I guess my silence here leads to yet another apology for my lack of writing. Honestly, there are just times in life where you feel as if you’ve got nothing to write about, other times you feel as if you have everything to write about but don’t have the time, and finally there’s just points where you have no clue what to say. I’ve been caught into all three of these heart retching dilemmas– highs and lows–ecstasy and complete hell. Two weeks ago my father unexpectedly passed away. I’ve been meaning to write something about this– a poem, a short story, a–well anything, but there comes a point where even I, the talkative man with no shame, has to stop and listen to the silence and take some time to meditate.
All my life I’ve been studying how fragile life is and examining how lucky I have been–taking risks and living on the edge. We hear of tragedy, we mock it, we are numbed to it by the news–murder, fire, death– we move on with our lives. Then one day it happens to us and we’re left mouth ajar and the world flipped upside down. Each thought is a stifled image of a searing past memory of love which is now branded on your mind like a fresh tender wound. Each breath is a stuttered scream for help, pushing back molten tears, but you fake it through tip-toeing through the day trying to figure out how night-mares can actually become reality.
If I’ve learned anything from my father’s death, it’s that everything I’ve ever written about pain and grief fall far short of the terrors people live through every day. The day after my father died I was walking through a store and some cashier had the gall to tell me about how bad her day was, little things minute problems which really were just caused by tainted perspective. I then couldn’t help but wonder how many times I’ve done that to people, I ignorantly rambling about my horrid life only to realize it was a precious dream. I was living in my own budding paradise as they were dangling by thin threads above hell. Then I realized that I, and rarely anybody, appreciates the little things.
I know all this sounds cliché– constantly people tell you to appreciate the little things in life– but seriously, I can’t tell you how much I miss my father’s stuttered snore as he sleeps on the couch pretending to watch some documentary about Gettysburg on the History Channel–something which use to annoy me to no end–something I’ll never hear again. As I listen to the faint echoes of memory, I realize it’s heaven.
Kurt Vonnegut in Man Without a Country, ”I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’” This, my friends, is something that almost everybody I know (including me) is forgetting to do. Nobody really stops and realizes how beautiful life is. Nobody appreciates the magic of the most simplistic moments when they happen. Everything changes when one person forces this on the collective perspective. Appreciation blooms. I don’t know much, but I do know you should tell the people you love that you love them. I know you you should tell your friends (even if you may not keep in touch with them as much as you use to or even if you have been having a long extended fight with them) that you wouldn’t have made it as far/survived without them because it was their little jokes, bitter arguments, pats on the backs, shared couple of beers, or what-ever that pulled you through.
I realize right now I’m rambling– face it, I’m sleep deprived, slightly buzzed on several crappy beers I choked down at 4th of July gathering, and starved because I didn’t really eat dinner. Yet, I’m also not crying for the first night in a long while even though the whispers in the back of my head are still “I can’t believe he’s gone, I can’t believe he’s gone, I can’t believe he’s gone,” while another chants, “there’s nothing anybody could have done about it, nothing anybody could have done about.” Finally there’s still those flashing images of my dad smiling–synapses are firing off archived footage of his embrace, his wiry beard resting on my shoulder as he hugs me goodbye to my first day of school. I tell my dad that I love him. He loves me. I know that he knows and I hope he knows that I know. God, I miss him.
I know this may not be the time and the place to mention such things, but this scorching weather has been gorgeous. During the day I have been going on long car rides, whipping through the country roads, windows down, my mother sitting next to me as we pass by horse and buggies driven by the unsuspecting Amish. The sweet scent of summer grass fills the car and both of us sit in silence flipping through the memory backs of yesterdays–these are the roads Dad always took us. Although there’s a haunting cloud of mourning stifling our moods, there’s also a serene peace– for every pang every memory brings us, we realize he truly lived a wonderful life.
At one point this week we pulled over to a farmers market where two young girls in heavy dresses and hair nets squeezed fresh lemons into plastic cups and magically turned them into lemonade. My father use to love this place. As I walked away they said, “have a nice day.” When I couldn’t help but laugh and tell them, “Honestly, If this isn’t a nice day, I don’t know what is.” Then my mom and I drove on laughing and talking about how excellent the lemonade was, and somewhere through the brackish hell of reality, I found my smile and for a faint moment I can almost hear my father laughing.