't even be a kid anymore without a worried parent rushing them to the doctor and shoving pills down their throat. Luckily when Lester was a child this stuff wasn't around, though you can't really tell a mother in this day and age anything without it being seen as patronizing or vilified. I don't know why the world rots as the years go by. I guess it's the world kindly giving me an invitation to leave. Maybe I should already.

My son Lester was never given medication like Damon was as a kid. That junk wasnít around. Back when I was raising children, if a kid was disobeying or acting up in class they would be spanked or put to work. Both of which Lester and his brothers frequently took part in via me and the schools they attended. Unfortunately, my days of giving order and direction are over. I am no longer a patriarch and I am simply living in my home with my family which I have no control over whatsoever. It's like I am a ghost here and I am occasionally noticed but given not particular attention to. I may as well become part of the aging wallpaper, which in all honesty serves more purpose than I do.

I think my son's general lack of communication with his wife and family started after he realized what a family life was about. In my eyes, he found out that his role was to work as hard as he can to pull in as much money as he can, while making sure his wife and children were taken care of and comfortable.

While a part of this is true, I feel like somewhere along the way that Lester began to misinterpret the ways of playing this role. See, Iíve said before that he and Ruth are similar. They are both similar in the fact that when reacting to stress they only work harder and tend to black everything out around them. It's like they form tunnel vision and they only focus on one thing. What that actual one thing is Iíve never been able to figure out. I wish I could peer into the catacombs deep in their minds and figure it out, but all too close to reality the heavy fog of their somber and calming faces block me out completely.

I haven't really wrote much about Damon, but what I have been writing about Ruth and Lester with their similarities make me think of him. How could it not? Heís as much a prisoner of captive audience as I am. I really do like Damon. I mean to say, I love my family all equality, but I am fond of Damon in particular. He is a very creative and bright young man, and I feel sorry for him. He has the potential to do great things, things he has passion about; reading, writing, sculptures, etc. but Meredith in my opinion unknowingly blocks out his sun.

I'm not a doctor (I think Iíve said this before) but I know that all these medicines that my hypochondriac, over protective daughter-in-law have plagued my grandson's system with have afflicted him rather than healing his so-called "ailments". In my opinion, the doctors who are enabling her vicarious drug seeking behavior are almost as bad as she is. A mind is a sensitive thing and medical degree or not, a mind is always something I have felt that should not be altered with chemicals and potions and other pharmaceutical concoctions. Why are today's leaders and care providers so intent on causing permanent damage to our children? Even the mothers seem to be self-proclaimed doctors.

I know these thoughts and feelings are wholly my own, and that they are probably fated to pass with my aging body, but I feel like if anyone were to read these things, Damon would benefit from them. Well, in a way, all of my family could benefit from my personal feelings on things, but Damon would be the most unbiased of all of them. He is an innocent boy who is wrapped up in his family's own storm cloud.

Sometimes I wake up at night and find myself wondering where I am and if this is really my house. It's like I am in an unfamiliar environment and it startles me. I am not sure if this is me being old and getting "confused" as so many smart ass younger people who don't understand what it means to be old would say or just a part of my mind trying to tell me things.

I think of myself as a fairly open person, one with an open mind. I guess you would call me a liberal. I am open to many ideas and take opinions with a grain of salt, but give them a fair chance while doing so. Lester was always a shoot first and asks questions later kind of person, he has always formed his opinions of people within the first five minutes of meeting them. I guess I like to warm up to people a little before I can ascertain my take on them. I've started rambling and I can tell because when I am starting to get tired and my blood pressure is starting to relax from this odd feeling of wakefulness going into relaxation and back into the throes of exhaustion. I guess I will save the rest of the strength in my hand for when I have something less convoluted to say.

I got a call from my son, David. He told me that he was flying in to visit for Damon's graduation. I told him that I was excited and that I can't wait to see him and the rest of his family. This is true, but the bittersweet nagging in the back of my head is still there; it says that as soon as I start enjoying their stay they will just as soon be leaving. It's a disheartening feeling. The grandchildren I barely know, yet have which I have watched grow through years of Christmas card after the next will come and go like the punctual snows we receive each later fall here. I guess it's kind of hard to get excited about things when I know disappointment is looming around the corner. Modern men would say that's depression, but I just see it as viewing the world around you for how it is.

