“This is one time where television really fails to capture the true excitement
of a large squirrel predicting the weather.” – Phil Connors, Groundhog Day
It was just one of those days.
Dad’s closest friend called. He’d just totaled his wife’s brand-new car. My five-year-old son was complaining that one of his legs was hurting. The old Jeep Cherokee-turned-snow-plow was having trouble starting and it was snowing. And not just regular snowing. It was of the bend-over-and-how-do-you-like-that? variety.
Our family only knows one way to deal with such trying circumstances. “Did somebody say ‘tequila?’”
Drinks started flowing early, because: Suck it, snow.
Last-minute preparations were being made for the annual Super Bowl party. It’s kind of a big deal. Dozens and dozens of people because my father is one of the few people on the planet who builds not one—but TWO—pretty massive bars on his property.
The only problem with having the greatest party location in the world is that everyone wants to come and bring everyone they know.
I think Dad used to like it. Hey, look at me. I’m in my fifties, and a million people come to my parties without me even inviting anyone!
Which is true. There will be 60-75 people here tonight without any sort of formal invitations being sent. People just know to come.
It would appear that Dad’s liking it less these days. Now, he’s more of the mind to have a bunch of his close friends here but maybe not worry about how much fun 20 strangers might be having.
I get it. But I’m also trying hard to be Take-Responsibility-for-your-Decisions Guy, and, hey Dad: If you build it, they will come.
Someone my dad doesn’t know very well who looks remarkably similar to R.E.M. front man Michael Stipe (I saw him at the Super Bowl party last year, looking very shiny and happy) wants to bring a bunch of his in-laws. I heard my father tell someone “No” for the first time, like, ever.
And all night, Dad was walking the line between crotchety old guy and total hilarity.
He leaned over to his friend who just hours earlier had totaled one of his vehicles, not particularly sympathetic because he had a Super Bowl party crisis on his hands with the possibility of Fake Michael Stipe showing up with his wife’s family.
“I mean, if you’re coming, I better know you, and I better like you!” he said.
A Different Life Now
Dad’s not unkind. He just cares less about making new friends than someone like me. I live a life isolated from most of my friends and family.
I live somewhere where I have no roots.
My dad’s side of the family is 500 miles west of my house. He lives in the general vicinity of where he grew up surrounded by lifelong friends. And my mom’s side of the family is more than 200 miles away despite also being in Ohio. She too, lives surrounded by familiarity.
I took a different path. Choosing independence. Moving away for college. Then moving to Florida after college. Then returning to Ohio, but living about as far away from “home” as Buckeye State geography allows.
My ex-wife is from the area—the area in which I now live. Her extended family lives there. My in-laws. An entire family. Evaporated because of divorce.
And now it’s just me. Just me and the boy and the handful of friends I’ve been fortunate to get to know over the past seven years.
I don’t like to be jealous of my father. Especially because no human being has done more for me in my life than that man. But deep down in the part of me I don’t talk about much? I envy people surrounded by friends and family. A built-in, reliable support system to help carry you through the challenging times.
There have been some challenging times.
It’s not loneliness from an entertainment or companionship standpoint. I have wonderful friends. It’s more the feeling that I have to deal with life 100-percent alone. That’s never happened before. And the 10 months that have passed since my family disappeared have done little to erase that feeling.
And now I’m back in the nest. Safe. Here’s my dad. The guy that fixes stuff that’s broken. Here are a million friends and family members. Masking the aloneness.
But a few days from now? It’s just going to be me again.
Just me back in the quiet house in Ohio. Fingers tapping these keys. Tap, tap, tap.
And you. You serving as my support system to fill a void I’m not sure it’s fair or healthy for me to ask you to fill.
It’s Cold Out There Every Day, What is This—Miami Beach? Not Hardly.
So, it’s a little like Groundhog Day now. Not the traditional real-life event which happened today in Punxsutawney, Pa., but the 1990s film starring Bill Murray, whose movies I’ve been going out of my way to watch lately. (Because I like laughing.)
Where most every day is the same. Unlike Phil Connors’ experience, the details change. But really, it’s just the same thing over and over again. And like Phil, I’m going to have to make some changes in my personal life to get me out of the rut.
Seeing friends and family is a powerful reminder of that.
Because something’s different. And anything different is good.
“There is no way that this winter is EVER going to end, as long as this groundhog keeps seeing his shadow. I don’t see any other way out. He’s got to be stopped. And I have to stop him.”