Every family has its symbols, its emblems. Whether they’re emblazoned on a crest on Game Of Thrones—the lions, stags, and so on—or whether there’s just an image that comes to your mind when you close your eyes, it’s there. It’s obvious. You already know it.
When I was a child, my father lost a well-paying job, and it crushed him. Here was a man who, despite what I think was his natural inclination, did the things prescribed to him as “right.” He was in the military (Air Force, just before Vietnam ramped up; my understanding is that back then one could actually leave the armed forces), got out, worked hard to get a degree, started a career, met a woman, got married, bought a house, started a family, and lived. In my memories, he was never happy, but he did these things I think because he felt that if he applied this formula, it would bring him to a certain point of satisfaction. It never did.
He never had it in him to take his own life, but I know that when he lost that job—I’d say it was the last real one he had—he wanted to, and having lost a job or two in my time that was important to me, I know that hopeless feeling, when you go back and retrace your steps and they all look wrong. If only you had done this or said that, how things would’ve been different. When I look back and see him at that stage, past 50 and tired and lost, I get it. I didn’t get it at the time.
For a year, more, he stayed on the couch. He slept there, woke up, sat up, moved for meals and to yell or preach his strange Catholic fundamentalism or paranoid conservative rhetoric. He radiated misery.
I bring this up because when I think of what stands for me, where I come from, that’s the imagine I can’t escape—this broken bastard with his gut hanging out of his undershirt watching Mother Angelica on the couch until my mother had enough of it and put him out. I spent this whole weekend on the couch. Twice I went to the grocery store. Sunday I went and picked up takeout. On Friday, my wife and I went to dinner and I had a kind of mini-panic attack from the sensory overload. Saturday, I overheard her tell a friend, “It makes him feel important,” in what I can only assume was a conversation about my writing and why I’d still bother. Your whole life—the only thing you’ve ever felt like you could actually do—reduced to a drive of ego by the person most supposed to be on your side. I don’t think I’d ever felt less important.
So what did I do? I retreated to the couch. I spent all day watching Werner Herzog documentaries. Demented as it is—I don’t even like this couch—that’s my support system. I don’t feel like I have the same regrets my father did, like I got married out of some social obligation and regret everything my life has become (we’re working on about a 70/30 ratio these days), but when I was feeling the weight of things in what I think is a very similar way he did, my response was the same. I plopped my ass on the couch and wallowed in it.
So put that on my crest. Let that be what stands for me. The fucking couch, because when even the mildest amount of shit hits the slowest-spinning of fans, at least I know I come by being a complete fucking wreck honestly.
I turn 32 years old this week. Ask me if I feel important.