Monday, January 24, 2005

Johnny Carson & Thoughts on Death

Not necessarily the topic on which I wanted to started my blog -- but it's on my mind so I'll write about it. Last night I had a dream that my father died. Now, my father is very old, and not in great health. We've had some close calls, and frankly, I'm sometimes amazed that he's still with us. But the dream nevertheless shook me up. I could actually feel what it would be like for him to be gone, the emptiness inside that results when someone who has always been a constant is suddenly and permanently gone from your life.

Then I woke up, turned on my shower radio, and learned that Johnny Carson had died. It was too weird. I cried. Not only because I loved Johnny Carson, but because of the connection in my mind between Johnny Carson and my father, and the strange coincidence of the dream.

Born in the early 60's, I grew up watching Johnny Carson with my father. My father's not the most demonstrative of men I know -- not many from his generation are -- but watching Johnny together was a ritual for us. We were the night owls of the family. My mom couldn't stay awake long enough to watch with us, and that was okay with me. Johnny Carson time was daddy and me time, from when I was very young until I moved away from home at 19. I can still hear the music at the start of the show, and Ed McMahon's voice announcing "Heeeeeeerrrrrrreeee's Johnny!" I don't know where my five older brothers were; maybe sometimes they joined us, but not often. Not often enough to make an impression. It was just me and my dad. That's what mattered to me. There are family pictures of us on the couch, the only time we ever really cuddled together. Maybe that's why someone decided it warranted a picture -- to freeze the moment in time. But even without a picture, those moments will be frozen in my memory forever.

I've been weepy all day. When someone like Johnny dies, he takes a little bit of my childhood with him. With every death of someone from my father's generation, I find myself wondering: is he next? Will I be able to handle it? I've been lucky enough not to have someone close to me die. At 41, that's pretty remarkable. I know my time is coming, and soon I will begin losing the ones I love, the ones I grew up with, the ones who molded me.

Goodbye, Johnny . . . there are those who will never forget you . . .