RUSSELL J. O’BRIEN, of Grawn passed away Oct. 26, 2013, at the age of 71. Private family services will be held at a later date.
My father died. He lived in Michigan near his people. Michigan was a place the Quincy, MA O'Brien's migrated to many decades ago and when he and my mother divorced, I think it was the only place he felt was his. His mother lived there and she took care of him, protected him. Me and Lillian O'Brien may have been the only two people who loved him after the divorce and when she died and I grew up thousands of miles away in Nebraska, he disappeared into Michigan, made a new life and took his last breaths there.
I've written about Russell before. I've always described him as wholly unremarkable. He embarrassed us as kids with his overreacting and loosy-goosy emotional outbursts. No one liked him. His father hated him. My mother's family treated him badly (except for my cousins, those fuckers are always spreading the love! They are like a coven of good witches, seeing the best and broadcasting the news).
But when I was young, I was in love with my dad. He perpetually reeked of petroleum and I soaked that smell in like %100 oxygen. He had a soft, mushy belly that I would mold into loaves of banana bread as he watched Barney Miller and M.A.S.H in his olive drab naugahyde recliner.
He made my school lunches. He cooked most of my dinners. He was never mean to me and he never yelled at me and he never hit me.
He also disappeared. There was limited contact after he and my mom split I spent a summer with his wretched sister in Charlevoix, MI and he came to my high school graduation. The last time I saw him I was in my early 20's and he and my brother and I went to the movies and the diner just like a little divorced family should.
Then there were sporadic phone calls wherein he asked me for money. Lots of money. And the last real conversation I had with him I invited him to become a part of my family. I was married, had a beautiful daughter and told him that if he wanted in, he needed to call once in a while. Send a card for his granddaughter's birthday, maybe one for Christmas. I said he needed to try.
But he couldn't. And I moved on.
When I told Ruby he died she started to cry and I said No! Don't! I'm not sad, baby! Don't cry. And she said I'm crying because you're not sad and you should be able to be sad when your father dies.
Hot husband said the same exact thing.
Those two. My loves, my heart. My god! My father died but he has been gone for so long already that I don't know what to do with myself.
He was married and I called his wife to tell her that I'm sorry she lost her love. That I'm sorry if he was in any pain and that I never thought he was a bad person.
She said he'd talk about me all the time. Me and my brother.
Is that enough? That's what I have swirling in my belly: The words of a stranger telling me that for at least the last 15 years, I was on his mind. Is that enough?