Friday, April 23, 2010

Dear Dad,

When it rains it pours, right? I write about memory and then it seems like everything today is reminding me of you. Stupid shit, too. Why can't I just go see a silly action/comedy about real people trying to be super heroes without it having a father die in it? Why does my friend have to call her father right after the movie to let him know about a pending job interview? Why does every fucking thing seem to be about fathers some days??

Oh, and don't even get me started on movies in general. I've always loved watching movies for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the brief escape from the stress and mundanity of the world around me. But now I often get this weird sinking feeling when I "return" to my regular life from the fantasy vacation of a movie. It's like my brain re-realizes that I'm back in the world you're not in. In a fantasy world you never existed, so I have nothing to lose. But here in the real world it suddenly feels like all loss all of the time. And sometimes it makes me feel a little bit crazy, to tell you the truth. Or, at the very least, really out of sync with everyone around me. I hate how much my moods can volley these days. It reminds me of when I was a teenager and I was so prone to depression. It's like a tidal wave of shadows just crashes over me and everything feels so dark and hopeless. I just wish I could train myself to see it coming so I have time to put on my goggles and nose plugs.

The other day I was reminded of the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and I found myself wondering if I would ever erase anything from my life because it was too painful. And I found myself, just for a moment, wishing I could erase my memories of you. Thinking of how much easier it would be if I never knew you existed so I would never have to miss you like I miss you now. And then I felt horrible immediately - like I had actually visited the man who could make such a thing happened and asked for the procedure. But I didn't. And I wouldn't. Or at least I want to hope that I'm the kind of person who would be strong enough to say no if such a thing were ever offered.


Dear Dad,

Memory is a tricky thing. I never know how anyone can write a memoir or autobiography and fill it with such detail. I mean, even conversational detail. How does anyone remember so much of their lives so specifically? Do they keep a journal of every second always and forever? I don't think I could do it, Dad, to be honest with you. I find myself confounded by memory these days. As part of my work in therapy and trying to intentionally think of you and your death, I find myself trying to sit quietly and let thoughts and images wash over me. But what I'm having a hard time with is how I seem to be only able to conjure up visual memories of you from when you were sick - thinner than usual, your hair short and your face becoming gaunt; your movements and activities wrapped in pain and difficulty. It's not a mental image I cherish and yet it seems to eclipse so many others.

I know I have photos of you and I can look at them. But trying to conjure up pictures of you in my mind from actual interactions we had before you got sick seems harder and harder. It's like I can only remember seeing you through my own eyes from that time period. The other night I laid in bed deliberately thinking about and started to make myself go through memories of times we had together: The time you took me to my first comic book convention and bought me all 50 issues of the original Spider-Woman series. The time I got so freaked out from late night horror movie previews that I thought someone was breaking into your house and you jumped out of bed stark naked to confront them. The time I tripped and landed on my knees on my Chinese Checkers marbles and you told me I had to "walk it off" to make sure my knees didn't cramp up. The time you helped me pack up my apartment in Brooklyn so I could move to San Francisco and you joked that I should've worked in construction with you because I loved dismantling my old platform bed so much. And the memories kept coming like waves and I fell asleep remembering. But in each instance I couldn't seem to conjure up your face at the time, only the interiors and objects that surrounded us. But maybe this is normal. Maybe this is how memory works. We only remember people's faces and bodies from the moment we most recently saw them. But when I push myself to try this exercise with other people, my theory kind of falls apart.

But maybe that's actually only how memory works in tragedy. The physical changes you went through were more extreme than any I'd seen you go through in my life. You were always comfortingly the same, give or take a longer or shorter haircut. Your dress sense didn't change all that much and you always had the sort of permanent tan and lined face of a man who worked outside building buildings for most of his adult life. When Uncle C. gave me pictures of you from your childhood and teenage years I almost didn't recognize you from the smooth, paler skin of your face. And I don't dislike the memories I have of you from when you were sick. I would hate to have you think that because I know you didn't like me seeing you that way. But I am still going to try to conjure up your face in my mind from the past because I feel like it would be useful to "see" you in the memories I have. But I'm also going to keep reminding myself that it's the feelings those memories conjure for me that are far more important than the pictures in my head.

I love you, Dad,

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Dear Dad,

It's like you went away and all the old demons came back to lay beside me at night and hold my hand while I walk down the street. I know it's not a simple matter of one instead of the other, but it suddenly feels like so much work got undone. Like I got to a certain place and then got cannonballed in the gut and found myself much further back then I expected, sitting in a mud puddle of shit that I thought had dried up and faded away.

Apparently one of the stages of grief is anger. I totally believe this. But trying to feel angry at someone who is dead is so fucking unbelievably hard. Trying to engage that anger and deal with it and process it feels like the last thing on a long list of Shit I Would Rather Never Have To Do Ever. But I know it will be dealt with eventually. I just wonder what will be left of my already shredded soul afterward.

I love you anyway, despite the rollercoaster I've been on.
xo C.