I just want to dance at your funeral

Because I already paid the band

I’ve alluded to it in the past, but my father is a funeral director. Death is my family’s business, and as such, I’ve been around it as long as I can remember. But that’s not really what this is about. What this is actually about is how, thanks to a genealogy test, I can now blame him for the tumors in my neck. Which is cool, because I already blame him for everything bad in the world anyway. At least, if you were to ask him, that’s probably how he’d characterize it.

I haven’t seen my father in over a decade, which was a decision that I made out of my own accord. Though we’ve not seen each other in person, we have spoken on the phone a couple times, and in true Mad Dad fashion, he ended both of those calls by saying, “You are not my son.” The first time was clearly meant as a jab, to make me feel shitty or empty or something, but I just kind of shrugged it off. But the next time, I just laughed as he hung up because, yeah dude, I know, come up with a second insult.

Anyway, as it turns out, the reason I have bilateral carotid body tumors is because of him, or so I’m told. In essence, it’s a trait only passed down by some unique genetic defect and, lo and behold, he gave it to me. Huzzah! What’s more, if I were to ever have kids, they’d stand a 50/50 chance of getting these too. So, future children that I don’t plan on having, go to the doctor early and often.

Make no mistake, I’m exactly what you made me.

I remember sitting at some restaurant in Brooklyn with my mom. It was her first trip to New York City, and after a week of running around and sightseeing, we were sitting there having a nice dinner in a mostly empty restaurant. I forget how it came up, but I remember saying that because it had been so long I’d started to question whether or not my memories of my father were correct, or if time had made him into much more of a monster than he ever really was. I knew bad things had happened, and I still had the drafts of letters I sent to him saying that I loved him and wishing for things to be okay between us, but maybe time had just dulled it all. Memory and trauma are funny in that way. But then my mom started telling me her stories, ones I’d always known, and I was reminded that, no, some people are pieces of shit who don’t deserve sympathy, no matter how much time has passed or what your relationship is to them. What they’ve done to you, they’ve surely done to someone else, and they’ll just keep on doing it because why should they be the ones to change?

What I was reminded of in that moment was that my entire life was built around pushing back against everything my father represented. If not for him, I’d not have seen firsthand how ugly people can be, how greed and pride and alcoholism and abuse are not hypotheticals, but the reality of the world. Every decision in my life has been a defiant act of opposition to what I saw in that man. Building your life on a foundation of spite may not seem sustainable, but it certainly makes it easy to know where you stand when the chips are down.

And unfortunately, on days like this, I’m reminded that I share a lineage with him. I’d be content to never think about him again, but that’s not possible when I’m told he’s what my illness traces back to. I’ve waited for the day when a distant cousin messages me on Facebook to tell me he’s died and then I can finally start letting go of the fear that I’ll just end up transforming into him, the person I’ve always hated the most. But maybe that feeling never goes away.

Make no mistake, I’m exactly what you made me.

These past couple weeks have also reminded me that my chosen profession is populated by plenty of people dripping with the same ugliness that I grew up around. Both journalism and music are industries often plundered by people with ill intent, their only goal being to achieve personal gain no matter what the cost. It’s disgusting, and it feels all-consuming and inescapable. As tiring as it is to fight against it, I still naively hope that, one day, we won’t have to anymore.

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