Today's #wirehousedaily from Dustin & Whitney are both homages to men no longer with us. Hope they speak to you or inspire you in some way.
This Machine by DH Currier
Atheists Saved by Angels by whitney lamora currier
// Note: this was originally written to be performed for The Moth's theme of FATHERS. Unfortunately I didn't get chosen the night of the show so I didn't get to share this piece. I hope you enjoy it now //
I’ll just come right out with it- my father died at the age of 46 in 2008 from stage 4 lung cancer after a year and a half battle. I was 22 years old and finishing my senior year of college in Southern Missouri. I was starring in our production of TWELFTH NIGHT as Viola. I returned to rehearsals a week after his death and I will never forget having to swallow my tears as we picked up in Act 5 Scene 1 where Viola encounters her twin brother she thought was lost at sea. They identified each other with facts of their past and Viola uses her father as proof: “My father had a mole upon his brow … And died that day when Viola from her birth had numbered thirteen years.”
My father didn’t have mole upon his brow but I then knew what losing him felt like. Since that point I’ve mostly identified my father with his death. I shortly moved to Chicago where no one knew my father and only some had an inkling of this person who was forming after his death. I’ll always carry that weight with me- but I’ve recently begun trying to truly separate my long-term grief with more of what he was. He was a hard worker. A tattooed guy who mostly wore sleeveless Harley Davidson tshirts. He loved animals, bar-be-queuing and the St. Louis Cardinals. He was hilarious. He was my best friend.
At the age of 22 you haven’t quite learned that you’re supposed to start asking your parents about themselves. Beyond knowing how my parents were engaged (in the parking lot of a Grandpa Pigeons if anyone remembers those), his family make up (four siblings- two brothers, two sisters, a father who died of a heart attack when my dad was 13 years old, and a mother who had died when I was sixteen- her funeral being the first time I had seen him cry), and general random life facts- I sometimes feel like my father died as a stranger to me. I thought he was an atheist but he asked his brother while bedridden to pray over him. I thought he was perfect but he had an affair which broke up our family five years before he was diagnosed. I thought he was untouchable. Cancer taught me differently.
I do remember one story that he had told me growing up. While putting together the pieces for this story I called my mother asking her if she remembered, and she did. Between us we couldn’t agree what year this happened- me thinking it was when I was a very young child, and she thinking it was more during my teenage years. Either way- we both remember it as true.
My parents created a stable middle-class home for my brother and I to grow up in. Neither of us wanted for anything- we were always full, always happy. My father sometimes picked up random jobs to pad the bank account and one terrible Midwest winter he got behind the wheel of a semi truck to drive materials from Missouri to Illinois and back again for his long-time employer, Boeing.
He was about halfway through the trip when the truck started acting up. This was an overnight drive and he was not a seasoned truck driver by any means. The truck began to break down- it was severe enough to pull over on the side of the road. The truck was unfixable by the extent of the knowledge he held. This was pre-cell phone time and whether the radio in the truck had failed or no one was close enough to answer a call for assistance- he was on his own. The temperatures were deadly low and he knew if he waited in his truck for help on this desolate highway he would freeze to death, so he decided the best solution was to walk for help.
Now- my dad- even having spent his entire life in Missouri- never properly dressed for the weather. His winter coats consisted of varying flannel “coats” each slightly thicker than the last. I never saw him in shoes heavier than sneakers and a scarf, hat, mittens - out of the question. He was under prepared. But- he had a wife and two kids at home and a job to do- so he set out to walk to the nearest gas station or loading station - miles away.
As he told it he got a mile, maybe two down the road. At this point his lack of weather preparedness started kicking in- and he was alone, on a highway in the middle of the night where no other cars seemed to be present. He started to get worried. And his worries increased. He had taken this walk to safely get back to his family- but what if he didn’t make it to that gas station? Should he have stuck it out in his truck until morning and flagged down a fellow trucker? Or was this truly the way to do it? Would he make it home to us?
He had started to lose feeling in his fingers and toes. He kept on- his thoughts battling against each other. Suddenly from down the highway he sees a pair of headlights coming toward him. The first car he had seen in hours- the chance of the passing and the chance of that person stopping was slim- but he stuck out his hand or thumb or indicated in some way he needed, wanted help. Of course, he was an underdressed man walking the side of the highway in the middle of winter- no need for a signal for distress. Against all odds, the man in the car pulled over. Offered my dad a ride. Took him the additional miles and dropped him at the station. My dad was saved. Help had arrived. He later called this man his guardian angel. In the end, I think he was mine.
I wish I had a difficult time picking the story I wanted to tell tonight because I had had a wealth of them in front of me. Instead- I have fragments of memories of the best person I’ll ever know. So ask your dads what you want to know now. Don’t assume, learn. They may be atheists saved by angels. Don’t pass up the chance to ask.