'Ff'lo (fflo) wrote,
'Ff'lo
fflo

Dan Gallagher died.

Dan was a sort of relative of mine, only not really.  More not really than his kids.  I met Dan when he was part of Ann and Dan.  He taught psychology and they lived in an old house on the stream in Allen, Maryland that's now a bed and breakfast.  They had two kids, a few years younger'n me and my brother.  Younger enough that it was a little weird to play with them.  But I envied their collection of 45s, I remember that, and they let me borrow some.

When I was a teenager and Dan caught wind that I kept a journal, he wanted to borrow it for use in his adolescent psychology class.  I wonder a little now whether this plan was a ruse designed to get me to turn the volumes over to my father.  Mebbe.  It's not like they were all that confidential, being written not for me but for my high school English teacher and mentor-of-sorts.  But I wouldn't have put it past my folks to sneak to read 'em, so maybe that's a silly idea.  At the time I mainly thought Dan must not actually know much about adolescent psychology if he thinks I'm going to be cool with turning over my journals for that purpose.

After I was out on my own, I asked my mother more than one time for Ann's e-z dump cobbler recipe.  It involved a box of cake mix, some bits of butter, and canned fruit.  (It lived up to the e-z billing.)  Mostly I didn't think about Ann and Dan and the kids a whole lot. At some point I heard Dan had lost his tenure over moral turpitude, which word I still haven't looked up and learned proper.  He'd been sleeping with students, the story was.  Or at least one student?  I dunno.  Came to find out later, too, that, perhaps true to the times and the wild hippy-ish air I admired in certain of my parents' adult friends, some intoxicating substance use was part of the picture.  The flavor of my understanding about those matters has changed dramatically since then, and I now can easily imagine veiled pain as a part of such pictures.  Such family situations.  So somewhere in there I heard Ann and Dan, like the other rhyming couple Carol and Darryl, had split, not because, like with Connie and Gene, the husband was (o my god) gay, but, so the rumor had it, Dan had fooled around.  He moved to the Florida Keys and taught scuba diving, and I didn't know what else.

But then my brother, who'd sworn off women, after a summer love gone wrong, with a bravado akin to that with which he'd sworn off TV (except for "Moonlighting," for which he'd pull his set out of the bottom of his closet once a week for an hour), was suddenly in love with Ann.  And they were all handsy and make-y-outty, often in front of my mother, who hid her difficulty adjusting in, e.g., chainsmoking retreats to her room.

Having Ann & the kids now part of our family made for a shift in the tone of Thanksgiving dinners, I recall, those being one of the occasions on which I would be in the now-larger company.  The raucousness was a bit of a shock of contrast for me, with lots of louder sarcastic humor and boisterous interruptions, including such humor as making fun of the son's penis size.  Quite a shift from the polite convo meals when Polly (Dan's old buddy, and my now-dead Dad's too) was still in town and single and brought her tomato ass-pick (and we didn't even make the joke we were thinking of), or maybe one of the math grad students Mom had living in the attic would be joining us for the holiday feast.  That first year with the newly-expanded family my mom did say to me, back in the retreat, "Sometimes a little bit of a generation gap is a good thing."  That was pretty direct, for her.

So Dan built a new life with some kind of Jimmy Buffett flavor to it, and sometimes he'd be back in the area, eventually with a new wife.  (I think they were married.)  The kids had kids themselves.  I moved away---further away than the three hours' distance I had been.  Dan's grandfather name was DanPa, which was purty good.  Sometimes I told people not in the family of the naughty-funny nickname he'd had for Ann's not-so-parsable comments out of nowhere:  Anneurysms.  But that was a secret spilled in hearsay, like so much of what I know of any of their lives.

Those faculty couples, though.  That's what my head's coming back to today.  This strange impression of adulthood I had, as the '60s-Kansas white shirt and narrow black ties of the short-haired nearly-all-male horn-rimmed glasses faculty mutated into the Maryland-'70s prints and women-teach-too and new hair and make-up smells and thick-stiff-chemical dresses that I saw in department parties at our place, when the hard liquor came out of the pantry and some kind of new thing was happening, paneling, shag, wallpaper, vinyl ice bucket.

Most of what my family knew of Dan happened when I wasn't there.  He's a heard-tell kind of guy to me.  Conjectural.  And not a relative, but sort of a relative.  I think of Jill and Jay and wonder how it is for each of them, Dad dead, after being dying for a while. And of how so much for me is this once-removed, or twice- or thrice-, and how that fits with my own sense of distance and isolation.
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