But there's also my grandfather. I called him Papoo, which I only found out when I was about 18 years old that he never liked, but tolerated because it came from me. And he called me Madame. Out of everyone in my whole family, perhaps my whole life, Jim Ferguson had an emotional temperament most similar to my own. I don't think I realized that until I was in my late teens, how similar we were, largely because I was too in awe of him to actually analyze him. But he was complicated. Often quiet and inward, intimidatingly so, but gregarious, hilarious. He always thought of what he could do for other people. How he could support other people's dreams. Especially if he had originally been unsupportive, and then realized he was wrong. He'd make the phone calls, he'd do surprise things for people.
He loved to tell stories and it would seem like he was really worked up when he would tell them. People would tell him to calm down and he hated it. When he found out how much I hated that too, we had a long conversation about how people didn't understand our energy. "People are always telling me to calm down, like I'm upset when I'm telling the story...but I'm not! I'm just trying to tell a good story!" He was stubborn and ornery and sentimental and emotional and when he died in 2002, he took with him my ideas of a world where everything was in it's proper place.
I was in Japan when he died and unable to get back for his funeral, which is the single biggest sore spot in my life. Right before I left for Japan, I went to stay with my grandparents in Perry. I didn't want to leave them anyhow, because I knew his last good days were numbered. And when I started to head towards my car in the cold early morning, to drive back to Texas, he followed me out. And told me to hug him on the neck as good as I could, because it was most likely the last time I was going to see him. I can't describe how paralyzed that made me. I was physically unable to move from the steps for a long time. I hugged his neck, but then we just stood there, under the blinking nose of the Rudolf that hung in the car port, for a long long time.
It was around Father's Day 8 years ago that I woke up in Tokyo with a gripping fear that I had not fully told him everything I needed to say to him. And that I would soon lose my chance. I needed to tell him that I believed it was possible for people to love each other their whole lives, thanks to his marriage with my grandmother, that I believed in just doing it because of him--- just get on the phone-- that's how you'll make it happen! Thank him for teaching me to make perfect Bloody Mary Mix, how doing things with precision was the only way, how to cut my own hair, start my own business, how to pick the right friends and keep them your whole life, how to love the people around you-- both loud and sloppy and quietly and selflessly, when to have pride and when not to, how to pay attention to people, and how to know who you don't need to pay any attention to, and how to always always find common ground with someone you love, even if it seems like you disagree.
I wrote him like a 12 page letter that day and ran to the mailbox to mail it, just sending up prayers that he got it before it was too late. He did. The night before Father's Day, about 10 days before he died.
I wandered around Tokyo for weeks after he died, just miserable that I couldn't be with my family during that time. But I always found him in strange places. And I still do.
I miss him everyday, still. I feel the lack of him. And yet, I really think he was tucked himself in pockets of things I love, in little moments he's left for me to find, to know he's there. They always show up when I don't expect them. Certain things just smack of him, and I look around thinking, "Ok, Old Man, I know that was you..." On the very top of Mt. Fuji, When Rice won the world series, moments in the theatre sometimes, certainly last weekend at the Steamboat Springs Reunion, and this last Christmas when I was alone in NYC, writing. I was listening to James Taylor One Man Band and the version of "Shower The People" from that album came on. It's a good version. But then, suddenly, there was something extra...there was...my grandfather.
In the lines:
You can run but you cannot hide
This is widely known
And what you plan to do with your foolish pride
When you're all by yourself alone
Once you tell somebody the way that you feel
You can feel it beginning to ease
I think it's true what they say about the squeaky wheel...
then there was an add lib, simple, but heart-stopping... "RASCAL'S always getting the grease..."
Blink and you'd miss it. But he was there. All of a sudden, my whole apartment was filled with the extraordinary man who was my grandfather, letting me know he was still making phone calls on my behalf, thinking of me on Christmas, joking and carousing and teasing me and loving me. It seems silly right? The one-word addition of the word Rascal to that song, but it was so like him, it could have been him singing for all I knew. Maybe you need to hear it for yourself to understand. So here it is.
This song is my personal motto. I believe in every lyric in here to a fault. Sometimes, I have showered the people I love with love so much that they have shown up to the party drenched and almost drown-out, but I'd rather do that than the opposite. It's what, at the end of the day, people loved about Jim Ferguson. And what, if I'm lucky, people will say they loved about me. If I'm truly lucky, they'll say they could see him in me. That would be a moment I'd feel safe to feel proud over.
Happy Father's Day to all the fantastic fathers out there who guide and support their families. And for those no longer with us, I hope you're all living tucked away in moments for us to find and remember everything you gave us.