In an act of unusual bravery, I put on my fathers shirt. I had kept only a few things in a box when we cleaned out his apartment last summer. I didn't really want anything at the time, but I suppose my sister knew someday I would want it. It's almost cliche to hear that when someone dies, you can feel them around you. I haven't found that to be true. Wearing his shirt is an attempt at feeling close to him again.(a feeling I really hadn't had since the 7th grade when we would toss a baseball back and forth in the back yard). It's a miserable feeling you know, not being who your father wants you to be. In spite of my earnest efforts, it just never really took. It's just a complicated relationship that unfortunately I am prone to recreate with the men in life when I don't pay attention. I have this subconscious need to rewrite a different ending.
The minute I put the shirt on, I feel myself back at the church, sitting in the front row with my sisters. Although I was never close to my father, he said all of the right things like “I love you” and “I’m proud of you son”, but beyond that, we really had nothing in common, especially after my parents divorce. Whilst I could share the every day comings and goings on of my life with the rest of my family, my father was always last on the list. I didn’t dislike him, he just hated discussing the trappings of real life. If it wasn’t about the weather or his latest golf game, he really wasn’t interested. I used to feel bad about our lack of "connection" until I realized that was just who he was, his disinterest wasn't just reserved for me.
It is amazing how difficult it is to do the simplest things when you are hours from burrying a parent, even brushing my teeth seemed like an arduous task. It almost seems as if I had spent the entire week sleep walking , afraid of waking. I dreaded the knock on my hotel room door signifying that we would be headed to the church. Choosing a suit in between breaking down in tears, just to make it to there early to meet everyone who wanted to share their condolences. I didn't know most of them but I could see it in their eyes how uncomfortable it is to be face to face with someone who is drowning in their own sorrow. Also unnerving, I'm sure, is how much I resemble my father. I am not sure they knew what to say or do other than to just stare at me. I, on the other hand, couldn't take my eyes from my fathers ashes and the flag folded in front of them. I felt all this pressure to be cool under pressure or to have a perfect one liner to make people feel better, like he would, but I just couldn’t muster the words. I have always been fearless, but unable to feign a brave face, if that makes any sense. I felt as though I was the host of a party I didn't want to be at. Everyone had stories they wanted to tell, but hearing things about him made me realize he was even more of a stranger to me than I had ever realized.
The tears were burning my cheeks and felt like tiny rivers of lava. Crying has always felt like a relief, but this felt like some sort of torture. I had been touching my foot into the abyss of emptiness my fathers death created but I hadn’t fully allowed myself to feel it as much as I needed to. Walking into the church and down the center aisle to be confronted with the devasting reason we were all there, left me with the feeling I was going to pass out. When the opening notes of my fathers favorite song began to play, I had to bury my face in my hands at the total devastation of having to say goodbye way too soon to someone I thought I really didn’t even understand. What's harder is waking up the morning after to the realization that we are almost exactly alike...that, we understood each other all along but we were just too stubborn to acknowledge it.
I can't help but wish I could go back and be more forgiving, have more patience. All the peace I thought I had made turned out to be a castle made of sand, crumbling under my feet. I should have been there when you were scared those final nights. I should of sucked it up and been the man I'd hoped I was. Maybe then I wouldn't feel so stuck. I just want to call you and tell you I know exactly how you felt and I finally understand. I wouldn't be sitting at home wearing your shirt and trying to talk to you if I didn't.