A string of numbers that represent the last day by father drew breath.
The call came late at night for me. I cried. It seemed like a good thing to do. Cry and talk to a friend on the phone. It was easy at that time, so late at night, to cry.
I cried a little a few days later when I heard a song my father loved.
Cried when I informed a boss that I had to switch my family visit to bereavement leave.
But I haven’t been able to feel anything about it since.
I’ve flown across the country back to my home state. 2,734 miles to face a grief that never came.
I poured though my fathers belongings. Stayed with his wife of just a month. I visited his final place of rest. Spoke to family. Saw friends. Slept in the house he lived in for years on a farm I grew a mild attachment to.
The week I spent in California was supposed to be my catharsis. A blur of sorrow and a beginning of healing from what was supposed to be a terrible loss.
Yet when I stared at that unremarkable shelf that held the remainder of the man that was one part of my life in the veterans cemetery, I felt nothing. Just a cold numbness.
I walked the fields of dying sunflowers in front of what had once been the home he loved, and felt nothing.
I tore though his life- deleting photos, writing, pieces of him on the computers he loved, and felt nothing but mild irritation that he did not make it easy for me to erase every piece of his existence.
Cursed his security measures because I just wanted to get it all done to help the woman who loved and cared for him before I had to leave and continue with my unremarkable life on the other side of the country.
There is no healing. Maybe there was nothing to heal. Perhaps I said goodbye to my father long before he was dead, erasing him from my life just as easily as I cleared out his computers.
Even the rolling rage I had reserved in my head and heart just for him was no longer there. I can’t pin the point in my life that it had vanished, but its grip on me has long gone. Now just an empty echoing void of nothing where he once was.
Perhaps that was all he was to me, an echo of the person he was supposed to be there. The male bringer of life that flitted in and out throughout my history. A dreaded specter that would bring devastation then leave with a smile and a quick hug.
On the wall of his home, my step mother mounted pictures of their life together. Trips to the movies, the visits to the beach, their wedding when he was in the last weeks of his life, my daughter riding around on his shoulders.
But there were no images of my father and I together. The background of his phone that I had to break into was that of my daughter. His “favorite grand baby”. I was left with the impression that I was nothing in his life. A stepping stone until he could influence the next generation.
I sat in my Aunt’s dining room and listened to her questions of why he suddenly became so obsessed with reaching out to her and becoming part of her life. How he connected with her through a mutual love of photography. Her confusion and hurt was apparent. A reconnection after 20 years of mutual anger and resentment just before death. A reconnection that he felt was only possible because of the death of their father earlier this year in February.
Her questions couldn’t be answered by me. I didn’t know this man that was supposed to be my father. I made the reconnection possible, contacting her on his behalf when he asked, but after my work was done, I became less important to him. Another use of his biological stepping stone. I heard from him little in the year leading to his death. Messages and phone calls were rare and short.
I sat there, looking at photos of him as a young man and child and felt numb. He was just another person that lived a life until its end. My mother sat at the other end of the table, my daughter next to me as I yet again roamed though this mans unrecognizable life. I heard my mother say that his death affected her too, she prayed for him. She knew him better than I did. They all did.
His sister and his first wife, two more people I had a connection to that frayed to the point of being unrecognizable. I didn’t know these people any more. Share nothing in common with them but blood.
In the living room I watched them bond over my daughter, taking pictures, playing and laughing. I tried summoning some semblance of emotion for the event, but grasped at nothing. That echoing numbness continued, but a new resolution lit inside me.
That child will know more of her father and me. I never want her to look at me and realize that she doesn’t know me any more. I don’t want her to feel that rage that suddenly vanishes. I don’t want her to know the echo of numbness.
Every day is forced. Each smile and laugh not sincere. The only feeling I have now is passion. But I am not entirely sure how to use it. I continually mistake its purpose, making terrible judgements on how to apply it. Continuing my own terrible path of destruction through others lives.
My father lived his life with passion and anger; burning though women and jobs when his passions changed.
Perhaps my life is a parallel to his. Am I more like him than I would like to admit?
Did he find himself living only for passion like I do? Did he make the same idiot mistakes I have?
He tore though the people that loved and cared for him, a smug grin on his face as he kicked yet another person out of his life for one reason or another. Forgetting them as he moved onto his next passion. Pulling them back into his chaos when he needed something from them.
Is that to be my goal then? To make sure I am not like him? Work on filling that void he created with something other than emptiness?
But how do I start? Am I capable of the love and happiness that is so often written in books? Or am I living my own dystopian tale…