I have a more elaborate, self-created, challenge. Because of 'fog of life' issues, try as I might, I can't get into focus (for me) a defining moment, the death of my father. When I say he died twenty-nine years 'over the Memorial Day weekend', that's the best I can do in terms of specifics. I know and will always know, the moment my wife and I were married-the minute and hour of the births of both of our children, but I'm unable, actually unwilling, to nail down any better than 'over the Memorial Day weekend' as the date of my dad's passing.
I've wrestled with every aspect of that relationship for almost every waking moment and it's all added up to zero. I'm very much writing today to exorcise demons rather than for any other point or purpose. I thought I'd opened this cut up last year and flicked the scab off, but as I sit here, I can feel my throat tighten, the rock in the pit of my stomach grow heavier and the taste of ash in my mouth become more pronounced. Again I'm eight, not fifty-eight, and waiting as I did most days, with dread, for him to come home from the City. And so it begins, never to end.
We, the six children he struggled to feed, clothe, shelter, and provide everything under the sun and in-between, are, ourselves, parents and in some instances, grandparents. I don't pretend to know the hearts of my siblings, but I'm pretty sure I speak for at least some of them when I say we have all worked as hard as we could to not become our father. And if the years have taught me anything (and that proposition is still subject to debate), it's that his intentions, like those of every parent, were the absolute best. And yet one by one, as we could (when we could) we disappeared, leaving those younger behind to be his children. Until he, himself, suddenly, left and no words could fill the void or cover the silences.
I'm never sure if it's the horrible son or the failed father who's to blame for all that was lost years ago, but I know the face I see in the mirror every morning belongs to the person responsible now for not letting go of the poisons of the past to savor today and secure tomorrow. It wasn't mere coincidence this time a year ago I needed to be talked from the edge because I'd become addicted to loathing the view when I looked down. I couldn't look but I couldn't look away.
Each of his children will, in the course of these next days, try, again, to make peace with the world he gave us and that we lacked the strength to reject aloud while he was here to hear us. Silence equaled consent and thus did we become accomplices in our own victim hood. I want to shout at the man whose knowledge often overwhelmed the nuns who tormented, rather than taught, each of us, "if Jesus exists, then how come He never lived here?" instead of nearly choking on the words, knowing I always shall.