I was not quite fourteen that awful morning when my mother awoke me by squeezing my toe. She said to me, “Don’t smile, your father is dead.”
Thirty-nine years later I still remember that morning vividly. I remember that I didn’t cry, and that by younger brother did. I cried later.
One uncle came by and helped himself to my father’s tools. Years later while visiting, I saw my father’s electric drill on the dirt floor of my uncle’s garage. I never forgave him.
I sometimes wonder about the connections between love and loss. Both rend the heart deeply and leave scars which never heal. This is where it isn’t fair being a male in this society. I ache with the loss of my father in ways that continue to surprise me – there is so much about him that I’ll never know and never understand. I used to get angry at him for having deserted me and leaving me alone to shoulder the burden of being the man of the house. I hated it when fools called me that.
I didn’t go to my father’s funeral. I understood death, but I did not understand the ceremony which surrounded death. Staying home with a friend we played catch in the yard and talked. He was worried about me and my lack of reaction. It was kind of him and perhaps the best therapy I could have asked for – had I asked.
When my mother remarried less than a year later she married an alcoholic a-hole. She later told me that she felt that we (my brother and I) needed a man in the house. Well, that would have been nice but she picked a drunk.
It was a lovely June day when my father was buried. Then cars began arriving. Aunts, uncles, my father’s friends, my mother’s friends, people I didn’t know, cousins all descended upon our small home. My mother shooshed me inside and told me to put on some clean clothes: I didn’t have any. In all the confusion of death and ceremony the laundry had piled up.
Casseroles appeared from the thin air. Cakes. Pies. Sliced ham. Food everywhere. My mother who had just lost her husband now had to play hostess. Something else for which I resented my selfish family.
I felt that everyone was aware that I was wearing dirty pants, though I think I had a clean shirt. My father was freshly buried and I worried about my pants.
So what does all of this rambling mean? I don’t know. At 53 I should have figured it out by now but have not yet done so. I fear that time is running out and it will all remain a mystery.