Nick gives zero fucks. Like NONE. Especially when it comes to sentimentality or euphemisms. You'll never catch him wringing his hands, solemnly saying "he passed on" or "he passed away." You'll never hear him talk about "God's plan," because (a) he doesn't believe in God; and (b) if he did, he wouldn't presume God had plans.
To give you an idea of his basic personality, Curb Your Enthusiasm is my dad's favorite TV show. If Larry David and Bernie Sanders got married and had a baby, and that baby drove to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx to buy bread, ate yogurt with chopped-up banana in it twice a day, cleaned his glasses with a yarmulke on the few occasions he was forced to go to a synagogue, read biographies of physicists, followed baseball religiously while complaining about the price of a bleachers seat in Yankee Stadium, drank a scotch neat every night, and threw not-so-mini-temper tantrums over parking spots in midtown Manhattan, that Sanders/David hybrid baby would be my dad.
So it didn't really surprise me when he came to pick me up from the airport full of unsentimental reflections on his imminent demise.
"Dad!" I waved both arms over my head in terminal A of Newark Liberty International Airport. I was back east for a quick solo trip earlier this month to attend a friend's wedding, and he, a 69.75 year old man, had kindly come to pick up his 38.5 year old daughter from Newark airport at midnight.
"Thanks for coming to get me. I'm 38 and my dad is still picking me up from the airport. Howdya like that?" He smiled, and we resumed this basic thread of conversation on the way out.
"Man, this place," he shook his head and grumbled, referring to EWR and its surrounding New Jersey environs. "What a fuckin' dump." Then: "$7.00! To park for ten minutes?" He announced incredulously to the sullen woman working the exit toll booth.
A few minutes later, while casually passing an 18-wheeler in the left lane of the Jersey Turnpike at 65 mph," he goes, "I'm trying to deascession 40 years worth of crap in our apartment but I can't get your mother to throw anything out. Also, have I given you copies of our will and all the passwords to my computer and stuff?"
Ugh, okay. So we're doing this now.
"Why?" I asked. "Are you dying?" "Well not today, that I know of," he said matter-of-factly. "But you never know." I decided to take the conversation in a more philosophical direction.
"Are you afraid of dying?" I asked tentatively. I immediately realized this sounded like the type of question my kids ask as I'm putting them to bed at night. Ever notice how kids pick THAT moment to ask about dinosaur extinction, the Big Bang, and death? Why then? Why--when I'm just trying to put you away in your cozy little box for the night and be done with another day of guiding you to adulthood so I can watch TV and eat sugar--do you have to get all deep on me?
"Not really," my dad replied. "I mean, MEH." (He literally said "meh."). I didn't entirely become the person I wanted to become in life, but I got close enough, so the hell with it." I asked what he meant and he basically said it was dumb of him to get a PhD in French literature in the 70's, and he should have just started working as a journalist sooner.
"That's it?" I asked, hoping for some more profound reflection on his seven decades on earth or a pearl of wisdom.