Stoli Vodka Martini With Three Olives
The title of this post is named after my father’s favorite drink.
He, Harry Joe, died one year ago today. I didn’t know much about him, having grown up from the age of three to the age of 18 in California, and him living all those years in between New York and D.C. I saw him once when I was six, got a telephone call from him when I was 10, and then once more when I was 16. When I enrolled at Howard, he was living in D.C. at the time, so of course I initially thought it was an opportunity for us to rekindle our relationship with one another.
I was wrong.
By this point in his life, Harry Joe was completely incapable of taking care of himself, and so, our relationship would be made up mostly of me running errands for him, getting him certain things, or loaning him money. On the occasions when he did want my company, I never stayed very long because, well, frankly, the sight of roaches and mice running around his apartment wasn’t my idea of quality time.
This was the first semester of my freshman year, and by the end of it, I made up my mind, my father and I would not have a relationship. For the remainder of my four years, I stayed as far away from him as one person could and while there were brief reunions — once during the summer of my junior year and once more when he attended my college graduation with his two other sons, my two brothers — I dreaded every one of them.
When I saw my father, I saw my deepest fears come to life. He too graduated from Howard. He did me one better and went on to graduate from Yale with a Master’s in Architecture. In his younger days, he was, from what I’ve heard, the most charming man in any room. He had these light green eyes, was able to speak Spanish fluently, knew when to be a brotha, knew when to be a boricua; when to be a tough guy, when to be a lover. The mothers of his three sons, all of them, were beautiful and completely unique women because Harry Joe didn’t have a type. He just had an appetite. He loved women.
So when I say I saw my deepest fears in this man whose blood I share, I don’t mean fears of becoming a functional drug addict (drug free over here) like he once was, or fears of being broke and penniless (I’m kind of broke and penniless now, so I think by my sixties if it’s still that way, I’ll be used it), what I mean is the relationship with women and the subsequent lack thereof. Harry loved women. I love women. And I think sometimes, when I feel like Harry Joe’s son the most is when I think about the women in my life, and that scares me because most of his life was filled with women. The end of his life wasn’t.
Harry’s death doesn’t hurt my heart, it hurts my head. There were so many questions I planned to ask him but couldn’t because the last months of his life, he couldn’t speak. I wanted to ask him about the women. I wanted to learn from his mistakes so that maybe I could avoid my own. But we never had that talk because by the time I accepted the fact that like it or not, I was his son, it was too late. So for the rest of my life, I carry these questions with me, sometimes in fear that I will learn the answers to them the hard way.