I’m standing there raking and mulching and towing, the monotonous seasonal work that comes with having three leaf-showering trees each twice the size of your house … When the thought of my dad comes to mind. (Ironic, as I’m doing a chore I can’t imagine him ever doing.)
No specific thought in particular; just a flash reminder: HE’S GONE. Almost a confirmation, mixed with a tabloid-y dose of cranial shock.
A few days prior, I’d thought of him while eating sardines, because who in the hell else do I know that ever ate sardines? I don’t even like them. But as with bananas for charlie horses, I force them down for the supposed health benefit. Good fats and all that, perhaps as mercury-free as any fish in our mercurized millennium. (He used to prepare sardines on buttered bread for me, and I suppose a certain kind of son sort of hangs on to any act of love he can catch.)
But this is what was weird: Later in the evening after raking, I’m nodding off on the couch and I get this weird semi-conscious, semi-dream thought of, “Wait! He is gone … isn’t he?” Like my brain is rebooting and confirming more recent information.
It’s been 13 months since his death, and we had the initial round of reactions, then we had the visit abroad to his home and friends this past summer. And I guess I’m realizing that in the final years there was a sort of rhythm to my interactions with him. With his health in and out and he not wanting us to see him in a bad state, nor to hear him on the phone in a weakened state, it could be months in between phone calls or correspondence (unless, of course, he needed me to do some shit with his taxes).
So now, perhaps, I’ve reached the period where the memo has finally circulated to all my levels of consciousness, and some of them are noticing that this rhythm is askew, so they’re pinging back to confirm: “This is for real, isn’t it, and we can move this file to the archives? Please advise.”
Let It Be
Then you have the weird sister — because everyone has the weird sister — who didn’t have much use for him while he was alive (that’s not the weird part, trust me), but now in his death she has sightings or dreams or apparitions where she “knows” he’s been freed or is doing well or is watching or yada yada, playing music and freed from the factors that complicated his terrestrial life.
Which is somewhat offensive to me — if not in its actuality then in its presentation: No one “owns” the authoritative memory of a person, or their history, but it is unsettling to possess one version of my dad while he was actually alive, then have a still-living person, who’d not held much stock in him while alive, give me an authoritative version of who my dad is in the afterlife.
It’s like this: Believe what you believe, if you must (personally, I don’t believe much, thanks to a preponderance of missing evidence), but don’t tell me your version of an unobservable reality as if it’s fact, because you dreamed it or meditated it or shat it out with some hallucinogens. She doesn’t quite mean it that way, I know, but still: I wouldn’t tell you your dead friend I knew is sitting on a cloud playing a harp, trading chess moves with Hockey Jesus, and I’d figure that’s just common courtesy.
Then again, that stance may be why for me, religion didn’t take.