Who Was He

The Million MAGA March last weekend in Washington

America remains in an uproar as the administration attempts to foil the theft of the election. The main thing to remember is it’s not over until the fat elector sings, and it may be a while. I had about ten articles lined up to write about various aspects, but I just don’t want to, most of you have read it anyway. The main thing is to keep the faith, as I told a friend, America is a tough old eagle, and we’ve faced this sort of crap before.

Instead, I’m going to give you another of our articles from the new fiction category, which is proving very popular, This one from our old friend Dave Smith. Neo

He didn’t know me very well although he was my father and I was in my 40’s. But then it was becoming clear that I knew nothing about him either; what was real or what was simply a figment of the old man’s imagination.

“So, remember when we were hanging out on East 7th Street? We used to get high a lot and nod off to jazz or blues records playing in the background.”
“No, pop, I wasn’t there. I don’t know what you’re talking about?”
“Sure you do. Remember when we were getting wasted before heading out to Slugs to hear Lee Morgan play? You remember that. He died that night. And I think he had no idea that his number had come up.”
“Dad, who is Lee Morgan?”
“You know, the trumpet player; remember Sidewinder?”
“No, I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“You must have been higher than I was and I got real nice that night and only after doing half a trey bag. It was real nice. But it was good in a way. We missed the shooting and that would have been a real downer. There was Margo, Marty, Louie the Greek, and Frenchie with us that night. We all got too high to want to walk in the snow down to East 3rd Street. It was cold and we were comfortably warm in the apartment.”
“Pop, you have me mixed up with somebody else.”
“Oh, do I? Who are you again?”
“I’m your son, pop? Don’t you know me?”
“Oh yeah. What’s your name?”
“It’s John. Your son John.”
He didn’t respond but looked off into the distance and back through many decades of his life; a life I scarcely knew anything about. I had never heard the names he was uttering and where was Slugs or who was Lee Morgan? So while he drifted off in thought, I got out my iPhone and simply Googled ‘Lee Morgan’ and read the following:
Edward Lee Morgan (July 10, 1938 – February 19, 1972) was an American jazz trumpeter and composer.
One of the key hard bop musicians of the 1960s, Morgan came to prominence in his late teens, recording on John Coltrane’s Blue Train (1957) and with the band of drummer Art Blakey before launching a solo career. 
Morgan stayed with Blakey until 1961 and started to record as leader in the late ’50s. His song “The Sidewinder”, on the album of the same name, became a surprise crossover hit on the pop and R&B charts in 1964, while Morgan’s recordings found him touching on other styles of music as his artistry matured. Soon after The Sidewinder was released, Morgan rejoined Blakey for a short period. After leaving Blakey for the final time, Morgan continued to work prolifically as both a leader and a sideman with the likes of Hank Mobley and Wayne Shorter, becoming a cornerstone of the Blue Note label.
Morgan’s career was cut short at the age of 33 when his common-law wife Helen shot and killed him following a confrontation at Slug’s Saloon, in New York City.
So my dad was living in NYC in ’72 and was a jazz loving junkie? He almost witnessed the death of Lee Morgan? This just didn’t fit the image of my father. I knew he loved music and especially the blues. I know he still had LP’s of a lot of music mostly from the ’60s and a bunch of jazz albums . . . but I never listened to them.
Breaking the silence, dad started to speak of the angels that had saved his life. There was Helene, Kath, Gloria, Goldie, and Mary. Now the last name I knew because that was my mother’s name. He was a prayerful Catholic and so I didn’t know if in his dementia he was speaking of angels or people or both. He was thankful that there was always somebody around that loved him enough to keep him from slipping into another life; sinking into a pit of drugs and despair. Obviously, he had kicked any habit he might have had for he never did any drinking or taking of any drugs during my life, as far as I knew; except perhaps for the Xanax which he took for anxiety. And I didn’t even know, nor did I care to know, what might have been behind that either. It was becoming quite clear how distant we had always been.
My father knew his genealogy well. He could tell stories about his grandfather’s days in eastern Kentucky and how his grandfather’s brother, Phillip, rode with a posse to find Devil Anse Hatfield of the infamous Hatfield and McCoy feud. Though my understanding was that Devil Anse died of pneumonia in 1921 and fathered a number of children who still reside in the area; so they must not have caught him. Yet I didn’t know or listen to much of what the old man had to say and I knew less about them than I did the Hatfield’s and McCoys which was next to nothing.
Again, the silence was broken. “There was something that always stopped me from becoming a junkie,” he said. “Half my friends did. But not me. I was always afraid of being hooked on drugs. Whenever I began to get a ‘chippy’ and awoke with sniffles or an aching body I wouldn’t get high again for at least a week. That is how I was able to use drugs and keep it purely recreational.”
“You were shooting heroin? How come I didn’t know that?”
“Sure you did. Don’t you remember us getting high together? Remember how we used to go to Slugs and listen to jazz and nurse a beer for two hours so we could stay and listen to the music?”
“It wasn’t me dad.”
“Well, who was it then? I know it wasn’t . . . it must’ve been what’s his name. Never mind.” He stared off again but this time his eyelids got heavy and he slumped down in his hospital bed and never awoke. I suppose the morphine they administered him with reminiscent of an old state of mind he was not unfamiliar with. Maybe this conversation was a manifestation of those highs he once experienced for fun rather than for pain.
And just like Lee Morgan, he had no idea that his last thoughts were far from the thoughts that we think that we might entertain on our deathbeds. Death came suddenly for Lee and for my father and the sun set on a life that was mostly hidden like an iceberg. I only glimpsed the tip of that icy barque that rose above the surface.  Life is very short and I cannot regain the time needed to uncover what was my own father’s life.
I must live with that realization and the fact that I will forever have a question mark in my mind:
Who was he, and for that matter, who am I?

