Another Year (without Our Father)

This picture will make sense.

This picture will make sense.

Last year, during this week, we launched a series of posts to honor the passing of our father. My sister, brother and I each talked about our memories of him and related them (sometimes weakly) to music. While the creation of this blog was planned before our father’s sudden death, that loss was a catalyst for us in different ways.

It made me want even more to decrease the distance between the man I am and the one I want to be; it made my brother get serious about playing music and writing; and, whether or not we want to admit it, it accelerated other plans too: my son was born 10 months after his grandfather’s passing; my niece joined the world 6 months later.

We’re not going to bring out another series of memories this year—last year’s posts wait to be read and re-experienced, if and when the need arises. Yet, we do not want to let another year’s rotation go by unnoticed. Our father’s life and death helped to make us who we are today.

Each of us lives with the memory of my father in different ways. His phrases find their way into my mind and through my mouth. He has also recently been in my dreams.

A few weeks ago I had one of the most vivid dreams of my life (without any sort of ‘accelerant’ to bring it about). In it, I was standing outside of a Home Depot in front of my maroon Chevy Caprice Classic (a car that was the bane of my existence for about 5 years). My cell phone rang and it was my father. He said, in his customarily self-effacing manner: “Look, I know I’m dead, but you need to hear this. You guys have my five favorite songs wrong. I’ll tell them to you now”. He did, and then hung up.

In the dream, I jumped into the passenger’s seat, wrote down the songs and put the list in the glove compartment. When I awoke, I closed my eyes and tried to imagine that car. I got in (in my head) and rummaged around in the pile of trash that accumulated over the years and frantically tried to recreate that list of songs. I know that one of them was a Beatle’s song (an early one). But I can’t remember anything else.

This isn’t my father’s favorite Beatle song, but it is mine. I am a sucker for a harpsichord.

As I write this, it strikes me that this lost list (or unreadable one) is really a simple symbol for what my father left each of us—a rough outline and character, an unlabeled map, a general direction with no specifics. We have made the lists that represent the father we remember; but who knows what list he would have made. What list would I make for myself? Would it be the same twice?

People who know my father will find other truth in the dream—the visit to home depot; the abrupt and bewildering phone call; the earnest and surprising request. As another year has passed, the pain of losing him has dulled enough for me to be thankful that he was my father for as long as he could be.

He lived with but a few regrets. Shouldn’t we do the same?

My brother and sister, tonight I will raise a glass to him, our mother and you.

Waiting in Home Depot?

Waiting in Home Depot?

17 comments on “Another Year (without Our Father)

  1. theyoungerj says:

    I’m not going to lie, it seems like a bad joke that it’s actually been two years. Every time I hear a car with a loud exhaust roll into my driveway, I put my head up and half hope it’s the old man in his piece of shit purple Pontiac. It’s never going to be easy and milestones like this one seem to polarize our loss but I do think that you have laid out how this has been a positive thing in forcing us to go forward with some of our plans. I know I think of the old man a lot and every show I play, a few people come up and tell me how Dad would be proud I found a hobby I love and would be there if he could be. He would be proud but lets be realistic about his show attendance, he would come for a half hour and make fun of a few people before leaving. And that’s ok, it’s who he was.
    A few days after your call to me detailing your call from beyond with Dad, I strapped on his measuring tape to figure out if our sister’s dresser would fit in the house she is about to buy. I felt weird after putting it on and then walked into our basement and I smelled the stale cigarette smell of our father’s chosen brand of Basic Lights. I mean it was scary, my friend with me even noticed how the smell in the room had changed although he didn’t have the specific recognition of that odor. It was weird and it made me feel good. He’s still around even if he’s not right in front of us.
    Good post Brother, wish we could work through this together but we do the best we can. I really think the Beatles song could be “Norwegian Wood”….or maybe “Let it Be”.

    • I know what you mean about the bad joke…I don’t think it ever stops feeling that way. Maybe a little less, but not really.

    • theelderj says:

      I don’t know about “Norwegian Wood” or “let it be”. In my dream, the song was more fun. And those are not fun songs.

      We are working this out together, aren’t we?

      I think you’re right about dad’s ‘pride’ about your music. He was very much a ‘whatever floats your boat’ kind of guy. He didn’t want to impose his definition of happiness on people and mainly just wanted to make sure the three of us were getting something out of life. He was always ready to give us space to mess up.

      (perhaps because he had messed up so much. but it was that sense of him being there to help out if I ever screwed up big time that I missed and was shocked at missing because I never knew previously how important it was that I knew he was there.)

  2. professormortis says:

    Strangely enough, I dreamt of my father last night. We’d bought another house, possibly more of a dump than this one, and he was telling me that I’d never finish with it. My heart goes out to you guys.

    • theelderj says:

      Your dad saying you’d never finish it: I can see the look in his eyes.

      (and the inner feelings of sympathy!)

    • theyoungerj says:

      Its not the end result, it’s the journey right? Get at me sometime Professor, I may be able to come down and help get some projects done. I work cheap.

      • professormortis says:

        What a kind offer-I may just take you up on it.

        @theelderj-I’m not sure I can actually imagine him saying it. He was shockingly okay with half finished stuff, so he might just accept it as the way of things. 🙂

      • theelderj says:

        I think I was thinking more of the ironic grin as he hassled you, with your own boyhood home in mind.

        And, the younger j may be willing to help, but our family isn’t known for finishing projects either.

        (so we can imagine the hilarity of our fathers working on a house together?)

  3. The sister says:

    Nice post brother. So much has happened to us all in the past 2 years and I wish he had been able to share it all with us. I dream of him often and they are incredibly vivid. The one I remember most well is the dream in which he appeared and walked in the house as if nothing had happened and he told us “I didn’t die I’ve been here all along.” Strange.

    Loved the shout out to that Caprice.

    • theelderj says:

      The Indian and I were talking about this last night–that she still feels sometimes like he’s just been away. Part of that is that in the last few years we only saw him infrequently (and that she never lived with him the way we did). The other part is that death is psychologically final only if you see it, and even then part of you does not want to believe it.

      Last night, I explained to her that this is part of the reason I insisted on going to the morgue. It hurts, but I have that memory to anchor me every time I feel my belief slipping.

      I hated that car.

      • professormortis says:

        The trip to the morgue, I’m kind of amazed I don’t have memories of mine, but it sure does make things feel final. Of course, being Catholic, I also got to go to an open casket wake.

        I gotta say, yes, the idea of our dads working on a house together is hilarious.

        I miss that grin.

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