HomePublicationBurbankChris Erskine: Troubled Angels, Aching Hearts

Chris Erskine: Troubled Angels, Aching Hearts

On the sixth anniversary of that awful day youre still here kiddo In the clouds In the Sierra snow In this frisky blue eyed pup

What still amazes me was how quickly the Highway Patrol confirmed my son’s death on that gloomy March morning six years ago.
You know, you call your bank, your broker, your tire store. Sometimes it takes hours to reach the right person. But call the CHP and report that your adult son never came home Saturday night, do they have any info?
That takes about five minutes.
Yes, the CHP said, we have a report of an accident with that license plate. No fatalities. Sorry, wait, sorry …
“Yes, sir, there were.”
Right then, I knew he was gone.
So much agony that year — first him, then my wife, whom he mothered. That’s right, Christopher “mothered his mother,” as they sometimes like to say. Sons just seem to know when mothers need mothering too.
When he was no longer there to make her laugh, the cancer won. She never stood a chance. Best oncologists in the world. Didn’t matter.
Six years later, I’m still recovering, spending long days adding new parables to the Old Testament and trying to focus on the good stuff.
I mean, what’s a semi-sane dad to do? Just quit? Oooooooof. Sorry, baby. Like Magellan, I didn’t travel this far to quit (though wasn’t he killed by a random poison arrow?).
O life. …
As with many dads, my four kids were my Moonlight Sonata. Some children are easy; they almost raise themselves. Others push your every button.
I call them troubled angels.
Often, they are the life of the party … give the best hugs, listen more closely than others. They have outsized impact, charisma, humor. Unfortunately, they are often manic. Poet Robert Lowell dubbed this “a pathological enthusiasm.”
Other times, they are sadder than anyone should ever be.
As a parent, you always wonder: “Am I being too easy? Am I being too tough?”
Out of desperation, you twist back and forth, as if tuning a guitar. You just hope you can find their elusive sweet spot, a comforting middle ground, a sense of contentment … another day.
Dear troubled angels: Sure, we fuss over you too much. So? Fussing is loving.
My oldest son was a troubled angel, a difficult but essentially good kid. Yet he couldn’t see his own virtues — couldn’t spot his own bright side — his charm, his humor, all the ways he lit up a room. There were too many things he wouldn’t even try. And a few things he shouldn’t have.
Charisma is an elusive thing. The roughest equation (super simplified): Charisma = charm + humility + wit + cool. Jimmy Stewart. Paul Newman. Paul McCartney.
My late son had it too.
He befriended everyone. The UPS dudes, the meter readers, the pizza-makers up the block. They loved seeing him come hungry through the door.
He loved the Dodgers, the Lakers. Fast breaks, slow shutter speeds. Snowboards. Stroganoff. Sinatra. Yeah, Sinatra.
Used to sing “You Make Me Feel So Young” in the batting cage.
He was 10.
Gone in his prime, he left no kids, no wife, only us. His other breathing link is this Siberian husky of his, whom I walk too much and have to groom with a garden rake, a bushy-tailed rascal-relic. No coincidence she sheds a lot — great gobs of puffy snow, which he loved.
I confide in her often, as I once did to him. “Look at those rainclouds, huh?” Or, during ballgames on TV: “Bunt, you idiot. Bunt.”
Remarkable as it is, on the sixth anniversary of that awful day, you’re still here, kiddo. In the clouds. In the Sierra snow. In this frisky blue-eyed pup.
I can still see you on the local ball fields running out those “little nubbers,” as Vinny used to call them. In my mind, you always beat out the throw. In my mind, you’ll never grow slow and old.
Quick update on your sassy little brother (your best friend).
You’d be so proud.
The little dude overswings at breaking pitches, just like you did. He slices his tee shots, then laughs. Cherishes a good, gloppy cheeseburger — medium rare, running down his wrists.
Loves Sinatra. Lights up a room. Still misses you a ton.
Boy, do we ever. All of us.
O life …

For past columns, please go to ChrisErskineLA.com. To reach the writer, email Letters@ChrisErskineLA.com.

First published March 7-9 in Outlook Newspapers.


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