My Mom said to me today, “It’s impossible. You can’t be 54. Your father only got to 40.”

I was seventeen months old when my father died. I never knew the man they all called “Daddy” around whom my family built a cult. Much Kool-Aid was swallowed through the decades, many versions of many of us have died many deaths in service to the tenets of that worship of a ghost, an illusion, the mythical being I would never – did never – could never call Daddy.

I learned from his death that everyone goes away; that the absent are the most loved and admired; and that one must NEVER stop waving at cars containing departing relatives until the cars are completely out of sight because this might be the last time.

I was forty-two years old when A died. I loved him in ways and colors and songs and senses I would never have with anyone else. The last time I saw him, he pretended not to know me. I threw a judgey-accusing-weeping-hateful fit, designed to trigger all his self-hatred and fear. He shot himself not long after.

I learned from his death that everyone goes away; sometimes over and over again; that I had continued to love the absent and the mythical; and I was a horrible human being who had not waved with love until he could not be seen, but, rather, turned away, screaming about my own pain, ignoring his — which was far greater.

I was forty-two years old when Steve died, died two days after having had to be the one to tell me that A had killed himself. Steve was the last of those friends to whom I could tell all of my secrets. Every. Single. Ugly. Adventure. We had recently re-upped our friendship. Made new promises. Vowed — to one another — to make some changes with others because we deserved more.

I learned from his death that everyone goes away; and it is good to get rid of the waste and the worst and the why-did-we’s before they do, as we did, thank goodness because as awful a person as A’s death made me, Steve and our acceptance and forgiveness and forging new bonds made me a better person.

I was forty-two years old when my dearest aunt, Sissie, died. Just a few months after A and Steve. A month after my first dog, Jordan, died. It was a horrible year. Sissie saw me true. Pure. Clean. Perfect. All Light and Love. She did not need to forgive me because she never saw anything but Joy and Truth and Essence and that seed of Infinity from which we all come when she looked at me. She didn’t need me to become or be anything or anyone other than who I was. She loved me unconditionally.

I learned from her death that I was ready to leave, like everyone did. I never — not really — quite recovered. Without her to see me, all of the reflections of me from those who loved me and those who claimed to love me were pictures of someone flawed. To a person, everyone in my life then wished I was someone or something else.

I, especially, wanted to be anything and anyone but me.

I spent the next five, six, seven years, trying to make people happy. I peeled away pieces of me, denied myself (and selves) and drank all sorts of Kool-Aid — in fact, I served many a cup to many a person who trusted me.

Finally, there was nothing left but to go away, like everyone did. I left — and in doing so, lost most everyone who remained in my life.

I am fifty-four. My Mom is 87, and despite dire warnings from doctors about her most recent operation, she is kicking and joyful and vital enough that she could say to me, today, “It’s impossible. You can’t be 54. Your father only got to 40. I’m so proud of you.”

I learned from her life, from her vitality, from her kicking, from her continuing in the face of all she has had to face, that while she has never been able to be proud of herself — she is proud of me. And if she can be, then I owe it to that man I can’t comfortably call Daddy, and A, and Steve, and Jordan, and Sissie, and all the people I helped sip Kool-Aid, and all the people who loved me and left, and who I loved and left, and MOST OF ALL, I owe it to myself to really and truly believe that just getting to BE is enough – and getting to BE for 54 years, through all the goodbyes — I am Miracle Charlie.

And Miracle Charlie is going to wave at this reflection of himself in this mirror of life until that car is so far out of sight, even binoculars couldn’t find me — and when I’m positive I can no longer be seen, I’m gonna wave a few more damn times just to make sure.

Love and Light kids. Keep on waving.

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