Wednesday, May 13, 2015

ISLE OF REGRET

So, I wrote this years ago. My approach would be incredibly different now, but several years ago is not now. Still, I like it, and want to share it. Today is my father's birthday. He would be 78 today. Happy birthday, Dad. Love you, miss you.



ISLE OF REGRET


Sometimes I wake up from dreams in which my father has played a role.  For a few seconds I truly believe he is alive, or has returned.  More times than I can count I’ve woken up just after hugging him, and no matter how many times this happens, once my conscious mind takes over and reveals the painful truth, the emptiness I feel inside is immeasurable.

I have accepted my father’s death, though I have never gotten over it.  Maybe one reason I’ve had so much trouble is that his books are everywhere.  Right now I can just turn to the shelf behind me and find no less than fifty paperbacks with his name on them.  I am a huge fan of his work, my friends are fans of his work—people read my last name, and sometimes they ask me if I’m related to the writer.  These kinds of things might possibly stagger the process, I don’t know.  It could also be a number of regrets I have.  Regrets about how I dealt with things when he was sick—how the whole family did, maybe.  I do have to chock at least some of it up to that I was a somewhat dysfunctional, self-absorbed teenager.  I wasn’t there for him—or Jane—like I should have been.  With all of my other problems at the time (now pointless by comparison) I was in heavy denial.  I did not believe that my father was going to die.  Or I really did not want to believe it.

 With the exception of a couple of pieces, I did not read my father’s work while he was alive.  Within a month after his death, I picked up Nine Princes in Amber, hoping that, in some way, it might help me hold on to him.  To an extent I was successful, but moreso, the book just blew me away.  I immediately read Guns of Avalon, then Sign of the Unicorn, and so on, and began to fantasize about living in Amber, training with Benedict or riding with Julian through the forests of Arden.  I became obsessed with the series (hell, my son’s name is Corwin Random), and then eventually moved on to his other books.  I have a special fondness for The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth, Dream Master, and My Name is LegionLonesome October is up there too.  I found a love for his writing, as well as a newfound love for the man.  I regret not reading his work while he was around.  I regret never being able to toss one of his books down in front of him and say, “This rocks.”  I regret that I never got to tell him how proud I am of him.  

 But to hell with regret.  He lived through it.  I lived through it.  And years later, even though I wasn’t actually reading his work, we were able to talk about creativity, specifically music and writing.  It was great.  The man seemed to know everything, or at least something about anything.  As we had these almost nightly conversations, me sitting on a stool, him lying on the couch, I grew to understand how great and important he was; and once I had read his books and stories—him being my father aside—he became one of the biggest influences on my own work.  I have many influences, but when people ask me who the biggest are, I typically list three: Donald Westlake, Joe Lansdale, and Roger Zelazny.

 I touched upon this in another piece I just wrote, as yet unpublished, but I think it is important to share again.  When we are kids, our parents are the most important people in the whole world.  They are our providers.  They take care of us.  In a sense, they are gods.  However, at some point, when we enter into our all-important teenage years, some inane part of us comes to this bizarre understanding that our parents are not cool.  They become, in a sense, dorks.  I don’t know why this is, do you?  If you did not have this view as a teenager, you are a very special, rare breed.  Most every kid I know did this.

Fortunately for me, even if I had this outlook, my father and I still had a connection.  A connection of creativity (that and, somewhere inside, I did actually know that he was totally cool).  We talked more and more about life and what it meant.  We talked about anything, really.  When I got into the Beatles and the Monkees and Led Zeppelin, he already knew all about them.  We philosophized, joked around, and drank too much Pepsi.  He read me bits from the musical he wrote, read me excerpts from A Night in the Lonesome October while it was still scribbled on legal pads.

When he passed away and I began truly experiencing his work, I got in touch with him like I never had before.  It was clearly Roger, but it was a Roger like I’d never seen.  It was a Roger that not only knew about all the wonders, but had created a lot of them himself.  It was so totally cool.
            
As time goes by, I’ve learned that, at least in my life, things often come full circle, because my father is still the most important person to me in the world.  He is my hero, and I miss him dearly.

I still have the dreams.  I often ask myself if it is just a dream, or is he dropping in to say hello.  I guess, really, it doesn’t matter.  I get to see him every now and then, and from time to time we’re back on the stool and the couch, chatting it up.

I’m pleased that the work he created has influenced so many other writers and has entertained so many people.  I sometimes wonder if I had been truly aware of how cool and important he was when I was a self-centered doofus teenager, would things have been different? 

I regret to say I’ll never know…

But to hell with regret.

Roger, here’s to you, man.


Cheers.


(Originally published in Amberzine, edited by Erick Wujcik, 2005)

3 comments:

  1. Thanks for republishing this. It brings me comfort in ways I can't go into.

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  2. I'm sure Roger is proud of you and up there he keeps telling all his writers friends how good his son's book are. Thanks a lot for sharing this with us.

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