Whiskey, Wellness, and Wisdom

with Matthew Bachman

John Wayne Bachman on wing of P-51 Mustang.

My more loyal followers may have noticed that I’ve been MIA for the better part of a year. For those of you just joining: welcome to the shit show.

I’d love to say that I was too busy signing my autograph at book signings to attend to my blog. Hell, I’d even settle for signing someone else’s name at book signings.

“Who the fuck is Dick King?”

It was, unfortunately, something much more ordinary than that. And I don’t mean ordinary as in the mundane. Rather, I mean it in the sense that it is something that happens to all of us sooner or later. We’re not all going to be signing autographs that will be worth tens of thousands of dollars 100 years down the road, but we all do have that one truth hovering around us everywhere we go.

I’m of course talking about death. We’re all going to die someday and we all know somebody that is going to die. Sorry for being a wet blanket.

I have a bed wetting problem.

A full year ago today, my father had passed away and to put it quite simply, I haven’t really been the same since.

It was my goal write an entire piece about him shortly after the funeral, but as it turned out, writing his eulogy was already taxing on me and I didn’t really know where to begin as it was. So a hiatus I decided to take, whilst awaiting for inspiration to strike.

The problem was that it never struck.

Days turned into weeks, weeks into months and so on with the poetic redundancy of word salads. As the one year mark approached, I felt this rush of anxious energy overtake me. It had been a full year since I’d written anything. Was I broken? Was this how inspiration dies? Like a skydiver that had forgotten his parachute, I was reaching out and grabbing whatever I could to stable myself, screaming all the while.

I did everything I could think of to come back out of the shadows. Everything, except sitting down and closing the chapter on this moment in my life. So, I finally decided to sit down and write.

My next dilemma was: what exactly was there to tell the general audience about a man most of them had never met? I could keep it short and simple like an obituary, or I could tell you what he meant to me. If you’re still reading this, I’d venture a guess that you’d like to read the latter.

My father had me at a late age and retired early, so I don’t really have any memories of him as a professional working man. But his age didn’t stop him from doing stuff with me. I have so many memories of playing catch with him out in the backyard or on the baseball diamond. To the best of my recollection, he never missed a single baseball or football game I was in. He was there at every practice, too. He always said that he loved seeing me play ball.

When he wasn’t watching me play, we were usually watching the Atlanta Braves play their games on TV. I always looked forward to watching those games with him – especially staying up late for the night games. We watched them play so much, that I still remember most of their star players and their positions. You had Jeff Blauser in the infield. Javier Lopez as catcher. Andrew Jones in centerfield. John Smoltz, Greg Maddox, and Tom Glavin were on the pitching team. My father’s favorite player, Chipper Jones, was in the infield. He always said that Chipper Jones reminded him of a small town all American boy from a simpler time. A time that my father had grown up in.

He was a member of Mensa, putting him in the 98th percentile for IQ. He was easily the most intelligent and interesting man I ever had the pleasure of knowing. Somebody whom I am constantly measuring my own intellect against and finding myself to come up short every time.

As long as I knew him, he always did the work on his own car whenever possible. He fixed whatever he could around the house, even if that involved rubber bands and duct tape he had lying around the house. He had an abundance of tools in his house. He’d always say, “I’ve got tools I haven’t even used yet.” That was a statement that had more basis in fact than one might assume.

Anyone that knew my father would attest to the fact that he loved his stuff. Whether it be tools, records, clocks, he collected it all and loved them each equally and gave them each the same amount of care. His house was filled fascinated antiques and trinkets, each with a little story of how he ended up with them.

But no matter how much he loved his stuff, none of that paled in comparison to his grandchildren. I never met anyone that was so happy just being a grandfather. I still remember the day I told him that I was going to make him a grandfather. Being young, unmarried and still in college, I was a bit nervous and braced for impact. The reception I got more than exceeded my expectations. His big blue eyes just lit up with excitement and disbelief. I think he thought that I was pulling his leg at first. In that moment, I knew that no matter how scared I was to be a father, things were going to be all right.

As the years progressed and his health regressed, my father ended up living in a nursing home. He went from having a house packed full of stuff, to a tiny a room full of stuff. But he didn’t need his stuff as long as he had his children and grandchildren. Playing cards with him and my daughter are memories I will hold onto all my life. Everyday I came by and he saw us walk into the room, his eyes lit up like that day I told him he was going to be a grandfather. That little twinkle in his bright blue eyes never went away.

The last time I ever got to talk to my father was on video, because of the COVID-19 restrictions. He passed away May 4th, 2020 peacefully in his sleep.

Ever since his death, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about a quote by the street artist Banksy: “[T]hey say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.” This blog article is a Hail Mary pass in his name and memory, thrown into the vastness of cyberspace with the hope that it resonates with some of you and keeps his soul alive that much longer. Say his name with me, John Wayne Bachman.

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