As I may have elaborated on before, at times growing up in the borgo household was no picnic. My old man was one of those prototypical stubborn Germans who had a head as hard a rock and heart that seemed to be made of ice. If he went on a bender and had a snootful of J&B under his belt he’d be all the more inclined to vent his rage. This usually took the form of bellowing out to anybody within earshot from his perch at the kitchen table about the state of the world. He seemed to have everybody in his crosshairs. Gays, Jews, hippies, Democrats and minorities were his usual targets but his tirades (which could last for hours on end) could include just about anybody. The bus driver who drove him home, the waitress who served him lunch and the paperboy who delivered the news were all fair game for reasons only he understood.
My mom, probably as a result if being intimidated, learned early on that silence and subservience were the best way to deal with the tantrums. She must have lived in constant fear that one day he’d turn his attention to her and her “shortcomings” and she’d become the target of his insults and commentary.
It was like living with a time bomb only you could never hear the ticking of the clock, only the inevitable explosion.
His health started to betray him somewhere in his mid fifties and when he finally croaked from a combination of stomach ulcers, heart problems and degenerative arthritis at the age of sixty two, let’s just say that not too many tears were shed.
A small funeral was held and nobody did a eulogy or gave a testimonial. I think the people that did manage to come did so more out of respect for those of us who were still alive than to say goodbye to the “dearly” departed.
The old man was cremated and his cremains were delivered to us not in some fancy urn or decorative vase that we displayed on a mantle just above the fireplace. Nope, the old man’s next to last resting spot was to be tucked away in an old Maxwell House coffee can that was buried deep inside an armoire in my mom’s room.
I don’t believe in spooks or ghosts or anything of that nature but man, every now and then the door to the armoire would open by itself and me and my mom would exchange one of those looks that said “What the fuck was that?”. We’d laugh about it and claim he was trying to get out, to have one last snort of scotch and relay one last pearl of drunken wisdom before he went on his merry way. I think it both freaked us out a bit though.
I never told my mom this but I always figured the devil himself tried to take him in but grew tired of his shit and put him back. Even the devil has some respect for his minions.
After she died about twenty years later, she too was cremated and they were finally buried underneath a rose bush on one of my nieces property. When summer comes and it’s time for the flowers to bloom, her side always seems to have more than his. The ones of her side last longer into the summer and are vibrant in color while the ones on his side seem to shrivel up and die.
I’m not into signs or omens but maybe that’s an indicator of how they lived.
But those things, the opening of closed doors and the blooming of flowers aren’t what puts the fear in me. No, it’s knowing that one day, I might turn into a version of him. A subdued version to be sure but a version nonetheless. That one day, I’ll turn into this bitter old husk of who I am. The guy who yells at kids to go play in front of their own house, the guys that can’t stand any vestige of youth or looks at anybody different from him with fear and rage rather than understanding and compassion. The guy who hates puppies and kittens and just wants to be left alone or to shake his fist at the world and scream at the top of his lungs “Look at what you’ve done to me!”
Those are the kinds of things that keep me up worrying late into the night.
Those are the kinds of things that put the fear in me.