I have vehemently insisted that I be the one to go pick David and his family up at the airport. I don't like feeling as if I am limited by age. If I was able to raise three boys, pay off a house with renovations doubling the original worth and leave to fight in a war I wanted nothing to do with and still come back an intact man I feel I should be able to drive to the damn airport without rebuttal. I guess they figure my heart will finally give out and I will die rear ending a stranger and they will not be around when it happens leaving me to die alone and they may have a point. But when the fuck did I sign up to relinquish the decisions I make to a committee? Iím starting to get short of breath. I need to take my medicine in lie down. I canít be getting this excited.

There I go. Iíve started writing about things that I'd rather not bring up. That damned war. I am somewhat of a pacifist by nature and feel like most things can be solved without raising your fists at somewhere. Yet the United States government has felt otherwise countless times over the course of its history and I guess my name was a dart threw at a phone book in the office they were sending out draft letters in back then.

 Anyways, I'm not one of those war-torn old men who are bitter about serving their country and talking about the good old days of the service. I did my year of (drafted) duty, was returned home, and continued my life. At least I can use the service as an excuse to go to the doctor for free. Something I was thinking of even back then when I was having my arm twisted behind my back. I keep dazing off my attention to the ceiling of my room. I find myself watching the smoke from my heart problem (cigarettes) furl up into obnoxious curlicues as it finally arrives becoming one with the nicotine-stained yellow streaks which once were white.

I hate it when I ramble. I would like it if I could stick to the point when I write. Anyways, besides my slight rant, I insisted when David called me that I go pick up the family. Of course, when recommending this to Lester and Meredith they immediately came up with excuses. Their compromise was going to get them since Lester and Meredith haven't seen them in so long either and to bring me along while they were at it, killing two birds with one stone. I donít see why I couldnít have just gone by myself. They would have seen them sooner or later anyways. Not being one to really enjoy arguments, I figured Iíd just agree and go with them. Lester has a big SUV and I guess the rest of the family would like to see David and Heather and the girls, too. I figured I would just let this slide.

Every year that passes reminds me how ironic of a position I've let myself fall into. A man works his entire life with the notion he can eventually put his feet up and enjoy what is his, the things he had worked all that time for. I guess I more or less did that? I worked for the postal service for over thirty years. I served three different cities as postmaster and did a damn fine job. My last ten years I received an upgrade to a higher paying administrative position. I guess this was only suiting since the position in question was open because the man in it died of a heart attack at the ripe old age (ha) of fifty-five and my competitor--A co-worker and a friend, rather unfortunately--killed himself with single shot to the head. A funeral which I somberly attended with mixed feelings. Evidently he dealt with his work life a lot worse than Lester does.

During that time I further built up an already healthy 40-1k package; supplementing my personal savings and checking account all the while. I figured I would have some use or plan for the money later on, perhaps buying another home in a more tucked away area. Currently I am still sitting on a good portion of that money and usually take to spending it whenever I don't have anything better to do. Money becomes completely different in view once you've gone back to being a single man, and even more when you are a retired one.

I have long since paid off my house along with several renovations shortly before and since my retirement. My son and his then-fiancť Meredith moved in with me some twenty-seven years ago, when Lester was just a file clerk and Meredith was beginning to show with what would come to be Ruth, at the time an illegitimate lump in her stomach. At the time the two werenít making enough money to stay in their home, so they let the bank foreclose on it and I allowed them to move in with me. Obviously they have since been married (shortly after they moved in, soon after my private talks with Lester) and theyíve lived with me ever since. The credit cards started when Ruth was just four or five, around the same time Lester began to gain promotions with added stress. I should have stepped in then but young couples never listen to anyone. His issues lie in his own choices, not in anything dealing with me.

I keep urging Damon that he should start keeping a diary. I told him it would help give him perspective on things. He went on to tell me that he had been thinking about it for a while and would probably be giving it a try. I usually urge him to do things like this, proactive things. I am the only one in his life trying to push him in the right direction. His father lives in my house as if he was a stranger here and his mother does nothing but insist he take medicines for diseases he doesn't have. Oh lord; Iím not this boyís father, and his father is barely his father. I put in my opinions when I see fit, but what good does it really do?

