Obituary of a Salesman
Everyone has them. MLK, Joseph, Mama Rose, Willy Loman.
My dreams of childhood were big and brassy, those of adulthood loving and connected. I gave away the shiny dreams of childhood for those more lasting intended to carry me to my grave. My dreams were immediate, personal, not the life changing, world changing dreams of Dr. King nor the prophesying dreams of Joseph who saw what others could not.
Dreams connect and divide us. Those dreamt without a clue as to execution and single minded purpose seem doomed to failure.
Like Willy Loman’s.
Making it big on the road. Selling the line at home of the conquests and achievements and the devil in the details. Details that disintegrated slowly, over a life time. Willy’s dreams eventually replaced by the dreams for the son. The life of ease, the adoring crowds, reflected dream light. Family hopeful, supportive, believing the next time it would all come right.
I know Willy Loman. I’ve known him my whole life. Exceptionally bright. Bitingly funny. Insightful. Talented. Charming. Clueless. He knew the big time was just around the corner, if only.
A guy who could skillfully manipulate the written word, to devastating affect. I called him Indiana’s poet laureate. Only partly joking. Could discuss history, poetry, sociology, politics. Spew facts, figures, dates with an ease that could leave the listener breathless. After a lifetime of substance abuse and mental illness, he could kick any comer’s behind in Scrabble. And couldn’t remember what he said five minutes ago.
He loved deeply. He wanted to be warm. He wanted to save the natural world. He just couldn’t figure out the whole mess of living. My Willy Loman would give you the shirt off his back; only to discover he had taken it from your closet. Even when he could barely walk, offered to mow the lawn. Then jumped a greyhound bus and headed for a city 90 miles off the mark, in the middle of winter. He wanted so badly to be connected but couldn’t figure out how to keep from interrupting the signal.
The last big dream my Willy had was to own a deli. He had a little money put back. He wanted to create an east coast style place where the sandwiches would be named after the five boroughs. He had never been to New York. Details. What he really wanted was to be in a place where he could talk to people, touch their lives and be touched by them. A place where commitment was only as deep as the spicy brown mustard on a grinder.
He was so cold last winter. Had problems walking, problems breathing. He dreamt I would be able to solve his problems for him, fix his situation one last time. We were out of options. His invisible baggage had grown inversely to his actual baggage which amounted to a duffle of prized books. He dreamt of being close, finally, to his family. Those who had walked the road with him and knew him better than anyone. His mother, me.
He had eyes the color of the caribbean, icy blue turquoise. Beautiful until the very day he closed them the last time. Hair so soft it was like satin. As a kid he had a buzz cut that I could not resist running my hands through. He traded the hated buzz cut for a typical 70’s style shag. It was never the same. As he aged it was shot with beautiful silver which he was inclined to dye. A shame. My Willy had an infectious laugh; it came from the gut, he threw his head back and let if fill the room. No excuses. And could that boy EAT! I have never seen anything like it. Knew he was seriously off his game when he didn’t want to eat.
He lived to have two beautiful daughters, a beautiful granddaughter and a grandson on the way. He lived to touch the lives of step brothers who knew him as the funny man.
My Willy did not jump into a car to close his final act; rather he seemed pulled by an ancestral tractor beam, determined not to go farther than they. And so he didn’t. He slipped into the dreamtime to join his father and his brother in law to wait for us women folk. He went without the benefit of a brass band, a eulogy, or a twenty one gun salute. He snuck out the backdoor one last time.
Rest in Peace, my brother. I love you.
Go the secret meeting place.