Monday, May 21, 2007

A daddy story

I took a break from lilscreamie - both mentally and physically - to take a trip to Florida to more or less close a chapter in my life that's been the hardest to deal with for the longest time. After almost two years of waiting and some inneffectual attemps at "getting something done" - my sisters and I are finally getting around to settling the matter of my father's very modest estate.

My mother passed away in early 2000, leaving my dad alone. It was an extraordinarily sad and difficult time, but we all got through it, as families do. My father lived quietly and well and finally came to enjoy himself again, walking on the beach and driving his convertible and occasionally making trips up north to visit me and the always Beautiful, but not-yet-Wife. He did get to see me married, and sometimes I think that was one of the happier days of his life - he loved talking about it, and loved Beautiful Wife. I visited occasionally, too infrequently, but when the timing worked, I'd take him flying - usually someplace relatively far away, for a breakfast in Sebring, FL or a lunch someplace north, just to get the hours in and share the delight with him, - he was proud of me, and it made me feel proud to make him happy. My father came from a time when men had short hair and nearly everyone (who was serious) wore a suit - I have a ponytail, and dress (for the most part) as though I'm getting ready for yard work or going into battle - and I work in advertising so I was always a little suspect. Over the years, we worked that out, and he really did get that I was doing something (he was never quite sure what, exactly) that would keep me and mine safe in the world. Once he figured out that I was going to be okay, we got along better and better - to the point that we actually enjoyed each other's company. I'm glad to be able to say that.

After several scares and some diet changes and my wedding and a visit or two to the undisclosed location, my father's heart finally failed him - he passed away in June of 2005, but not before he got to see an ultrasound movie of the squirming black and white blob that would be Dear Alex. I would that he had lived to see the wonderful child that she's becoming.

I write this because even though the grief has passed, it can be sad and hard to realize with certainty that this is the end of someone else's story, Cleaning out your parent's house - the accumulation of 50-plus years of life together, is an object lesson in the importance of living, and a cautionary tale about the relentless accumulation of things. All of it meant something to them, but it means nothing to me (save a nod to whatever significance it held for them) so what, objectively, am I to do with it? Let it go, I think, is the real answer. The artifacts that I've taken so far are simple and small, and will fit into the very different life that I expect for BW and myself. The largest and heaviest item by far is my father's toolbox - a bulky red craftsman thing with lots of drawers full of well-used hand tools - The sheer density of it, and it's weight say everything about how it feels to have it - I lived in awe of his ability to make and fix things, and I know now that I truly am my father's child by my constant urge to do the same. The toolbox, and a few other things I'm keeping don't begin to do justice to the life my parents led or the fun they had or the things that meant something to them.

I'm tempted to start labeling the boxes of things that BW and I have collected in our (relatively) short time together - "this box of maps and these rounded rocks are from a time before you when we were young and in love and we travelled British Columbia and walked on glaciers and rode in convertibles and rode motorcycles through rainstorms and flew airplanes for the joy of life and sharing our passions and this is how we lived - and we did, and this proves it."

That narrative and context is what's missing for me now, though it's possible to piece together a lot of life and little adventures from what my parents left behind, things I remember (the green caddy convertible, endless days at the beach... ) and the stories they told. but mostly it's a sad business, and the opressive heat and relentless humidity and the fecundity of south Florida takes it's toll - their once well-kept home is overgrown by vines and mold and it's pretty clear that there's really no one home, ever again.


rsilver7 said...

That was beautiful, Pook

Anonymous said...

I've read this now and once before and it is one of the most beautiful narratives I have ever read. It brought me to tears the first time. Thank you for putting all of these painful feelings in perspective. It's so hard to let go.........., but I had lots of time to think about it coming back up north. After reading this I'm ready to let go of "the stuff" and go on with my life.