My dad is probably like a lot of dads in othat he has always given me great advice on life. But unlike many dads, that advice always came at strange times.
In the summer, I would work for my dad's comstruction company as a laborer. Do any of you know what that is? The laborer is the guy on a construction team who hasn't quite learned how to drive a tractor or move a dump truck. So he has to do all the dirty work. And on a construction site, the dirty work is filthy dirty. If a hole needs digging, the laborer digs it. If something needs smashing, a laborer smashes it. If a sewer needs cleaning out, hold your nose and grab your shovel. A good laborer needs to be strong, tireless, steeled nerves and bicepts, oblivious to the mud, crap, feces and screams from the foreman. Ad willing to do absolutely anything and do it quickly or else you"re fired. I was nothing like that. I was more like Woody Allen grade a hole. Or maybe even a little Felix Ungar. Yeah, probably more Felix Ungar. It was all just too dirty, too heavy, too hot, too disorganized. I was too whimpy, whiney, clutzy and soft. Getting sludge out of a sewer hole holds no fascination for me, especially when the forman of the job is a drunk guy with a Scottish accent, calling you all kinds of unbelieveably naughty yet wildly creative names. The c word to Scotty is just the beginning of a sentence. And I am to him, a retard.
It wasn't that I hated construction. Construction hated me.
About two or three times every summer, my dad would trick me. He'd pull up in his truck and yell, "I got another job for you. Get in and grab your shovel." Then we'd drive in complete silence. I was afraid to say anything because I knew I was Felix Ungar out there and knew that he knew.
Most of the time, my dad would start the conversation deftly talking in abstracts. Right away, he'd get all deeper in the discussion. And then he would talk about life and school and what he expcts from me. Stuff like looking people in the eye when you talk to them, the importance of a good firm handshake, how to treat ladies, moms, dads, girlfriends, business partners, etc.
My dad, like many dads I suppose, is a truly wise man. As a kid, he would walk all the way to Wrigley Field from his home in Elmwood Park to see the Cubs play. He got in by striking a deal with the groundskeeper. He could watch the game but then he had to clean up the garbage in the stands afterwards. So he did that. And then he walked back home to Elmwood Park, about twenty to thirty miles each way. My dad was destined for law school and started taking some classes. But then a family tragedy struck, my uncle Jimmy died on a construction site. My grandfather was too devastated to go back to that same construction site to work. So my dad did. And my dad kept doing it. He gave up his dreams to help his dad. He knows a few things.
My dad would go on and on. And by the end of his impasion lecture, we would be facing a mall entrance. He'd take me shopping. For the rest of the day, he'd tell me to get anything. He'd push shirts on me, sweaters (it was the eighties so you can easily visualize the style), socks, underwear, anything. I always thought it was funny watching the sales people react to seeing a kid who has dirt in his teeth, hair and any nether region and smelled like River Forest's finest poop. Eventually I'd sheepishly get only one or two things. I felt bad for spending his money. Even so, it was a great feeling.
Back in the car, during his speeches, he often came back to the same theme: make sure you always have options. It's important in anything you do. Always have options. Always. Always. Because when you don't, you're stuck. And then your life, your career, even your relatiomships are no longer favorable to you. You lose the ability to control that pesky sucker called fate. When you're stuck and have no options, you are at the mercy of others, the elements of the situation, outside influences, all out of your control. When you end up stuck, sometimes you end up unhappy.
All too often, I write about the pain of cancer. I do that because I want to make sure you understand. I know that before I had it, pain would be the biggest mystery to me in my mind. What does it feel like? What feels bad and how does it feel? But now, the pain still sucks but it's just pain. A needle stick is just pain. My feet are just in pain. Pain isn't the worst thing about cancer. The worst thing is that I'm running out of options.
Frist, there's the obvious. My treatment options aren't so vast after this one runs out. They're going to get less effective and have more side effects. I can see an end. Bummer. But tonight, I am not troubled by that.
I want to be a husband to my wife. I want me to do everything husbands do that wives love. But I can't. I wish I could take my wife out to a romantic dinner and then come home and watch porn and do the nasty, wild thing. What? Couples don't watch porn before they get it on? But how then do you all get arosed? Plus, if there is no porn, then it only lasts about eight minutes, all depending on how easily it is to get the rubber suit off.
But the porn be that as it may, I am fresh out of ways to make me seem cool. Like Brad Pitt cool. The Fonz cool. I'm fat now because of the steroids and I can't get myself into shape. I'll last about ten mintes into the twenty minute ab work out. And I know this bothers my wife. She works out so hard and works so hard to take care of herself and then she looks at me sucking the third popsicle of the hour while I jiggle to get comfie on the couch. I can't have nice hair because I barely have hair. I am not who she married. And she quite frankly has to be sick of this. Every day she sees me laying in bed in the middle of the day, taking long hot baths to soothe the nodes. And it must be numbing. Brad Pitt is too cool for cancer. And to her, the marriage deal was in sickness and in health but enough is enough. Nobody wants to get laid by the slovenly, old, fat, tired laborer.
I want to go back to work to show her I am creative and smart and hard-working again. I can't. I am tired and I am out of options on making sure my wife has reasons to be in love with me. She's never said anything about this. I know she would be embarassed by this whole thing. And probably upset. But this blog needs to be honest or it's not going to be my blog. I need to once again sweep her off her feet, while my sting and tingle.