My father passed away this week. He was a complex man with whom I sometimes had a complicated relationship. He lived, as some people joked, a rough kind of life. He’d been a bar man, both owner and patron, a pawn man, dealing out wares and advice, and a construction worker, laying big blocks with barrel-sized arms well into his sixties. He was a talker–a real big talker–telling me (and everyone else) dirty jokes since before I could speak. He knew just about everyone in our small town, and he could disarm just about any soul with his tough handshake and his wit. I threw him for a loop, being a different kind of son than he expected, but he adapted. He put me in the passenger seat of his truck weekend after weekend and drove me down country roads recounting the haunts of his younger years. I think he recognized that in addition to our shared blue eyes and wide shoulders, that was the thing that joined us–I, too, was going to be a storyteller. He was with my mother for fifty years. He gave her three children and a whole lot of hell, but they shared a love that few could understand. He talked and talked, but I think I learned the most from him in our moments of shared silence, when it became clear to me what he had really been saying all along. He was a man who loved life and that’s what he wanted for me. I’m headed to DC tonight for one of the last readings of my book tour. I thought about canceling, but some of his final words to me, at a time when he could barely speak, were, “How’s your book doing?” Jack Corcoran was a man who ran toward the horizon, took chances, learned (sometimes, begrudgingly) from failures, and never took any of this strange world too seriously. An old man walked into a bar, and one day he just never came out again. I was never any good at telling jokes. Rest in peace, Father.
(note: my father passed away on May 2nd, 2016)