It was the beginning of September, and I’d been hiding out at my parents’ house for a couple of weeks, only venturing out for attempts at running. I say “attempts” because I would put on running clothes, get Tucker on his leash, and leave with admirable intentions, only to find myself wandering at a snail’s pace through the arboretum, stopping occasionally to kick a rock or watch a bird.
My social life consisted of deep conversations with my dog, phone therapy sessions with our former marriage counselor, $75-per-hour phone calls with my divorce lawyer, and the occasional interaction with other humans who lived at the house. Who, I might add, had to talk to me because we’re related. I hadn’t even gotten together with my friends who lived in Minneapolis. It just took too much life.
So when Dad invited me to go to a concert with him and two of my brothers that Thursday night, I kindly refused. A concert? On a school night? Anyone who’s experienced depression can speak to its uncanny ability to make supposedly fun things sound like utter hell.
Nevertheless, on Thursday afternoon, I found myself riding in a pickup truck, bound for Rochester, MN, to see Bob Dylan play at a minor league ballpark. The concert posse included Dad, my brothers Andy and Skipp, and their friend who everyone calls Buckshot.
The guys had been planning this trip for months, even getting hotel rooms in Rochester so everyone could indulge in overpriced, shitty beer to their heart’s content. Why, in God’s name, had I let these people talk me into this? They were all about fun; I was all about lolling around in pajamas, bemoaning my ruined, pathetic life.
In hindsight, I realize why Dad and the boys forced me to go along. People show their love and concern in all manner of ways. Some people bake brownies. Others buy expensive gifts or send thoughtful cards. The men in my family get you drunk.
Fast forward to about 9 p.m., and all was right in my world. I sat in the outfield grass, barefoot and surrounded by plastic cups of beer and jovial kinsmen. As I gulped down the last few drops of boozy goodness, a brother would appear with a fresh supply. Bob was delivering a stellar show, and the energy was magical. A full moon lit up the smiling faces of fans who swayed in the warm summer air.
Bob played an encore, and I wanted the music to continue forever. Maybe I would just sleep on the well-groomed grass for a couple of years. No one would need to know. The band started to pack up, and the fans scattered. I was distraught. No, no—the fun must go on!
I convinced Dad that we should try to catch a glimpse of Bob backstage. We bumbled through the backyards of the unfortunate souls who lived next to Mayo Field. Sadly, an orange snow fence stood between us and the tour bus, and my quest met a strong dose of reality.
Not as strong, however, as the dose that greeted me on Friday morning when I rose early to get back for work. Because there’s nothing like more grease and salt to soothe your hungover soul, Dad and I hit the McDonald’s drive-thru. Riding shotgun in the pickup, I munched on my egg and cheese muffin and thought about the previous night’s shenanigans. I remembered nursing the never-ending beer, searching for Bob Dylan, and eating late-night pizza. Blech.
A few miles up the road, I declared an emergency. Dad pulled over, and I stumbled through the weeds and prairie grass. I retched in the ditch along Highway 52, picked myself up, and climbed back into the truck. I was OK! In fact, I was more than OK. By dragging me along to the show, the men in my life had opened my (now rather bloodshot) eyes: My life was far from over. There would be more fun. There would be more smiles. There might even be more love.
Hopefully, there wouldn’t be any more beer for a good, long while.