A Lesson on Life…By Way of Death

My dad in college.

My dad lived many lives and last night our house was filled with glimpses from each—faces from all his different periods converging on the cut-short canvas of his present. My parents’ pasts have always intrigued me, and now, with my dad and his voice fiercely stolen from me, I find myself even more concerned with digging through the thick folds of his time here.

What was he like at my age–twenty-four in a few days? Where was he and what was he doing? What was he thinking when he wrote the letters to his mother that are now piled up in a box on our floor? What was it like when my parents were married? What was it like when they sat us down to say it was done? These are mere highlights from an endless stream of wondering—a fallback to the most basic questions (who/what/where/when/why) which seem to bring me a drop of comfort in this uncomfortable time.

I knew my dad fairly well, but there is plenty more to know—entire phases that eclipse me, phases that I’m now compelled to recreate. With no future to focus on, I can only get more out of him by looking to the past.

Perhaps this is why, last night, I found myself gravitating towards those who’ve known him longest, or met him way way back when. Like a magnet, I drifted around the rooms feeling drawn most to close family and the oldest friends: people who have seen me grow, and were growing with my father long before that. I felt safest with my grandma, and dad’s sister—my aunt. There was something soothing, too, though sad, about the faces of his oldest friends: from high school, college or his earliest years in NYC. And the children of these people, too, who grew up with me, watching my Dad traverse the same years that I watched—the cousins and might-as-well-be cousins.

This group reminds me most that he’s gone but helps me, too—mainly, to feel that it will all be okay, despite the blunt fact of his absence. Their simple presence keeps him alive—the picture they create, all together in our kitchen, is one that will forever shout “Craig.” I will never not see my dad in Omi, or Ed, or Jonathan and Sally. I will never not see my dad in his mother or father’s faces and in certain mannerisms of his sister and brother. I will never not see my dad, even, in my mother—despite their unpretty end. And in my stepmom Amy, and my four siblings, I will always find him near—chatting and dancing and joking and yelling at us for being too slow, for not falling totally in line with his vision for the day. Beyond this, I will come across him in the mirror, in certain facial expressions or the curve of my nose. I will continue to find myself doing things he would do, or hear his opinions on the things he claims he wouldn’t.

I’m another souvenir, amongst many, from the various journeys through time that my father took. Perhaps more deeply rooted, being his child, but still a part of a much larger picture. This picture inspires me, not just to retrace it, but to follow suit: to create a life like a sedimentary rock, thick with adventures and homes and locales, spilling out with friendly faces, new and old…never settling for mere repetition, but charging forth to create, or be, something new.

Because life, apparently, really is short—a reality that’s easy to deny until it’s made personal—but my dad has shown me throughout our time together, and most clearly last night in our home, that within our given constraints, we can make it very, very long.

3 replies »

  1. So well put, Jess. I’m glad you’re finding some solace in your writing and let your voice sing.
    The questions you ask, I think, never fully get answered, no matter how long we have loved ones in our lives. Good luck as you put the pieces together.

  2. This is beautiful Jess, thank you for sharing your poignant thoughts and feelings with us all. Here’s something else: every time those of us who also knew and loved Craig see YOU, we see a little part of him too. Even as you are making your own brave way in the world, you carry with you a little part of him. Yes, it IS going to be ok, but man, do we miss The Dude.

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