One summer during college, my friend John held up a copy of Zap No. 4, which had just been ruled obscene in a San Francisco court. “For a word to exist, it has to have meaning, otherwise it would have no reason to exist,” he said. “Take the word ‘obscene,’” he continued. “Now this is obscene, because it goes beyond the standards of decency in any culture.”
My father died suddenly at age 55. For years after he died, I drank heavily on his birthday to dull the pain and anger of his passing at a way too young age. I’ve come to handle it better over these more than 37 years, but I haven’t found what is termed “closure.” In fact, other than for what is done when a road needs to be blocked off, I don’t know what it means when pertaining to human emotions. In fact, I think it’s the most overused and basically meaningless word in the English language.
I missed not having somebody to confide in about adulthood, fatherhood, the trials and trivialities of family life and how to cope with the needs and uncertainties that lie ahead. I missed not having him see his first grandchild, (who is named after him), attend the last game at Comiskey Park and, if healthy enough, another World Series on the South Side. I’m honestly angry that so many horrible people live to old age and he didn’t. I was angry that I had to drive 45 minutes to some hospital on the West Side I’d never heard of, not knowing whether he was still alive, and that I had to lie to Janet, barely two months after our marriage, that he was still alive because I didn’t want her to be in a cab alone from Lincoln Park to Division and Cicero having to cope with the new reality.
Why don’t I believe in “closure”? I had tears in my eyes after the last out on September 30, 1990, and I literally cried in the theater in 2005 hearing Billy Crystal relate how his father died suddenly of a heart attack and the next day a policeman brought an envelope to the house with the personal belongings, much as John Weil, who had passed away also way too soon earlier in the year, had given me the envelope with his wallet, glasses and ring at the hospital. I had tears in my eyes again at 10:45 p.m., after they finally got me out of the recovery room and into a hospital room following an angioplasty in 2004, a week before my 55th birthday, because I was picturing my father in the emergency room and realizing how lucky I hadn’t suffered the same fate.
So what, then, does “closure” mean? I hate when commentators talk about families of murder victims or war casualties finding closure. Perhaps believing in closure is like Peter Pan believing in fairies. I, for one, don’t think it exists, surely not for the most traumatic and important things in life. That’s one man’s opinion; I may be wrong.