my father’s ashes
February 16, 2009
My father is dead.
It seems like that needs to be said. And like that is too blunt a way to say it.
My father’s ashes are in the possession of an aging former beauty queen contestant.
This seems, knowing my father, somehow very fitting.
And at the same time very very wrong.
The aging former beauty queen contestant says her father owns a fishing boat and plans to take my father’s ashes out to sea.
That is definitely wrong.
My father would want his ashes dumped at a local race track.
I have read a lot of obituaries and last thoughts written by strangers about my father. And most of them are useless and not about the man at all. So. It falls to me. His estranged daughter. To say something actually real about my father.
My father’s name was John Quincy Adams. Named after his father. A man from Boston who told my grandmother no children and when she singlehandedly got pregnant walked out on her. It was not an easy name to wear. Explain. Justify. Or dismiss. As an adult he changed it out a lot. As a kid he got in a lot of fights. As a kid he also had such awful tonsillitis doctors looking at his X-rays asked if he had had tuberculosis.
He was a tall man and did not suffer fools lightly. He was often unkind. But generally fair. And very good at math. He apologized once in his life. To his daughter. He was handsome as hell as a young man. And never noticed that had faded in later age. Perhaps because he never exactly realized he had looks. My father thought for all of his life he was trading on charm and never got most people only put up with him initially because he was so damned good looking. And never understood the difference between charm and sarcasm.
His forebears include two presidents, many revolutionaries, a movie star, a train robber and song writer, twin vaudeville performers, a Scottish missionary and the founder of Richfield Oil. His great uncle is buried in the last crypt of the Hawaiin royal family. According to legend my father singlehandedly initiated the People’s Park riot.
He hated children. He said they destroyed lives and potential. This is what he told me. He may have had other tacks with people who were not his children. He definitely had other tacks with women he pursued who had children.
He liked and generally drove small sports cars — whether or not he fit into them. [And he mostly did not he was 6′ 5″.]
His apartments were always horrific and contained many hard water stains. Fortunately he generally did not spend much time at home he spent the majority of his time at work. In bars. Or at the homes of beautiful women.
The one time he had a fancy home it was a house boat but he lost that to the Italian Mafia and chose never to live anywhere extremely elegant again. [As legend has it, he won that house boat in a bet. And lost it backing up a friend.]
He liked beer in green and brown bottles — and preferred green. His best friends were hard scarred men who laughed like they meant it, wore overly ornate loafers, carried concealed weapons without permits and talked about everything except war when they were full of drink. And one woman who despite her looks and breasts he treated like a man — which in my father’s terms means like an equal — and I have never exactly discerned why but it must have been something big and probably involved gunfire and emergency vehicles to garner that kind of respect on his part because in general he did not consider women equals.
He had a weakness for pretty women, especially stupid pretty women — and horses. And considered both equally intelligent but horses more trustworthy. He told the IRS he made his income writing. But brought most of his cash home from the track.
You could always tell when my father was really sick because that was the only time he did not show up at the track.
He did not tell jokes well. He did tell anecdotes well. And he had many. His favorite books were huge tomes written in Japanese and translated into English — and he found it hugely amusing discussing them with women, especially discussing them with unintelligent women.
He hated his mother, never knew his father, loved his grandmother, feared and loathed his wife[s], disdained his step-father and abandoned his daughter.
He was a horrible father. Which might have changed if he had had a son but he was cursed to be a man who distrusted women and then accidentally sired one. Aside, however, from being a misogynistic prick, he was a decent man. The world is probably shorter for the loss of him.
— John Quincy Adams died January 21, 2009