Damon brought up at dinner recently that he is interested in going to school to be a writer. I was ecstatic with this revelation. Even more ecstatic to hear him come up with a fruitful idea. His mother of course gave her two cents about how he should be pointing his attention into looking at trade schools or working in the local businesses. For a parent she really doesn't have much of a future in mind for her child. Lester of course had little to say about it. I personally feel like he doesn't care one way or the other. He told him if it's what he wanted, and then he guesses it was the thing to do. Could I have raised him any better than this? What have I not done right?

I have decided that I am going to help Damon prepare a bit. I worked out a deal with him. I told him if he can get into a college of his choice and make straight A's his first quarter, I would pay for his education in full. I had agreed to pay for his first fiscal term initially (even though Lester and Meredith might have something to say about this) and beyond that itís up to his work ethic. I think I put him at a loss for words. All he really could do is hug me and say thank you continuously. Other than David coming up to visit, this is one of the first things I can really say Iíve had to look forward to in a while.

I got a call from Greg the other day. He informed me that he would be flying in from Seattle to stay a week for Damon's graduation. Both sons are coming now. With this news, I donít know which one we are supposed to be picking up. Their flights land several hours apart and itís an hour to two hours to the airport in traffic give or take. Plus flights rarely land on time. I guess I will have to talk this over with Lester. Either way, I am going to have all my boys under the same roof. The details are the least important thing on my mind.

When Greg called the other day he told me that he and Jim (not Tim as I had originally thought) were thinking about going to DC while they were out on the east coast and getting married. I didn't know what to say, only that I was happy for him. I've wrote before that I am not a judgmental man. People should live in pursuit of whatever happiness strikes them in their heart of hearts. I only wish for my sons to be happy. For a man from a time as old fashioned as mine it is a very uncommon state of mind. Iíve never really spoke much about my opinions and I think at the time that was probably for the best.

I have never been a free radical or ďnew ageĒ thinker (do people still use these terms?). I just feel like people should let other people be. People should do whatever they feel makes them happy. I feel like a lot of fathers wouldn't feel the same way as I do. I feel like Marla, on the other hand, would be rolling over in her grave if she knew that Greg was gay. Much less getting married to another man. I guess you could say that I and she had different views on these sorts of things. I never openly talked about my feeling about society or my ethical view with my now deceased wife, but I think she had a feeling that I was a fairly-tolerant man to the ways of the world.

Greg went on to tell me that Dana has been spending the past three months in a rehab/halfway house type of program near Spokane. Evidently, my yearning feelings that she was under the influence of drugs wasn't a far stone to throw from the truth. Since she's going to be receiving for the next six to eight months, she will unfortunately not be coming out for the graduation, and evidently the wedding of her father subsequently sometime after. At least she's getting help. I wonder what Marla would say about this. I actually wonder what Marla would think about a lot of things.

I thought I was having a heart attack last night when I went to bed. I had my whole household up in sorts at two in the morning rushing me off to the hospital. It turned out I was having an anxiety attack. Even with my treatment and medication I am only on borrowed time. The doctor told me that I need to find a way to relieve tension in my life and try to find things to relax me. He was rather concerned what with my preexisting condition and all. Of course the doctor went on to ask if I had anything stressing me out, if my medications were being calibrated on a regular basis and whatnot. I told him I was just worried about my family like any old man would be, and that I am sort of worked up over my grandson's upcoming graduation (I left out the part about my son getting, it didn't really seem fitting) and seeing him figure out the next stage of his life. What was to follow was several relieved phone calls exclaiming ďDad's alright, no. It was an anxiety attack. YES, anxiety attack. Yes theyíre monitoring his meds. Yes, heís getting a checkup soon. You too, goodbye.Ē

I was released from the ER later that day with advice to cut out un-needed stress and given the option of possible therapy, which I declined. They wanted to keep my overnight, which the attending physician strongly recommended, but I have my own doctor, plus I know Iím not at risk for keeling over, not just quite yet. What the doctor didn't understand and what I purposely didn't explain is I don't need therapy, and what I am doing now would be the closest thing to IT if I needed IT to begin with.

