I've put off this list item for as long as I can, and though I tried to rationalize my way through to the next posts, thinking of how order and chronology are so highly overrated, the truth is that the experience informs everything, every single thing that has happened in my life since then. I've been trying to find a way in to a lofty, emotional subject without allowing sentimentality to override honesty, and it wasn't until I reread my last post that I listened to what I knew how to do all along: remember the lines.
When I was in my early twenties I sat in a coffee shop at the table I used to gather around with friends in high school and I wrote my father's eulogy. I'd been home less than ten hours after being woken up in the very early morning by an unexpected call from my mother. As soon as the sun rose my boyfriend at the time, a kind and patient man, had driven me the four hours home and then just hours after that, coffee in hand, I sat silently with glassy eyes and typed the lines of my father that I could remember.
At the time I wrote out his lines I was still struggling to make sense of them, still trying to reconcile the man I'd known as a child with the man I'd only really met as an adult maybe sixth months before that terrible phone call. I was attempting, in such a broad way, to decide if this man I'd always felt so connected to, so much alike, was good or bad. It seems so simple now, silly even, that I thought I might get at the heart of a person, at the heart of their life, their choices, their end, in some clean-cut way. It's never clean-cut. The same man who made up songs for me and sang "Oh little round head, your Daddy loves you," and took me on Daddy Dates and sent me coupons in the mail when I first left for college is the same man who struggled with his own addictions, who chose have another drink and another, who couldn't battle himself any longer. And so I sat at a very public spot and tried to make sense of very private issues, much like I'm doing now, and I wrote.
I wrote my way through my father's life, through the life he chose to share, and I put down into words what I wanted to remember and I stood at a podium in front of a crowd and I read. And the key to all this? The lines I wanted to remember.
Shortly after that I tossed aside the wants and got to the needs. I recounted everything I could think of, tugged at hindsight and looked for clues that would make it all make sense, and I justified my need to understand him better with idea that I loved him but I didn't want to be naive about who he really was. I wanted my eyes to be open and I thought it would make his life and his death mean more; I thought that knowing him more honestly would make our time together more valuable.
As it turns out (and yes, I say this with a smile and a bit of sarcasm), knowing a parent more honestly isn't really simple, and dare I say it, necessary. People are a beautiful, convoluted sort. I am so grateful for the man I knew in the beginning, even if it wasn't all of him, and grateful too, though it's harder to say, for the man I knew at the end, even if it wasn't all of him.
Part of me wanted to come to this space and tell you that my father was an amazing man that could charm a dead horse, excelled in his chosen career, knew exactly what treats two little girls would claim as heaven, and could cook incredible feasts and feed anyone and everyone who needed it. Part of me wanted to come to this space to tell you that my father was generous to a fault and would have given you the shirt off his back if you'd asked, or really, if you'd simply said you liked it, and that even when the restaurants he managed went from one to five to ten to fifteen and so on, he still knew regular customers in every city he was in and they loved him, basically a stranger, like family. Part of me wanted to tell you all those things and more because they are all true, and because most of you won't ever be able to say that you met him, but I hope that one day you will know him because you see some of those things in me.
I tried so hard for so long to make sure that I wouldn't carry on his struggles, that I, who was so much like him, wouldn't end up as he did in the end, that I allowed it to overshadow all the good, and there really was so much good, because even complicated good is good, it just takes more patience. I tried not to love him too much, then to love him more, but mostly, in the end, I just love him, every messy bit, just as he did for me.