h1

Johnny Bench

February 23, 2018

Johnny Bench

It’s my father’s birthday. I would call him. He would begrudgingly accept the call. “We didn’t celebrate such things when I was a child,” he would say. “We didn’t have gifts.” Then he would turn the conversation away from himself. He never really had anything, not as a kid, not as a young man, not as a middle-aged man, not as an old man. He lived more or less like a monk, except monks don’t have a closet with five identical blue button-down shirts to wear to work in the office of a city agency. Up until his retirement he worked, always. When I was a kid the other adults in my family were often “finding themselves,” which is a term from the 1970s meaning “not making much money,” but my father worked. Picture his years as having the year-to-year repetition of what you see here in the 1979 and 1980 baseball cards of Johnny Bench. You fall into a line of work. One year gives way to the next. There’s a repetition of tasks, a constraint of motions. All the money my dad made grinding out a modest living as a researcher went to his family. What did he ever spend any money on? Wheat germ? He barely even owned any cups. When I called my old high school friend Bill to tell him my dad had died Bill remembered my dad serving him some milk in a bowl. He had plenty of books, but most of them were bought on the cheap from the Strand. At some point before my memories started up he bought a huge desk that he hunkered over until the day he died. I went through that desk a few weeks ago. There were a lot of toothpicks and hearing aid batteries. He was a wealthy man in terms of toothpicks and hearing aid batteries. Also: vitamins. In his bathroom there was an arsenal of vitamins, enough vitamins to bury a hippo. He must have spent several thousand dollars on vitamins throughout his life. He wanted to live. He wanted to keep living. In the end his life was taken from him quickly, which was a mercy, because a few years ago when it looked like he might be teetering on the edge, I flew down to rush to his hospital bedside and saw terror in his eyes. And why not? Death steals everything, even when all you have is some toothpicks and the collected works of C. Wright Mills. It steals every memory, every thought, every touch. What the fuck is all this about anyway? This senseless coming and going? One year gives way to the next. You fall into a line of work. Johnny Bench slugged home runs and gunned down baserunners. Johnny Bench knew glory, maybe even transcendence. My father went to work in an office every day. I go to work in an office every day. There’s a repetition of tasks, a constraint of motions. I sit down on the couch at night after the boys are asleep and try to think of something to tell my wife that happened that day that seems worth telling, but the last thing I want to do is talk about work. I have books, most of which I got on the cheap. I’m reading a book about William Blake right now. My father liked William Blake. He used to come up to visit us in Vermont when I was a kid and look at our sheep and quote William Blake: “Little lamb, who made thee? Dost thou know who made thee?” William Blake had visions. I don’t have visions, not anymore. When I was a kid I had night terrors. It was like seeing through the flimsy facade of this world into what lies beyond. You might think you’d want to get a glimpse of something like that but you don’t, at least not when you’re a child. These glimpses started when I was six or so, right after we moved away from my father, right before I started collecting baseball cards. I still have those baseball cards in my possession, and I guess I will until I die, two shoeboxes of fragmented cardboard scaffolding over the absence of my father and the terrifying face of God.

3 comments

  1. Really good posts which must be therapeutic for you at this time. I’ve read that some tribes in Africa believe no one ever dies as long as there are people alive who remember them.


  2. Just finished “Cardboard Gods” for the second time. I’m glad I found this site and can keep reading on. What a great, great post.


  3. Really hit home With this Article Josh.. Thank You. Take Care Friend.



Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: