My Dad is dead. His body is laying in the basement of the local funeral home, going through the process of embalming and preparation for burial. Tomorrow, an 8'x3' hole will be dug in a tiny cemetery atop a tiny hill to bury a 6'-5" man. Well, he won't be buried until Tuesday, but I'm guessing the hole will be dug early. That was my responsibility. Going to the cemetery with the graveyard keeper, marking the plot, staking the ground.
I'm not sure how I feel. My relationship with my dad was pretty much nonexistent, and has been this way for the last few years. In the greater scope, it's been this way for most of my life. He and my mom divorced when I was but a babe. So I grew up without my "real dad" an active part in my life. We--my brother (Jake) and I--would go over nana's and see that side of my family every few weeks, but most of those memories are vague and blurry at best. I distinctly remember being disappointed in his usual absence whenever we were out nana's, but I also distinctly remember his usual presence whenever we were out there, too. He would go around singing or humming, hilarious, fun. Making sweet tea. Playing chess. Reading comics. These things, these positives, I have clearly inherited from him. I sing/hum almost constantly. I'm told that I'm a rather funny person. I (used to) make sweet tea (until my taste buds switched to preferring non-sweet).
But by and by, for most of my life, I've thought of my dad as a man who squandered what he had for drugs and alcohol. That was why mom and him divorced. I can remember him being buzzed, eyes glazed over, lethargic. He sometimes looked skeletal. These aren't things I like thinking about, nor do I necessarily like revealing them to the Internets, but they're truths that are responsible for me being the man I am today. From early on I resolved to be a better man than my dad, and now that I have a baby of my own, this ideal has been practiced for five-months strong.
I always intended to see him more. More than just Christmas and Thanksgiving and the occasional summer time, but I never got around to it. I could have called or visited, but I suppose that door swings both ways. Still, it is what it is. I was trying to think of the last time I saw him, which I guess was back in February, when we got together for Christmas at nana's. I don't remember anything special sticking out. Avonlea wasn't born yet. And that's another thing that's sad. He never met Avonlea. Ciara (my sister) showed him pictures of her on Facebook, and he loved looking at them, but in flesh & blood, the two never met.
It was odd, going out there. I got the call last night about 10pm. Nana was somewhere a few hours away, on her way home, asking me if I would go out to his house and wait with Ciara until she got in. I changed clothes and hurried down there, making the forty-minute trip in less than forty-minutes. There were two cops there when I pulled up, a white van belonging to the funeral home, a neighbor across the street, and my sister and two twin uncles. I hurried over and got in talking up the last few details with the funeral director. (Did we want him smooth-shaved? What time did we prefer to meet and go over the arrangements?) And we stood around in a huddle in the cold wind, dark night, confused, silent. Ciara said the cops wouldn't let her touch him.
Soon, the two funeral directors brought out the body. It was on a stretcher, covered with a brown, squared, simple quilt. I never saw his face, and I still haven't. I watched them roll him to the van and put him in. The cops came up and told us to lock up the place. Everyone left and we went in.
It was the first time I'd ever been there. A simple, old, dirty single-wide trailer. Aluminum foil in the windows for insulation. A weathered-but-comfortable couch. It was definitely the home of a bachelor. Pill bottles lay around, mostly empty. I gathered that more than a few people had been trying to get him to quit. I soaked it in, still feeling blank inside, headache pounding away. What am I supposed to think? How am I supposed to be feeling? There is no norm. Every situation is unique here.
Now, after a day of dealing with cemeteries, morticians, and family, everything is slowly settling in. Even so, I'm still confused, still uncertain. That's why this post exists. Writing, and blogging by extension, is the simplest way for me to put my thoughts to focus. It's personal, yes, but I'm an honest individual that believes transparency is healthy and good. And when you've stood in a room full of coffins, filled from wall to wall, all different but all similar, your thoughts are bound to be scrambled. It's late. I'm tired. There's still lots to do. Lots I don't know about. I do know that my dad loved me, and I think he knew that I loved him. I know that it hurts knowing that I didn't put forth more of an effort, and that's something I have to live with. I'm still working on me and this, and I'm sure I will be doing so for a while. Everybody has daddy issues, and they're influential in personal development. It's pure coincidence that I started a book last week on becoming a better father/husband and that my mind has been thinking about my dad more than normal these last few days. I was excited that Thanksgiving was coming up because he was finally going to get to see his only granddaughter. Not anymore.
I loved my dad, even though I was an absent son, even though he was an absent father. And now the potential for change and for a relationship is gone.