Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Chasing Ghosts

I have a bit of a secret to divulge in this space today.  Given the obscurity in which this little piece of virtuality exists it is as good a place as any to spill something.  As long as the three hardy souls who pop by here daily maintain their silence, none shall be the wiser.

Monday was a day that I spent far more time out of the office than in.  My afternoon was spent in West Trenton defending a deposition.  It took me almost as long to travel from Parsippany to West Trenton (approximately seventy-five minutes) as it did to prepare my client for his deposition, sit next to him while he testified and go through the "happy recap" afterwards (approximately ninety minutes).  By the time he and I had finished our "Where do we go from here" chat it was past 3:00 PM.  Once upon a time I might have hopped in the car and trekked back to my office to put in a couple of additional hours of work before finally leaving Parsippany for the forty-five minute jaunt home at day's end.  That time, however, long ago took up residency in the rear-view mirror.  When one's work day begins at least five days a week at 4:30 AM, one acts judiciously on a Monday afternoon.  Well, at least I do.  I cannot pretend to speak for the rest of the world.

On my way back up River Road I did something that to my recollection I have never done.  Better said, if I had done it on occasion prior to Monday it is something of which I have no specific, defined memory.  I made the right turn off of River Road onto (I think) Blackwell Mills Road so that I could - at the first intersection - make the right turn onto Canal Road. 

The first home I have any memory at all of living in as a child was the house on Canal Road.  As a little boy the distinction between renting and owning was a subtlety lost on me so I presumed that Mom and Dad owned it.  As it turns out, I think the State of New Jersey did.  It does now anyway.  The house on Canal Road is now part of a State Park or some such thing.  According to the signage that I read it is.  

I had not set my eyes on it in close to thirty years.  We moved from Canal Road to the population-dense environs of Wertsville Road in Neshanic Station when I was only eleven or twelve.  I was surprised by how well kept up it appeared from the outside.  While I suppose I had the right to walk around inside of it - if it is a State Park - I did not.  A small part of me was afraid to I guess.  A bigger part of me had little interest in being "that guy".  The guy who stands in the middle of some gift shop or office and struggles to recollect the wall on which the television was located, or the dining room table or the bed or some such thing.  

A small part of me wanted to walk around the house into what I recall as its back yard to see if our great collie, Lady, was still buried in her spot.  Lady was our dog when I was a little boy and she died one day while Mom was home alone - Dad was at work and the rest of us who were still young enough to live home were at school.  When she called the police to ask for assistance in taking care of Lady's remains, the voice on the other end of the phone told her to put Lady's body in a plastic garbage bag and put her out on the curb on garbage day.  She was so upset that she told Dad what "advice" she had received.  In my mind's eye I can still see the old man digging a hole 'neath a tree where Lady had enjoyed spending her days.  If memory serves me correctly, Lady died when the ground was either frozen or close to it and on a rainy day.   Or maybe that is simply how I like to remember Dad taking care of her and by extension Mom and the rest of us.  History exists in the mind of the teller after all.   I did not walk around the house into its back yard to confirm the existence of Lady's grave.  

Canal Road House

In hindsight I should have allowed the utter absence of intellectual curiosity (OK, courage) with which I passed the time at Ye Olde Homestead to govern the rest of my journey.  A few miles away from the house we used to live in is the cemetery where Dad is buried.  While I have found my way there since 1981 with more frequency than I have made it to Canal Road, the gap between the two is certainly not canyonesque.  Truth be told, prior to popping by the Cedar Hill Cemetery in East Millstone Monday afternoon I cannot recall when the last time was I had been out there.  I write that well aware of the embarrassment, guilt, etc. I should feel as a man who has lived within a half-hour's drive of the place where his father is buried for all but four of the thirty-two years that his father has been in residence there and yet can count on the fingers on one hand the amount of trips he has made to the cemetery.  I get it.  Feel free to loathe.  I have most assuredly earned it. 

I spent close to twenty-five minutes walking all over the hallowed ground of the cemetery Monday afternoon in vain.  I could not remember where Dad's grave is located.  And I could not find it.  One might suspect - given that Cedar Hill Cemetery appears to be the only growth industry in East Millstone - that the joint might have a live body on it on a weekday afternoon to answer questions (and humiliate assholes such as Yours truly) but it did not. 

Perhaps it was just as well.  I had not given a lot of thought to what it was I was going to bend the old man's ear about anyway - except to tell him about Suz's upcoming wedding.  And it occurred to me that we endured our share of stilted, awkward conversations while both of us were topside.  Adding one more to the total likely would not have done a lot of good for either of us. 

In St. James Parish
I was born and christened
Now I've got my story
Mister no need for you to listen....
-Bruce Springsteen


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