A few years after Tupak and Biggie were killed, after my short stay at the Thalian’s Clinic was a fading memory, it seemed things were improving in my life. I knew there was nothing I could do to change the past. I had come to the painful realization that the entire world had ignored the fact that the alien ship chapter had been removed from everyone’s Book of Daniel. Slowly but surely, I brought my life back under control. My psychological and emotional states stabilized. Then something catastrophic occurred; my Dad‘s store, Michael’s, burned to the ground.
I heard about it on TV; a breaking news story on a local station reported an intense fire near the corner of Sunset and Highland. As soon as the video feed from the scene began, I felt my heart sink. “It’s all gone!” went through my mind. Because of the company’s economic downturn, my Dad had decided to consolidate most of the company’s assets in this Hollywood location. The merchandise we kept there; graphic & artist supplies, are all flammable, combustible, or accelerants. I could tell the fire had reached the second floor. There was no chance the fire department could stop this fire until it burned itself out. It was not surprising to me that the people who dared to fight the extremely hot inferno emerged from the building with melted helmets and uniforms.
This complete loss was devastating to our entire family. We felt everything we depended on had been taken away. Our normal routine shifted into “disaster recovery mode.” What my Dad would do with his life from then on concerned us all. He had put so much of himself into Graphic Media/Michael’s we weren’t sure he would pick up the pieces and continue with it. Business had been on the decline for several years. We spent some time talking about what would come after the insurance company compensated him for the loss. We were certain they would; we were insured against this type of disaster.
However, as many of you have experienced yourselves, it isn’t that easy. I was not a party to that insurance policy agreement and its terms. As you might expect, the insurance company stonewalled my Dad on any type of payment. We saw my Dad slip into a depressed state we never saw from him before. As his struggle dragged on, he spent more and more time in bed. He stopped getting dressed. Soon, he went days without washing and days without eating. His phone calls directed toward resolving the settlement were taken in the prone position in bed, all his pens and papers stacked on his bedside end table. As each painful day lapsed into the next, it became clearer that his support group of lawyers, doctors, and friends could not help him. I remember visiting him in his bedroom often, each time he was even more distant, less able to make eye contact, each response delayed longer, slipping further and further away. Our family was becoming more and more panicked at our inability to offer him any assistance or relief.
One early evening I returned home after visiting Dad convinced me he was at the “point of no return.” He was wasting away: I could barely make any eye contact with him as he started past me out the bedroom window. He was developing bed sores all over his body. My Mom was nearly hysterical. She wasn’t even sure if forcing him into the hospital would even work and she was confused about what to do if he refused to go. Their dynamic became reversed; she was usually the sick one and he was usually the caretaker. Neither of them had ability to handle this scenario. So I sat on my couch in my apartment and tried to figure it out one more time. Since nothing anyone had done so far had worked and I had no faith anyone involved would solve it I determined my Dad’s life was in my hands. If I could figure out a way to rescue him I had to do so immediately. Otherwise, he was as good as dead.
As I considered our family dynamics and the stagnation they created, I determined the best thing was to become “very bad.” Continuing in my routine “good son mode” would not prevent the inevitable. You could say it was time to grab the bull by the horns and force him to get going. So, a few days later, I went over to my folks’ house, went into his room and screamed at him like a lunatic. It’s very painful to recount what I said but I called him insulting names, warned him if he didn’t move soon the house would burn to the ground, and if he didn’t get up by the next time I saw him I would drag his ass up myself. I left abruptly and slammed the front door. Soon after I got home my Mom called and tried to chastise me for what I did. She accused me of making everything worse. I replied with my most arrogant type of “I know what I’m doing, and you don’t” response. This only agitated her more. It was exactly what I wanted. It was all part of my plan, but I remember feeling so awful about it after that phone call ended I was on the verge of vomiting all over my kitchen sink. Soon after that, my sister called and what transpired was a high-pitched screaming match between the Messiah and his sister the She-Haman of the story. I was happy to let her know how I really felt about her and after we hung up on each other I remember wanting her to die as much as I ever had. At that point my “pour gasoline on the house and light a match plan” was proceeding quickly: I prayed it would work.
I let a week pass without making contact with anyone in my family. I expected this figurative conflagration between me and the rest of them would force my Dad into action. Then my Mom called, invited me over, and I went over as soon as I could. I remember going into his room, when I had said I would, and he forced himself to sit up. He was responsive, but still a bit sluggish in making eye contact. I looked at him and told him I was happy to see he was able to get up and was making progress. I also warned him if I saw him slip back I would make good on my threat to drag him out of bed and walk him around. He replied “No, you’re not.” I replied “Yes, I am.” and he responded with a slightly stronger “No, you’re not.” I was pleased; I smiled and winked at him, letting him know for the first time I had done all of this on purpose, then kissed him on his head and left.
It still took about two weeks until my folks wanted to see me again. When I came to visit my Dad was in the breakfast nook; he was dressed, the clothes hung off him in a way that revealed that he was about fifty pounds below his normal weight. He was now cautiously responsive, present. My Mom was still perplexed and wanted to know why I had done what I did a few weeks before. I gestured toward my Dad and said “Look at him, he’s in much better shape than he was before.” She still felt I had gone about it all wrong. All I could tell her was “I stand by the results.”
Soon my Dad was able to deal with the insurance company’s settlement with the fire at the Michael’s store. I really don’t know what percentage of what my Dad expected that his company actually received. Before this time I had an established, mostly negative, view of the insurance industry. After coming to the realization that this company was so close to being the proximate cause of my Dad’s death, I developed a much more jaded disdain for insurance companies.