You may or may not be aware that my errant father passed away rather suddenly from cancer the day before St Patrick’s day just gone. Luckily I was able to make the long haul flight from Australia to Denver just in time to spend some time with him, my half brothers and aunt before the inevitable credits rolled up on his colourful life.
I met many of his friends and acquaintances while in Denver and I can honestly say that I had a great time considering the funereal circumstances. They made the whole situation bearable and were immensely supportive through out my extended stay.
I did what I had to do, I did what any dutiful son would do; I went to the hospital and visited him on a regular basis, did what I could for my father, signed the papers for power of attorney, committed him to a nursing home/hospice, took care of his possessions and final obligations, organised his cremation and memorial service and then scattered his ashes high up in the Rockies as he wished.
I also took with me back to Australia his diaries and notes from the last 40 years or so and I do not like what I am reading. It isn’t that they are badly written, contain offensive material (that depends on your point of view) or are just plain dull. No, it is the distinct lack of emotion and feeling towards his family that really gets my goat. I am reading endless pages about this and that and some famous person said something famous. I’m reading things that most men don’t consider worthwhile writing down once they have passed adolescence.
I am continually astounded by the Everest sized lies and half truths that I stumble across, line after line. The more I read the less I know about this man. I think that the more he wrote about himself the less he actually knew what the truth was about himself. How far can you go deluding yourself before you forget that you’re having yourself on and start believing your own spin wholesale?
Don’t get me wrong now. My father was a much loved and admired man by those not related to him. It’s a funny thing that such a well travelled man who espoused the Asian virtues of family and connectivity could be so lacking in his own blood ties and the small tasks involved in keeping them fluid.
The people who knew him as a friend might be surprised at the lack of warmth in my words and so they should. That is a testament to the way that my late father segmented his life; he compartmentalised all his friends and associates into labelled boxes and kept them separate from each other, he fed them just enough colourful swill to hold their attention with out ever revealing anything below his most outer layer of skin. He had more layers than an onion. Nobody knew who he really was, including himself.
You could say he was the master of superficial small talk. The king of self embellishment and aggrandisement, of interesting and enjoyable half-truths. He could cast a spell over you just like the infamous Aleister Crowley could in his prime. This was his gift, his talent, his get out of jail free card which ironically didn’t work when he needed it most. True wizards don’t use their powers for self-enrichment, any amateur occultist will tell you that.
I can say this because I am his eldest son. I can say this because I have gone out of my way on several occasions to help him out or just to visit him. I can say this because I think and act the same way as him sometimes. I can say this because I have the right to. I also have all of him in me. What I have spent most of my life trying to control, subdue, understand or cultivate he just let out wholesale regardless of the consequences to those he loved or loved him.
My father would never write this. He would never let anybody know his private affairs. He would never let anybody know who he really was. Perhaps the saddest aspect of his passing is that he didn’t open up and spill the beans, especially to his three sons. There is so much that has been lost forever, never to be retold.
Although I have his diaries, and shall transcribe them in due course, the legendary Mushroom John will live on in our memories just as he lived his life; a mercurial mystery, an intrepid traveller and smuggler of dreams, a very private man living a very public life.