The doctor (which I would assume was still floating in his father's stones around the time I was hanging up my working boots) left instructions with my family that I shouldn't be around this so called unnecessary stress and few of the other same precautions. Unnecessary, thatís a word thatís been floating around in my head awhile. I this whole spectacle had never came about in the first place.

            David called me today. We had a lengthy conversation, though I could tell he was preoccupied. His mind is always multitasking, processing a million things at a time. Not many people could probably tell but I can. Itís the way he speaks. He called telling me that he and Greg have were talking on the phone the night before and that they have reserved rooms at the same hotel in the city. He sent love from the family to me and Lesterís, which was nice. I canít help but think how Davidís family is going to react to Greg and his boyfriend. Not everyone in the world as unbiased as I am.

What really makes a man a man? I don't mean by gender--I am aware how that works--I mean a decent human being by whom society respects. My father used to say, among other things, that the world is stage, and that we all play our part in it. I still remember that after all these years. I think my father had an understanding of the way the world worked the parts one has to play to get by in day-to-day living and the various masks one would need to wear in the many scenarios we are encountered in with others throughout our life time. I think about my father an awful lot these days.

My father's name was James, and he was a very hard working man. He came from a poor home with a handful of siblings who went on to be not much more than the surroundings they were spawned it. My father, though. He was a person all on his own. It was like he had a barrier protecting him from the influence of his family life. Not that he didn't learn from it but that he DID in fact learn from it and realizes that it wasn't a life for a man like himself to live. He himself never really talked about his upcoming much to me. It was all ways in snippets that I would have to slowly piece together over the years, much like these scraps of miscellaneous notes may or may not be scrapped together after my inevitable departure.

He would only ever tell my small anecdotes of his memories in those days, as if he were cognitively filtering it in his mind first as to not tell too much. After I had gotten older I had learned why he had never spoken too much about it at a time. My father came from a difficult life, one that he was constantly trying to shed himself from even after he was well established and had his own name out there in the world with respect behind it. It's a kind of mental standpoint, a quirk, that grows in your from being from somewhere like that. I never understood that until I was a man myself. I still see him in my cigarette smoke. I am a carbon copy of him sitting in this chair. Dying the same way he had.

Even after sixty years of passed time I don't think any man forgets his father's death; any man with a heart in his chest, that is. There are some uncaring bastards out there still. More are born with each passing year. I still remember the day. Those along with the date of my sonís birthdays, my social security card, service record ID and driverís license number are things that are burned into my memory. My father died; literally working himself to death on the 21st day of April. I remember seeing that dead, glazed-over look in his eye, the blown out vein from the IV, and my family, morose and low. I died inside that day. And for several years after. They say all people process grief differently. It didnít destroy me as a person but I didnít process things the same for a long time. I started seeing everything around me more realistically, something I hadn't done much before.

I was not yet married at this point in time, still a young man not knowing much about the world but arrogantly assuming I did like many men of that age probably would. In fact, in some ways I think my son Lester is a lot like my father was. My father worked his hands to the bone, and always focused harder than ever on work whenever pressing issues would attempt at clouding his mind. I only wish my son had my fatherís compassion. I donít know what made my sonís heart grow hollow.

What defines a man is how he works with the mind and tools he possesses, and CHOOSES how he presents himself when at work and when at home. It took me a long time myself to understand that. I only wish Lester could be happy with himself and what he has, to enjoy his life instead of treating it like his enemy.

Damon got into the college that he wanted to get into. Some art school in Los Angeles. I don't know why anyone would want to go that far away from their home to go to school, unless they were Damon. He has enough reasons, which I don't blame him for. I looked over his entrance letter that he wrote for the school (you have to write an essay detailing why you would be a good candidate for studying with schools) and I thought he presented himself well and spoke quite eloquently. I was pleased. As soon as I had read it I knew for sure he was a shoe-in.

