Stan Larkin received the call that his father had died at two-thirty in the morning. He knew what needed to be done. There was the call to his younger brother out west to make, the funeral home with whom he had prearranged everything to inform, and a trip up to the hospital to collect what remained of his father’s personal belongings. There wasn’t much to collect really; just a few pairs of socks, a comb, his dad’s shaving kit, and what was left in a box of Polident.
‘How fitting, for a man who lived such a small life to leave so very little behind,’ Stan thought.
Stan was wrong there, though. Murray Larkin had left plenty behind, and none of it good. An angry alcoholic, Murray left scars on his family that were both visible and invisible, starting with his wife. Technically, Tammy Larkin had died ten years earlier from breast cancer after only six months of treatment, but Stan has always believed she deliberately lost the fight early just to be free of her husband. Roger, the youngest of the Larkin boys, headed out west as soon as he finished high school and used the excuse of work for why he could never make it back home for visits. Then there was Stan.
Children of alcoholics tend to follow certain patterns. They develop a drinking problem themselves, they marry someone with one, they become martyrs, or over-achievers. Stan fell into the latter category. His way of rebelling as a teen was to avoid the party scene altogether and excel in school instead. Later on, he would go on to excel in his career. He did everything he felt he needed to do to prove that he was nothing like his father, all at the expense of joy. He didn’t allow himself to have fun out of fear of losing control. He never took chances out of fear of risking everything for which he had worked. Nor did he ever love himself enough to say “I’m good just as I am”, out of fear that he wasn’t, and that all those kids who teased him about coming from a white trash family were right. There was always something more to accomplish or to prove – to his dad, to himself, to the childhood bullies, to the universe.
Proving he was a good son despite what went on in his childhood was part of that package. That’s why he made sure his father received the medical care he needed in those final months and why he visited him every night after work. Now that his father was gone there just one final thing he could do to drive that point home, and that was to write his father’s obituary.
What could he say about a man who left a trail of wreckage? Stan knew what he wanted to say: Murray Larkin, a man who loved booze more than his own flesh and blood, died Tuesday, March 22, 2016. Predeceased by his wife Tammy, a woman who deserved better. Survived by two dysfunctional sons who would die themselves if anyone knew just how tormented they still are after all of these years. A private family burial will take place at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Al-Anon.
But that’s not what a good son writes. A good son writes the following: Murray Larkin passed away peacefully in his sleep Tuesday, March 22, 2016 at the age of 84. A welder by trade, Murray’s real passions were his family and watching hockey. A private family burial will take place at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the charity of your choice.
In three days time, Stan will bury his father with only Leanne, his supportive wife of twenty-two years, in attendance. Roger will make up some excuse about not being able to make it out. “You understand,” he will say to Stan and he will, as only Stan could.