[This was written in the week the leading up to Saturday 03.13.10 and finished in the week afterward. Like most stuff I write this post was inspired by actual events. Some things I'll keep close to the chest, in my heart and the words I do speak hold more and are more true than anything I could ever blog. A lot was left out because it doesn't need to be said again or written here. Please note some parts are obviously embellished. The conversation contained below is completely true.]
So I went to visit my dad today.
I'm up here in the Bay Area for my niece's first birthday, a very important event I was not going to miss after years of being flaky with my own family. Yet this short drive from my mom's house to the cemetery has been my plan for months now and my number one goal to be completely honest. No disrespect to my brother, his wife, my amazing niece - please understand this - You, the Unknown Reader, do not know how important this visit was for me right now.
He died in 1989 from cancer of the stomach and liver when I was 17 and he a month past age 56. It would be a lie to say his age didn't cross my mind when I married young and had my first child at 23, wanting to be there to see it all.
It has been 18 or 19 years since I been to his grave, only twice during the early years and one of those times was the funeral itself. You see Unknown Reader, when I moved to Southern California I traveled with the belief that so much of my previous life was being let go. In many ways I felt that I had moved on, no, not necessarily dealt fully with my dad's death (can one really?) but I was OK: I was married, with my first child and found myself in Southern California in 1996 and life was good for a few years. With an eventual divorce in 2003 followed by the reconstruction of self, I moved to Los Angeles proper, a beautiful city I totally related to from the noise and dust to the flower scents and apartment view of the Downtown skyline beyond Echo Park Lake. I was me.
So I went to visit my dad today and I told him everything.
I mean everything - the good and bad, my mistakes, my regrets, my failures and all that I'm proud of, so very proud of. There's my early marriage to T. and yeah that didn't work in the end but through meeting her I now make my home happily in a city I wanted to be in, with a good job and surrounded by wonderful people.
I told him about his grandchildren that I raised as best as I could then and better now. Yes Dad, you have two amazing grandchildren by me plus my niece A. and even another niece on the way this year! You will love to know that the red hair you gave me is there too, just in streaks and spurts but definitely visible in the right light, the same light that makes mine look purple some days. Your granddaughter K. who not only has the music gene like my sister is also running the LA marathon this week at age 13. Then there is your grandson J. who is all boy and who has read almost all the Harry Potter books by the first grade. They are both amazing, funny, crazy smart and loving children.
Dad, you would've repeated to those beautiful two kids the same goofy jokes you told me, the ones where the lame punchline didn't quite make sense but that somehow made the joke even more humorous. Let me tell you Dad that on most trips here I try to drive them around The City, to all the neighborhoods we went to, repeating them the same random facts of SF history you told me. Amazingly I'm still able to find my way around based mostly on memories of our drives to job sites where you paid me for sweeping the floor and fetching the tools from the truck. Ha I totally useless at that age but thrilled to be with you. How many times have I popped out of one district slightly lost only to quickly realize that I was last on this street with you and could guide my way home from there?
Dad, remember all I said about the love that I have for B? That I'm forever thankful to have met the one person who made it so easy to love, so easy to let my guard down, and in turn allowed me to allow myself to be here to speak all this to you Dad.
My words today were garbled with tears but I knew my dad understood all I said.
The good morning fog I awoke to was a replication of the day you were buried, the same fog that lasted throughout the funeral and after the wake. This all changed within my first hour here at the cemetery as the sun and blue sky broke down along ridges of the Briones hills, with dew still in the tall, green grasses bonded together to fight the rise in temperature. Sunshine was with me now.
He is here today - I felt the the warmth on my back. He was here telling me to lose that fear, to ask, to let things be known, that even my fatalist attitude needs to go to the wayside. He said for better or worst nothing is final, Everyday is Change and even death is a questionable state if you believe in the afterlife or reincarnation or what have you.
"You always read too many Time articles when you were alive Dad."
"Yes Bobby, I read and learned and changed - you saw all that. I basically stopped drinking every night, I stopped smoking and my attitudes changed. I was a better father."
"Yeah Dad, those were good choices but you have to understand that I've been so fucking pissed at you for dying, for checking out emotionally even in the years before you were diagnosed and that I avoided all this for far too long. I've been so god damn pissed my whole life that I checked out too, despite all the things I thought was doing right."
"I wasn't perfect and failed at times - you saw those moments too."
"Yes, I am me and I am you but I'm not going to let it be this way anymore Dad. I am not dead."
"No Bobby, you are very much alive." He continued, "You are aware. Doing."
"I want to be now so I am. I can't be any other way."
A cloud blocked the sun and warmth left my side to the cool morning air, to voices drifting across the divided lawns, reflected off grave markers and through the trees. I become aware of the power-walkers enjoying the beautiful valley and flat, empty roadways and the mid-aged couple and dog talking to their loved one in another section. Aware of the lady in the office who helped find my dad's grave and kindly did not mentioned observing me from her desk inside as I was losing my shit for 20 minutes searching the rows, fearful that I had lost him again (Apparently I was only 20 feet off from where my memory told me to look first). I cataloged this dear lady walking the cemetery perimeter making sure everything looked right for the next visitors of the day.
The 3 hours I had to myself that busy weekend, before my niece's party, before I had to pick my sister up from the mall, before I left for the airport at 6 AM was all coming to a close.
"I've always loved you Dad - I miss you so much."
This is all true Unknown Reader, my words to my dad, the warmth of the sun, this beautiful sun. All there and said in the blue light of a Bay Area winter day.
So goodbye Dad. I'm so, so sorry I haven't been here sooner, that I basically avoided you, your death and all the questions I had let be. Every time I'm up in the Bay Area I will be here next to you. I will show my children how very real you are to me and explain why it took me so long to see you again - I keep my promises to the people I love and I'm keeping these promises to myself. I missed you every day since you left and wish you could have seen what I have done with my life so far.
There is so much more to do and you will hear about it all.
[I know I'm often not clear, too vague in my words so let me state it was my fears, my anger...it was only me that kept me from visiting.]