Every parent and grandparent always views their children and grandchildren as smart, as we all would like to, though I am not exaggerating or fooling myself when I say Damon is an intelligent young man. I personally can't wait for him to leave. Not that I won't miss him, but the face that he needs to get away from here to save himself. It's his only opportunity to thrive as his own person by being away from the controlling hands of his mother and the apathetic cold shoulder of his father. At least he can be inspired positively and be around like-minded people there. I hope for the best.

I took Damon out to dinner the other day and had a talk with him. I talked to him about pretty much the entries and notes Iíve been writing about my feelings I have for him and the situation about him going off to college, which a little more discretion. He expressed to me that he knew that it was best for him to go (we both knew why and didnít need to say) and that he was really yearning to see what he was capable of doing. I assured him that he is a smart young man and that he is able to do anything he wants. I wasn't exaggerating. He can. I ended the lunch with giving him an early graduation present, five hundred dollars. It would be putting it lightly that he was excited. A drop in the bucket for me, but of course it is an exciting thing for a young person to get any sum of money. I gave him a wink and told him to put that in a safe place and to use it wisely. He assured me he would. I really feel like me and Damon needed to have this talk. Me especially.

I have had something particular on my mind, lately. I don't always put my thoughts together in any particular order. I haven't mentioned before, but I have progressive congestive heart failure, and it is something I have been dealing with for the past seven years or so. It is fitting that I would live with such a terminal illness, being that my own father and grandmother died of the same disease. That made me chuckle a bit. Not in the way you would think however. DISEASE. It makes me think of the so called diseases that doctors make up in young children these days like my daughter in law was and is still convinced Damon suffers from. It's almost comforting for serious illnesses like mine to still exist so I can serve as an example that serious medical problems are still in check. In the most morbid way possible, I say this.

I've been receiving treatment for my condition pretty much ever since I was diagnosed. One of the leading causes have been linked to smoking, thought I am one of the lucky numbers who came across it luckily without the aid of it. My father smoked all of his life, oh, probably since the age of twelve or thirteen. An excellent habit he picked up from his own father. He was a locomotive. A smokestack if you've ever seen one. I think of my dad every time I go in for treatment. I am not sure if this is hereditary of just some sort of divine justice. One of the few things I know for sure is everything happens for a reason. I guess we find out what that something means eventually, sooner or later.

Sometimes I go into my grandson's room (which used to be his fathers) while the house is a quiet, deserted structure. I go through some of the literature he's partial to in the waking hours he is missing in action, I all the while knowing he is in his room studying the said literature among his other hobbies. Books on writing, novel advice, grammar and punctuation structure; these things I would have been interested in taking up myself at his age had priorities been different back in those days. Everyone has a different agenda and situation I suppose. Still, I can't help but notice through all the trouble he goes through, this young man's mind is a sponge. I find myself imaging him sitting alone in this room my own son grew up in, Soaking up the words wrote in these books and adapting and honing his skills as a writer. I personally can't wait for him to leave and go off to college, that's where an eager boy like Damon belongs.

When your family begins to disregard you as important individual, you more or less grow to be invisible. I personally have always been a person to read between the lines, no matter what the situation. Being virtually invisible, I can soak up more of what is going on around me than I would otherwise. Watching and listening to the interactions between these people who are my family is like watching ghosts float around in my home. I can observe their behaviors and moods, but just like a two way mirror, there is nothing looking back at me.

I hear Lester and Meredith--mostly Meredith--arguing late at night when I can't sleep. The arguing is usually Meredith making up most of the disgruntled conversation and Lester replying with short, usually choppy and neutral replies. He was never much one for saying what is on his mind, nor was he ever one for confrontation. Anger and hostility will get you nowhere with him, Meredith. It only drives a turtle like him farther into his shell and farther away from you. There is simply no reaching him. He is blind the world around him, and even more bitter at it than any pill I have swallowed.

My family and I went to go pick up Lester at the airport today. We all greeted them warmly and exchanged our hugs and kisses. We all went out to eat together at am Ihop in the area and exchanged conversation. When the topic came about when Greg and Tim would be getting in, it caught David by surprise, I could tell this on his face immediately through the steam of his coffee floating around his face. He told me Greg told him that he would call me before their flight when he talked to him last night. I hadnít heard a word from him. We all started to feel a bit nervous. I have called several times, along with everyone else, but we canít seem to reach him or Tim on any of their phones. I am getting more and more worried as the time passes.

