what the living do

I have a list of significant dates.  February 16, 2013 made that list, and I was surprised it did, and I am now surprised that I was surprised.  Of course the date of my dad’s memorial service would make the list of Most Important Days.

I dressed entirely in black.  I’m not sure how many times I cried, but I am sure that it felt both good and scary to let the tears in fall in the presence of others.  Vulnerability is a bitch.  I faced her head on when I walked up to the podium and delivered a short speech about my relationship with my dad.  I had pieced parts of it together using blog posts, both old and recent, and then added some more things.  I had originally planned to read a poem by Marie Howe but something compelled me to write for the occasion.  To speak.  To throw the voice of my soul.

I have strong tendencies toward observation, I often sit back and watch what other people do because they never fail to fascinate me.  I sometimes make myself watch instead of participate because watching is safer and I am afraid.  I knew I couldn’t just watch my dad’s memorial service go by, I knew I had to do something before we put him in the ground, and sharing what I had written was one of the last things I could do for him and one of the best things I could do for myself.

Growing up I observed my dad a lot, and as an adult I watched him fade away, and no amount of doing anything would have saved him, or will save any of us.  We will die whether we watch or we do, my dad is dead and most of the time I still feel raw when I realize this fact, his life is over, the memorial service is over, I am back home in California, what the hell do I do now?  How do I find peace in my heart, how do I accept that he is gone and the world will go on and that’s just the way of it?

His death makes me feel so very small and powerless.

His life made me feel that way, too.

Here’s the poem I wanted to read but decided against, in favor of my own words:

What the Living Do

by Marie Howe
Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.
And the Drano won't work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up

waiting for the plumber I still haven't called. This is the everyday we spoke of.
It's winter again: the sky's a deep, headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through

the open living-room windows because the heat's on too high in here and I can't turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street, the bag breaking,

I've been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.

What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss—we want more and more and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I'm gripped by a cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I'm speechless:
I am living. I remember you.


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