About Neo
Lineman, Electrician, Industrial Control technician, Staking Engineer, Inspector, Quality Assurance Manager, Chief Operations Officer

24 Responses to Who Was He

  1. Alys Williams says:

    Knock out piece of writing.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. audremyers says:

    Holy smokes! That’s a story! If it’s biographical, I’m so sorry; if it’s pure fiction, it’s outstanding!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. 39 Pontiac Dream says:

    Superb story and so poignant.

    I don’t know whether to mention it to Tina, whose father recently died of dementia, because it might make her cry but this is wonderfully written.

    One of my deepest regrets is that I never got to know my father either and that when he died, our last words were not great. I hope when my time comes, I can meet him upstairs and find out all the things I’d never asked in life.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Scoop says:

      Yes, my father was also rather tight-lipped about his life. He never spoke about his naval career and what happened during WWII etc. I learned more about him from his classmates and by reading about the Little Beaver Squadron under Admiral Arleigh “38 knot” Burke in books. Seems like he saw a lot of action and his squadron rewrote naval battle strategy that is still being taught to this day in Naval War College. His personal stuff was always personal.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. JessicaHof says:

    Such a moving piece, Scopp. You write beautifully and I loved the allusiveness of the whole thing. I had about it something of the quality of dementia in so far as you captured the thought processes so well. Beautifully done, and you get us off to the best of starts. You give the rest of us a high bar – thank you xx

    Liked by 2 people

  5. the unit says:

    Yeah well, Dave Smith. 🙂
    “Who am I?” That being a universal question in my family and ancestors for generations now.
    I don’t know exactly how far back it goes. But a couple of us cousins, who haven’t seen each other in 40 years, were remembering some old stories about our great or maybe great-great grandpa’s, depending on which war it was involving Texas with Mexico. Remembering by way of emails between us old cousins these days.
    I think it about my great granddad He and two brothers set out with gold to buy land in Texas. Family, (those who were alive then), said last that was ever heard from them, last contact was in New Orleans. Had an aunt who said story she knew was it was Natchez was the last place anybody heard from them.
    So “Who am I?” Be one gonna buy me some of those pick pocket proof garments I see in ads on the net! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: In The Mailbox: 11.20.20 (Morning Edition) : The Other McCain

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