Every year, my mind starts hyper focusing on various dates coming up. In July or August, I’ll note that one of those dates is fast approaching: October 13. It will sit there at the forefront of my mind as I go through my calendar for one reason or another. Sometimes, I’ll scroll over to October and take a look, then I’ll move on. But as each month passes, the date starts building up in the back of my mind, overtaking my present thoughts for a moment, until I’m soaked with the knowledge that it is coming.
This all culminates in September. About a month out from October 13, I putter around a bit and let the knowledge soak through that, like all things regarding time, it is going to come upon me whether I want it to or not. Sometimes, I want to get the day over and done with. Sometimes, I just want the calendar to sit still for a minute while I get my bearings as it inexorably marches on towards the month of October. Once October hits, the pending doom in my chest lessens and some years, I’m able to forget about it. Other years, I’m not.
This is one of those days that will always kind of sit with me.
You know how after a few years of living, you have a few scars that seem irrevocably tied to dates and times? Maybe it’s the way the leaves look in the early spring or maybe it’s a particular date on a calendar, eternally circled in the back of your mind. Whatever the case may be, there will always be parts of yourself left behind at strategic stopping points throughout the year. Sometimes, maybe, you can reconcile yourself to the loss and maybe other times you can’t.
I think October 13 is one of those days that I’ll always just have a love-hate relationship with.
Twenty-five years ago, my father died.
I remember listening to his death. I was seven. I can remember it. I’m grateful that my memories have faded. I can recall getting zings and pings, overwhelming emotional trauma that I couldn’t process as a child and only processed years after my mom stopped sending us to our child psychologist to deal with the trauma of losing a parent at such a young age. I can remember sometimes sitting, paralyzed with it, playing that night out like a faded movie on the theater screen in my head.
I’m older now and I think I’ve managed to handle most of it okay. I mean, I don’t get paralyzed with it anymore. The memory has faded enough where the grasp it held over me is not so tight. I’m able to breathe through it. And as I stated above, sometimes I even forget the date. My world is mired in dates but sometimes I can divorce myself enough from the battlefield embedded in October 13 that I can get by enough without feeling it in my bones.
Today was one of those days. I was fine for a while. I had work to do and errands to run and I was doing fine. I was perfectly okay until I turned the radio on after work this evening. As the sun played peekaboo with the gray clouds rolling through, lighting fire to the leaves that have changed color, the radio station I happened to turn on played Father of Mine by Everclear. This is a song that I have purposely eschewed as much as I love Everclear since high school. Consider it a trigger, I guess; I just can’t stand it anymore.
So as the pain of the day faded and I began to focus on the errands I had to run, the opening chords began to play and I just kind of got stuck for a while. I could feel it like shades of gray. It was kind of this shimmery background image as I drove and I kept my eyes covered with my dark glasses, trying to just breathe for a few minutes while I tried to drive through the 5 o’clock traffic.
Sometimes, I forget that it hurts still. And other times, it doesn’t hurt at all.
I had the idea to do something when I got home. Since I had errands to run anyway, I just added a couple of other items to go with the flow. I didn’t know what kind of flowers to buy. I normally get him roses, but nothing looked good. I finally found a harvest looking bunch of flowers, but I couldn’t settle on which bunch looked the best. I finally made my son tell me which one he liked best and inevitably chose a different bouquet.
I putzed around the in the kitchen after cutting down the flowers, trying to figure out what I could offer. I’ve never gotten the impression that my father liked the Kemetic trappings. I can understand the point-of-view, but I’m not going to trim back just because he has an issue. It wouldn’t really be an issue if… well, I don’t need to finish that sentence probably. I’m trying not to be angry today, even if I probably still have the wherewithal to be.
I stood in my kitchen, feeling lost and a little weird. I couldn’t figure out what I needed to do. How did I akhu? Didn’t I have an idea or three about all of this? I had gone grave-tending across three different cities for years and I had done a spread or six before now. Why was it so hard? Was it just because of my dad? Yes, of course. Nothing seemed appropriate. I wanted perfection and all I got was a few fixings, hoping that I could get through the rest of my night.
As I tried to figure out what would work out best, I felt like I had lost something I never knew I had: I don’t know him. I never really got the chance to know him. I was seven when he died. The things I’ve heard aren’t all stellar. In fact, there are some things that I don’t know how to process at all so I leave them at the back corner of my mind like little shit balls waiting to fuck me up another day. The rest of the things I know I could probably count on one hand: he liked Moxie (my mother says it tastes like Listerine) and he had a thing for spinach.
Well, he got bread and a chocolate cupcake and some diet Coke. Sure, I could have given him beer, but since he was an alcoholic, I’m pretty stubborn about not providing him with alcohol. If he wants to imbibe, he can go elsewhere.
I don’t have any pictures of my dad, not really. I have 2 on my laptop. I have 1 in real life that’s wrapped in 5 layers of bubble wrap in a box in the closet. It’s cracked and the picture is stuck to the glass. I always kind of thought I’d like to be buried with it. That’s it for pictures of my dad and they’re pictures with people. He wasn’t the kind of guy who got his picture taken; he liked to be on the other side of the camera… kind of like me.
Today I remembered that my dad died.
I remembered that the sum total of my knowledge could fill a thimble. I remembered that he made bad choices and paid for them. I remembered how small and concave he got towards the end. I remembered playing in the hall of the veteran’s hospital once and the walls were mint green.
I remembered that he killed a bee in the very back of the station wagon, pulling over on the side of the road to do so. I remembered that he and I stayed up all night watching My Little Pony movies because that’s what I wanted to do. I remembered the time my mom let me watch him sleep with his eyes open. Gods, that was so weird.
Today, it hurt.
Tomorrow, it probably won’t.
I don’t know about next year.