In the Words of My Sons: Damien’s Words
I remember his smile most. That big, and wide goofy grin he used to get when he’d be up to a tiny bit of mischief.
I remember being in trouble for something…minute. Detention for being tardy, or cutting class, something juvenile that’s for sure. God knows I hated going to our high school, always had something better to do.
I’m the second kid, so plenty slipped through the cracks. Both of my parents worked full-time jobs plus side jobs plus… God knows what else. There wasn’t a lot of time to tend to our miniscule problems when a house needed to be funded.
My older brother Greg warned me that a, “parental talk” would be coming down the line, but I was never scared of my father, we never had that kind of… fear based relationship.
So there we were, at a diner on the edge of our little podunk town. I was fidgeting around in my seat, Greg had made it sound like I was going to be walking out with a verbal lashing that would put my others to shame.
But, Dad was sitting there, calm as could be even though we were out past ten in the evening on a school night.
The big basketball game had just ended, finally my body loosened up, but just as the waitress dropped the bill he snatched it and put it in his pocket.
“Not yet,” His voice was curt, and it wasn’t because his team lost.
“Damien, your mother got a call from the school. Detention for being late again?” There was a tone of derision and disappointment that I hadn’t heard from my father before that moment.
My heart sank, the talk was nigh and I had no retort planned. I expected to see that face of anger Greg and my other brothers had warned me of, but instead it was a look of fatigue with a twinge of heartache.
“You… really can’t be doing this anymore. You’re too smart for this Damien, you’ve got to step it up.”
I remember staring deep into the hot-cocoa and watching the cream melt slowly into the liquid, wondering if I too could seep into the floor to avoid this conversation.
“You’ve got something different in you D. You’ve got smarts that your brothers and I don’t have. You’ve got a chance to do something.”
I could feel my skin radiate heat from his words and began counting the sugars next to us. His hand suddenly rested on mine. The hairs on my neck rose in concern, my dad didn’t touch us; he just didn’t.
“I’ll never forget the day you brought home your math homework your freshman year. Your mother would help ya’ll with the work, but I remember she came up to my after that first month… She couldn’t keep up with you D. You’ve got the talent, maybe I don’t say it enough, but you’ve got the goods Damien. You just need to want it.”
My mouth had gone dry, my bottom lip grated against my teeth and as I was about to speak — he cut me off.
“You don’t want it now D, you’ll end up like me and want to do it all too late. It’s a lot to ask a 17 year-old kid to have the desire of a man who has fucked up a bunch, but if I had your brains, I wouldn’t be doing this shit.”
He sipped his coffee slowly; it was always black no matter the time of night. His eyes seemed to hang lower than normal, the darkness under his eyes magnified by the obsidian shade of night peering through the diner window.
“You don’t want to be like me D, I know you don’t. This life ain’t for you, the 70 hour weeks, the stress of living paycheck to paycheck, my hands aren’t able to do what they once could. My brain can’t digest information like you anymore.”
He stared at me intently as his voice began to crack a little. I finally managed to bring myself to have my eyes meet his and immediately after, I wished I didn’t.
Blood red eyes with water slowly streaming down his puffy cheeks. I felt my chest tighten, my hands scratched the back of my neck as my teeth repeatedly grated across my lips.
“Alright Dad, I know I gotta tighten up…. I’ll do it, I promise.”
He wiped his cheek and took a final sip of his coffee. He left money on the table and just as we were about to stand up, he put his quivering hand on me. It was then I saw that… goofy grin slide across his lips.
“Tell your brothers and mother I gave you holy hell huh? Make me sound a little tougher than I was eh? I don’t want to hear about me playing favorites.”
When I saw his smile… it hit me that things would be okay. Things were easy for me compared to the others in my family. I think it was my father showing me his vulnerability, his human side, and not just the dictator side that my other brothers remember so well.
Maybe I see things through tinted rose colored glasses. He was loud, boisterous, and needed to be heard in order for anything to get done in our house, but at times, he had a sensitivity that was unparalleled to anything I could have expected.
When he passed, there were plenty of things that I wished I could have said, but we hadn’t spoken in over three years. So when my mother asked us for under two hundred words about him… I did the best I could, and I believe my words reflect my father at his heart….
“Matthew Kelly passed on April 21 2016. He was a man of many words and many faces. An articulate and traveled man whose work took him around the country. He worked hard, and loved life with the same fervor.
Born in Muskogee Oklahoma, after he completed his education he packed up his belongings and made his way west where he became a cross country truck driver for over 20 years.
A talented artisan who passed his talents down to his family and anyone who was interested in learning to have a profession in crafting.
A lover of life and jovial gatherings, Matthew was the life of the party. It started and stopped when he pleased and throwing a Kelly family gathering was one of his favorite past time. His love of good times was only rivaled by his appreciation of art, poetry, and excellent fiction, Matthew was buried with his favorite book — Women by Charles Bukowski.
He is survived by his four sons Gregory, Damien, Tyler, James, and wife — Karen.”