After much discussion, the whole family (David and his family included) has decided to fly out to Seattle. Greg and Tim have been in a car wreck and they're in the hospital. The hospital called us at three this morning notifying us since Greg has one of us listed as an emergency contact. The person on the phone wouldnít tell us much, only that they were both in a coma. I'm not sure if Dana knows or not. Greg and Dana's mother aren't on the best terms and Iím not sure she would have told her. I can't tell you how much this makes my nerves feel like sinking ship. It isn't good for me to worry (bad for my heart) but I can't help but worry for my family. We aren't sure how dire the situation is, all the doctors told us on the phone was that we needed to come as soon as possible. Maybe god is punishing me for letting my family become fragmented and scattered.

I didn't sleep at all last night, and still I can't find myself getting much on this flight. I forgot my notebook at home and am writing on these tissues that I stuffed into my pocket (too many for the occasional runny nose). Anyways, we caught a red eye out at the crack of dawn and we have about a six hour flight to Seattle give or take an hour or two with the two layovers along the way. I haven't been in an airplane since I was in the service over sixty years ago but that seems to be the last thing on my mind. My hand writing is getting so sloppy from my nerves. I need to stop for a while.

It was a very long day and a very long night. I have realized how much I have been writing lately, seems like I write nearly every day. We got into Seattle around 2 p.m., where Dana and Tim's mother and father were waiting for me. They seemed like nice enough people, cordial and warm, though under the circumstances I couldn't really get the best reading out of them. Dana looks very tired and distant. There was literally no expression on her face and there was a void of anything in her ice cold blue eyes. I don't know if it's withdraws she is going through or the shock that her father is very ill. Timís father told us that Greg and Timís conditions are stable, and due to hospital policies we canít all be in the same hospital room with Tim or Greg unless we gives a dayís notice.

Timís mother called ahead for all of us and got greenlighted for visiting tomorrow. What kind of damn hospital works like that? Itís the stupidest things I have heard. David called and screamed at a representative at the hospital, calling their hospital ridiculous and that he demanded they let us in. Heather eventually took the phone from him. I think we all need a chance to catch our breath, personally. Though we all wanted to see him badly, weíve all decided to wait until tomorrow to go see Greg. From what I gathered from Heather, she was going to give David a valium when they got to their hotel. He needs it about as much as I do.

I have sleeping issues that tend to keep me wide awake into the wee hours of the night. Meredith tried to give me some of her sleeping pills so I could rest tonight but I kindly refused. Iíll be alright, I told her. I actually am not, but I donít want any pills. Lester never sleeps either and I can hear Damon's music playing faintly in his room all night long. The sleep I do get is rarely spent well in hotel rooms on strange beds that aren't mine, with my head propped up on hard pillows that hurt my neck. I can only imagine how many people leaked jizzim on this bed sheet which covers up my thin legs and how many people died lying on this pillow I now have my back propped on. It's not that I dislike hotels; I just don't like sleeping in them. And how would I even sleep to begin with even if this bed wasn't hard as a rock and I didn't have sleeping issues? My son is in the hospital and I am so upset that I have trouble even keeping my thoughts in order.

This hotel has a lot of stationary in the nightstand drawer which I am making ample use of. My nerves are so alert that not even the warm, throbbing pain of joint-afflicted arthritis is affecting me. If it is, my mind isn't making time currently to notice. The soft glow of the 45-watt bulb from the night stand is casting my old figure against the wall, like a negative of a photograph. The smoke billowing from the end of my cigarette up through the shade of the lamp looks so unusual; my soul is flowing up through it into the dark.

It's funny because it sums up what I have become, more or less. The bright sun which was my arrogant persona in my earlier days is now but a dark silhouette of trees against a fading sunset, and when it goes down what is left? I wish I could tell young people that they aren't going to be twenty-five forever, the world catches up with you and it isn't very kind when it does. Going through life is like sitting in a room filling up with poisonous gasses, some of us just choose to hold our breath longer. I suppose I shouldn't speak so morose, but I feel helpless. I really wish that Damon could have walked the line with the rest of his classmates. He's having his degree sent through the mail. I don't know how much longer I can hold onto my breath...

