Wednesday, September 09, 2009


Early September rolls around and I go in and out of an awkward stage of agitation. I can almost will myself out of it, but inevitably something happens to make me recall my father's passing.

This time around it was nothing more than the realization that I was getting angry at people who were only asking me for something simple, or that I was harboring resentment toward anyone who wanted me to respond to their questions.

It's been 23 years, god damn it.

And mostly it's easier and easier to skip the emotional welling up that comes with remembering anyone who's died. Simply thinking of them--after a while--doesn't so much set off any chain reaction of memories. More often, it becomes something like picking through a stack of half-finished sketches and trying to recall what you'd wanted to accomplish through them.

In the last several weeks, I have been trying to get up early at least one day and do nothing but write. Ostensibly, this means writing something I have not wanted to write. Which means I write about my father's death and what happened afterward. What's been driving me crazy at 7 am as the sun starts to peek into this room is that I can so crisply remember the moment my mother had to tell me that he was dead. I can recall the robotic motions of the immediate aftermath and the slow walk I had to take up the street to my friend Amy's house while my mother had to go to the hospital. I even remember not being able to sleep until 4 am and my insistence that I go to school the next day--anything to get out of the house of mourning. But then... it goes blank. And 23 years later, the blankness pervades my expression as my fingers hover over this keyboard.

What the hell happened next?

I know some of it. And I string those emotions and scenes together like a delicate paper-chain garland, wondering where the rip will appear in the sequence. I create a list of questions to ask my mom, my sister, my brother, even though he probably won't remember. And then I ... do nothing. Because it's early September again and I begin to question why I am even trying to record it all. As if there is some definitive way to prove to yourself that you are "cured." Or at least no longer prone to socially unacceptable displays of emotion.

The joy of these early mornings--at least those in August--is that I stumbled across other memories that had long been buried. Nothing horrible. Just necessary. My father's death, not surprisingly, led to my complete inability to retain the faith with which I was casually raised. I literally lost my religion.

And that is the story, isn't it?

It is no longer simply that he disappeared. It's about everything else that swirled into the nothingness with him--and the things that appeared, as well.

I know, deep down, that I cannot treat 23 years like a puzzle that needs to be completed. I can't construct the story and cover all the bases and have it all circle back to the beginning. I can't even try to make it past September 4 without a small catch in my throat, a moment of wondering "What would it have been like now?"

It's late now, and I know there's no way I'll make it back to this keyboard at 7 am. But I will soon. It won't solve the mysteries, but it will quiet the agitation. Imagine that. Even my father would not be surprised by this, I am sure.