I’m going home.
Chris’ best friend Keith’s father died in his sleep Wednesday morning. So we’re catching a train to Philly in a few hours. There’s a family visitation this afternoon. I expect to be at the local tavern, Casey’s, eating one of their famous roast beef sandwiches and washing it down with a Yuengling by this evening.
In addition to being Kieth’s dad, Bill Mekenney was a surrogate father to my brother. My father made every attempt to be present despite my parent’s divorce, and the distance between Philadelphia and Indianapolis. And he did a great job. But sometimes, in the day-to-day, another elder male stepped in. Dr. Mekenney spoke to Chris and Keith more than once about parties, and girls. He took them hunting and fishing. He helped bridge the gap between Chris’ Midwestern childhood, and Northeaster adolescence.
In addition to being Kieth’s dad, and a surrogate father to my brother, Dr. Mekenney was the local Boy Scout Troop leader. I gave Scouts a shot, but all those merit badges felt too much like school. I just wanted to go camping. But Boy Scouts meant a lot to Chris and Kieth. They were Order of the Arrow. (Apparently, this was a big deal.) I remember sitting in the back seat of Mr. Mekenney’s station wagon on my one camping trip with the Scouts. I remember him in the rear view mirror. His focus was sharp. His pupils were wide. His eyes sparkled.
In addition to being Kieth’s dad, a surrogate father to my brother, and the local Boy Scout Troop leader, Dr. Mekenney was the local vet. He kept our beloved Springer spaniel, Alfie, alive. (She, in turn, kept us alive.) When we were vulnerable in her periodic sicknesses, he was warm, comforting, and reassuring. When it was time to put her to sleep, she died in his arms.
Dr. Mekenney’s passing touched me a bit more deeply than I might have expected. I found out between a flurry of meetings on Wednesday. I closed my door, turned my chair towards the window, looked out at the clouds, and cried. His death touched me a bit more deeply than I might have expected, I think, because I knew my friend, Keith, was hurting. And it reminded me that my father will die someday, and so will I.
I bumped into a bunch of colleagues at some bar on Houston and Attorney after Andrew’s show Wednesday night. A mulletted MTV.com designer named Tim and I somehow stumbled (drunkenly) onto the subject of happiness.
“People think happiness is some kind of plateau,” he said, gesturing wildly. “They work and work and work for their two weeks, and their Golden Years, but they’re missing the point. It’s not a plateau. It’s moments, man. Moments.”
It was two o’clock, and I was a little buzzed, but I remember nodding furiously.
Walking home last night, I had The Damnwells’ “Kiss Catastrophe” playing in my left ear, and Abbi laughing on the cell phone in my right ear. I was singing in harmony with both the song, and the laughter, and suddenly I felt like I was floating. I thought, “There’s a moment.”
Walking to work this morning, I had Rufus Wainwright’s “11:11” playing. At the instant he sang, “Woke up this morning and something was burning / Realized that everything really does happen in Manhattan,” a hook and ladder fire engine came roaring down Amsterdam. And I thought, “There’s a moment.”
This might be one now.