I donít really know where to begin. I found the last few entries my grandfather wrote in his suitcase, the rest at our home in Maine. Initially I didnít know what to make of it. Well, I guess while I am here explaining an epilogue of sorts I should explain a few other things. My grandfather died that night in the hotel room. I guess it must have been his nerves over Uncle Greg; his heart wasnít in the best shape. It was a very stressful time and there was a lot of confusion, though my Uncle Greg regained consciousness and did eventually marry Uncle Tim. They both made a full recovery. Itís taken me five years to see the notes as a whole. I kept the last few entries of his ďcollectionĒ I guess you would say in my wallet for a long time. I just folded them up and put them in there. Guess it was something to remember him by. A mememto, you could say. I didnít get to walk the line with my class but I did go off to college. Insead of the art school in Los Angeles I decided to go to a smaller university in Seattle, where I lived during college with my cousin Dana. She's since proved to be a rehab success story. I formed a close relationship with my Uncles, growing quite fond of Uncle Tim's warm bedside manner which I was deprived of with my own father. I spent my entire college education in Seattle where I still live today, not going home but once over the five years I was gone. I couldnít go back, not with the dark cloud hanging over my head there growing up. My grandfather spoke in his notes of life being a person sitting in room of poisonous gasses, and that is exactly what life in Maine was. Grandpa wanted me to get away and be my own person and that want for me was my salvation in the end. Iíve come to realize much through him, and even more posthumously. Itís been five years since I have seen my mother or father, they both divorced recently, going their separate ways. They left the house to me seeing as Ruth has moved out of state with her boyfriend, now husband. His name is Jaime, a name which grandpa couldnít remember evidentially. But itís okay when youíre old not to remember everything I guess. Iíll find out when I get there. Jaime isn't worth remembering anyways. They moved to the Midwest and I donít keep in regular contact with them. Mom calls me every couple of days; she still worries as she always has. I love my mother, donít get me wrong, but I am glad to be out of her reach. Itís better this way. She still lives in Maine, in a town near where we used to live. I've only talked to my father once since the divorce. He and Mom came out to my college graduation, freshly divorced. He didn't say much as usual, he said he was proud of me and gave me money. I could barely make out his eyes through his dark sunglasses, but I could still barely see a person in there. I suppose he has his own demons to work out. Don't we all? Anyways, the reason I decided to come back to Maine from Seattle after five years is after my parents split, they left me the house. They called me a few weeks after graduation to let me know. Since I was already living here in Seattle, I had to fly back to my home state to figure out what to do with it. So, I am a computer technician by trade. My art degree gave me some leeway into the work world, but my Uncle Greg taught me the computer trade and got me a job. Not quite what my grandfather would have expected, but I make great money regardless. My college degree, BFA in art or not, helped get me in the door. I really like it. I'm getting of topic just like grandpa did. Anyways, It wasn't until I was staying in my grandpas house that I found the rest of his notes, tucked away upstairs in his desk drawer. I spent the whole night and half the next day piecing together the scraps of paper and tissue and notebook entries. It took a while to put together to make any kind of sense out of it. Like a puzzle piece that completes the set, my hotel stationary he wrote on that I still keep in my wallet today completed it. Iíve taken the liberty of compiling it all in its entirety, making some corrections where I absolutely see fit and cannot hold myself back, though I have tried to leave most of his work the way it was, as he wrote it. I sold that house to the bank and came back to Seattle, which wasnít that hard of a choice for me to make. I feel like my real family is here anyways, and what was my family back in Maine died that day over five years ago. Iíve come to learn a lot about my grandfatherís feelings through his entries from the last few weeks or months of his life. I canít be for sure how long he kept those notes, He didnít date anything. I can only assume with how several correlate closely with certain events. I will be the man my grandfather wanted my own father to be, a happy person. A person that enjoys life instead of being its enemy. He helped define the standards I have set for myself and the compassion which I have since reevaluated in people in general. In a world on selfishness, I still hold a faith in people along with the rest of the world.