That's Marlon Brando in "The Fugitive Kind." He and Joanne Woodward drive out to a cemetery in the night and get out of the car and she says, "You hear the dead people talking?" and he says, "Dead people don't talk."
"Sure they do," she says. "Chatter away like birds ... All they can say is one word. That word is 'live.' Live, live, live, live, live. It's all they know. It's the only advice they can give. Simple. It's a very simple instruction."
Something's going on between them, something fierce and wild. She walks to the car and they drive back to town.
I doze off. The nerve pain in my left foot got bad so I took a little white oxycodone pill and it made me sort of doze off a little.
My dad was a chatterer but death has silenced him. His bones are going into the fire soon. If we put our ears to the bag of ashes maybe we will be able to hear him.
Where will we scatter the ashes? His will says either on Chesapeake Bay or Chocktawhatchee Bay. Maybe both, split the ashes more or less 50-50, row out in each bay, the bay he was born on and the bay he died on.
Brando pulls up at a storefront in the small town. She asks him what he's doing. He's going to see about that job.
My dad had lots of jobs. This was down South in the 1950s and 1960s. If he'd been black, or a low-class white, maybe he would have been called shiftless. Instead people said that he was "intellectually curious"; he was trying to find the occupation that most suited his talents and interests. He was trying to find himself. After the dislocation of World War II, America was full of men trying to relocate themselves.
He was a radio announcer for a while. He had a theatrical side -- a big theatrical side! In fact, to understand the strange sense one often had that he was not really participating in this world, was not really connecting with the person he was talking to, would be to say that he was always working on his act, trying out bits for his own amusement if not for the amusement of others. Most people have a "life unlived." His was the life of an actor.
Remember that time before his diagnosis when I went with my dad to the neurologist? How it turned out he really didn't know what year it was or who the president was, and when it seemed that the full weight of memory and choice and inevitability had come crushingly down upon him in that tiny, sterile office in the presence of our hearty and cheerful young ex-Air Force neurologist, out of his befuddlement he suddenly shouted, "I should have gone on Broadway! Damn"? Remember that?
He had many uses for the word "damn," and for each use an inflection. There was the long, drawn-out, befuddled daaaamn with a deep swooping curve in the middle of it. There was the seeming question "Damn?" Many others he was famous for. All of our friends had impersonations; everybody took a turn at doing my dad's "damn." And then later when he would stop mid-sentence, unable to grab the next word in the series, left hanging, he would say "Damn! Damnit!" and really mean it.
Bays. He always lived on bays. Not oceans. Bays. So then I went and moved to the ocean. The ocean is so untrustworthy and impractical, mostly for show, for surfers and occasional surf fishermen. You can't put a boat in every morning and row out serenely. It's hard to make a life of it if you live your life in boats.
How did my dad find himself cut off from boats and bays, cut off from the life he knew as a boy and the life he knew as a man in war? I think his exile from boats brought him much unhappiness.
Suddenly we were not in an area where people had boats as a matter of course; people did not have boats for fishing or getting to see relatives on the other side of the bay or for transporting oysters or corn. Boats were now about affluence and "recreation." We were trapped in Florida now, the emerging modern Florida of forgetfulness, a whole state selling itself as a place to escape from life.
Things got twisted around for my dad. He didn't know. He couldn't see it coming. He didn't know what happened but the world changed from the little world of Hampton Roads and Phoebus, Virginia. His ancestors were among those early English settlers back in the 1600s. They came over in boats and some of them stayed near boats generation after generation, I figure. Some of the records are hazy. Records got burned in wars and burned in fires and lost in hurricanes and just plain lost I figure. But apparently they stuck around that area because they were still there in time for me to get born in Portsmouth, Virginia.
The sheriff warns Brando to get out of town but Anna Magnani talks him into staying for the grand opening of her confectionery. So of course they all go up in flames, Southern style. They loved each other but didn't understand each other and went up in flames together.
My response to the death of my father has been muted so far; I was able to say goodbye to him on the phone the day before he died. I can't fly on a plane because I'm still recovering from surgery. So I won't be able to attend any kind of funeral or memorial, but I doubt there will be anything fancy done, unlike the funeral for his brother Hall, which was quite an event, with Hall lying in state in the open casket in the dining room (in the casket made by Hall's sons, my cousins), and the full honor guard and salute by the Marines, as he was one of those guys on Iwo Jima. I think my dad will go quietly, as he would prefer.
My mother wasn't much for boats. I think that's the big difference right there. She was a land person and he was a water person. They were both of English blood but his was the seagoing England and hers was the tea-drinking and farming England. That's what happened. She was trying to be civilized English like her mother but also longed to live on the land like her Norwegian dad. So after they divorced she moved up to the woods and turned out to be a fierce digger in dirt, a fierce builder of savage and primitive shelter for her solitude. In May, after she died, we scattered her ashes up there on that hill in Virginia where she lived. My dad didn't understand her. I don't blame him. How can you understand somebody you love? It doesn't work that way.