16 November 2009

The Death of a Father: Chapter 1

The Love Embrace of the Universe, the Earth (Mexico), Me, and Senor Xolotl
1949, by Frida Kahlo

It's funny how I can remember every moment of that day 2 and a half years ago. Everything I said, every interaction I had with the nurse, every cigarette I shared with his homeless partner in crime. The taqueria in Austin my brother and I went to a few hours after he died and where I felt like I might die. Every bite I took of the stuffed bell pepper in the hospital cafeteria as I sat across from my uncle who I hadn't seen in more than 10 years. The way his body shook as I held him when he passed. Every moment of that day, and the few days after burned into my memory.

I never knew how important my father was to me. I know that will sound strange to most people, but I had a rather complicated relationship with him. I wondered sometimes if he existed at all, or if my memory of him was a dream. In my last communication with him I sent a Frida Kahlo postcard where I wrote that exact sentiment to him. His friend Jeff whom he slept under bridges with in the summer, and the woods in the winter, told me he remembered the postcard. He told me that my father read it to him. I had never known if he had received it.

The problem was this: How do you experience a loss when the person was lost to you? How do you experience a loss when it was easier to pretend he didn't exist than explain to people who your father was or what kind of relationship you had with him?

The death of my father shook me so deeply to my core, that even I was surprised by it. It was as if every nerve ending had been exposed; my life the most awful and the most meaningful it had ever been.

A few days later I boarded a plane to leave Austin, Texas to return to the Midwest. I didn't feel ready to leave the last place my father had lived. The streets that he was so familiar with. The hoards of homeless people he would have called his friends. I wanted desperately to stay, believing that somehow the city itself could offer me answers. As I sat on the parking garage steps and sobbed louder than I ever had before, not caring that people rushing past me were witnessing this, the sky suddenly lost its brightness. Clouds darkened the sky and a cool wind picked up. In a few minutes it was hailing amid the loud thunder claps and sudden lightening bolts. A sudden storm that seemed to be mimicking my own emotional turmoil.

As the plane rose into the sky, on my right the sky revealed the sun and the storm lifting with bright rays of sunshine slicing through the clouds. On my left the dark, heavy gray storm clouds still existed around the glow of the moon. I was flying through night and day. The sun and the moon following me all the way home to the Midwest. I knew then that with this loss there would be a gain, but I wasn't sure when or how. All I knew then was that I had a very, very long way to go.

1 comment:

Reem Tara said...

Love love LOVE to you. Thank you for writing/sharing this. xoxoxoxo