The Death of Life and Other Things

The Death of a Relationship

I have a big set of rules. On the rare occasion when I have broken one of them, I have paid a stiff price indeed. Decades ago, I made an inexplicably odd rule: Never date anyone who plays a brass instrument. I’m fairly certain it had something to do with the spit valve of the trumpet player who sat behind me in the orchestra. He smelled like warm orange juice. Well, it so happened that I was relentlessly pursued by a musician who played the local watering hole every Friday night. I cautiously agreed to a date and after a very nice early dinner, he wanted to stop off at his house before we proceeded to enjoy the rest of the evening together. I thought to myself, “He must have to poop”. I sat there waiting in his living room for several minutes. “Oh yes. Yup! He definitely had to poop, he will be good to go”. Oh how wrong I was. Suddenly and with great fanfare he marched out of his bedroom, trombone in hand, naked but for black socks. He was playing a very loud “Ooom wow oom pah poww” over and over as he marched around the chair, a giant erection bouncing up and down to the rhythm. Somehow this horror scene was made exponentially worse by the fact that when I was a kid my mother had a habit of loudly singing “Seventy Six Trombones” from The Music Man as if she were auditioning for the part. I died a thousand deaths witnessing this ridiculous spectacle and heard the cruel laughter of instant karma. After all, I had broken my own rule.

The Dead Black Dog

I’m going back in time here. When I was four years old, we lived on the sandy bank of a river and my regular habit was to play in the beach grass, following along the path where the old railroad tracks had been before the big hurricane of 1954 wiped them out.

One hot summer day, it so happened that in the distance I could see a great plume of black smoke and so as if it were the North star, I followed along the edge of the river to discover what it was.

To my horror, and having nothing at all to do with the pillar of smoke, there lay in the middle of the path a big dead black dog. The eyes were gone and the sockets were full of flies. The gums had receded and the exposed teeth looked like my big brother’s werewolf mask from Halloween. I ran back to get the big kids and show them. When they saw the dead black dog, they weren’t bothered at all. I felt a grave responsibility to somehow honor the memory of this poor deceased creature. For the next eight years, this manifested as a traumatic nighttime ritual of checking under my bed to see if the dead black dog was there. Whether alive or dead I could not be sure.

The Death of My Dad

For the record, my father looked like Captain Kirk.

When I was a teenager, he made me promise I would contact Jack Kevorkian to facilitate the end of his misery if ever he had dementia.

When my Dad developed dementia, Jack Kevorkian was long gone. It isn’t like I had Jack’s contact info in my Rolodex, but it had been in the back of my mind for so long:

“Mr. Kevorkian. We need you to do us a favor. Please come to our house.” “Of course, I will be right there.”

My Dad, lying in state in his tuxedo. The funeral parlor had fashioned him quite a different nose than the distinguished Czech nose we all knew and loved. The new nose combined with the vintage tuxedo made him look similar to Count Chocula.

To take my mind off things — I remembered how well into my thirties, I believed my Grandfather had been a three foot tall man. Turns out, he was six feet tall, but my four year old mind did not understand half his coffin was closed.

Then I remembered how a few years earlier, I was positive I saw my deceased friend move his cheek at his own wake.

I thought about leaning over and pinching Dad’s nostrils back down but my Aunt had already scolded me. “You are spending too much time next to the body, make room for someone else!”

The nerve.

The Death of Love

There is nothing so sharp as the broken glass of infidelity. or the fallout of a young marriage with a newly born child cut to shreds by it. The mind and body shatter in slow motion, with full sound effect. In a vacuum. There is no bridge to the future. All that was is dead.

The Death of Mark

Mark lived in a Veteran’s home for many years following a tragic incident on a submarine which he could never speak about. His preference was for us to do nothing other than sing our hearts out to him when we visited, and this became a habit we happily indulged him with. We would belt out every tune we could think of and learned the words to songs such as “Sixteen Tons” and “Little Green Apples” and this pleased him to no end. The pandemic kept us from seeing Mark regularly and there came a helpless desperation on our part that he was being deprived of his “concerts for one”. On Christmas Day our worst fears were realized when we got the call he was hospitalized with Covid-19. On January 6th, gathered in front of the television with the same mix of uncertainty and horror we felt watching that morning of 9–11, my phone face time beeped. It was Mark’s nurse and there in the smallness of an I-Phone screen was the fullness of a face covered by a hissing mask and eyes that looked like those of a drowning man. I got right down to business and started to sing Leavin’ On A Jet Plane as if I were auditioning for a global talent show via Zoom. And then the nurse said we had to say goodbye. “Goodbye Mark! We love you! We will see you soon!”. An hour later, the hospital called back as we sat aghast watching the mob scale the walls of the Capital Building. Mark was dead.

The Looming Death of JackyO

Jacky Onassis is my fifteen year old black dog. It is impossible that she is still alive. She has outlived countless people, places and things in our life together. There are family and friends far and wide who have known and loved this precious creature. We have no identity separate from her, her loving presence defines us. She has no condition or illness. If her coat wasn’t mostly silver there would be nothing to give away her age. JackyO: faithful companion, there is no me only we.

Everyday I actualize this roller coaster ride of life together must surely come to an end. When I ponder the image of this woeful event, trying to prepare myself, there comes from within my heart a feeling so desperate, so heavy. A tidal wave of molten lead, I can barely breathe.

I’ve been down this road of loss before, more times than I care to count — with beloved friends and family members, but this time will be different. There exists no path that will lead me back to wholeness. Her death will be my wrecking ball.

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