To My Father: on the occasion of his death


   You are dead.  It sounds indelicate but I feel sure you would appreciate the lack of euphemism.  There are a lot of problems with being dead, or more to the point with being alive when someone else is dead, but one of the most important must surely be the problem of where to send the letters.

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”

― Henry David Thoreau

  As I do not have an address I will put it here where it will be dispersed in tiny pieces through the air and fly from node to node rebuilding itself in front of eyes for which it isn’t meant.  Perhaps somewhere in that it will reach you, or at least bump into one of the atoms that used to be you, whilst it travels.  More likely I suppose it will fly around, deconstructed from what it was meant to be, and reach no one.  More likely it is simply too late.  None the less I am writing.  I am writing to you. You better than anyone know I like to bang my head on immovable walls and pour out my love and energy where it does no good.  Unsurprisingly that has not changed even though I feel like the world in which that futile effort exists is an entirely different place without you in it.

  The thing is, papa, I am not sure of who I am without you.  I am not sure if I am without you.  If I am, I am not what I used to be.  You gave me so many things.  You gave me olive skin and deadpan humour.  You gave me a sense of home and no small amount of scepticism.  More than all of these things you gave me , me.  You made me first when part of your DNA missed the plot and tossed out your plan finding its way to a part of mom’s DNA. Then you made me again and again every time you looked at me and saw something so much better than what I was without you.

  When asked how he knew a mathematical proof to be true without physical evidence a physicist , I can’t remember who, said something to the effect of- It must be true because it is too perfect and beautiful not to be.  That is how I felt about the person that you created when you looked at me.  I could see a little of that person you created, strong and kind and good, because you so perfectly arranged the numbers and letters together and that person was too perfect and too beautiful to not be allowed to be.  She was there, even without the evidence, in all of those moments that you saw her.  You convinced me of her but only so long as I knew that you too were seeing her.   She is gone now, with you, and I don’t know how to see myself without that vision softening the edges of me.  I don’t know how to be myself without the blanket of that girl wrapped around me. 

   I was so lucky to have you as my father.  I entered this world a month before your 18th birthday and in so doing complicated everything that you did after.  There were so many years that I remember you dropping me off at before school care and then picking me after dark, tired and worn and sunburnt from working.  I remember coming to the university to pick you up from your classes.  I remember your 21st birthday and the hangover thereafter.  I remember waking you night after night after night for years with nightmares and you telling me I was safe. I once asked, when I was the age that you were when I began, if you regretted having me.  I knew you wouldn’t take it back of course but did you ever wonder after the life you would have been able to have had I not come along.  You got tears in your eyes, one of only three times I recall tears in your eyes before the cancer made you sentimental, and you told me no.  You said that I saved you by existing and that the man you would have become would have been so much less good had that man never held that baby and known he had a purpose.  That is how I feel about having you as a father.  You loved me so unconditionally and I lived with such certainty that I could never disappoint you.  Feeling that , and knowing that, saved me.  I am so very much less good without it. 

  So there it is.  This world is empty of you and I must figure out how to be knowing there is not, and won’t be, anyone in this world who loves me like that.  I must figure out a way to keep trying even though I know that with you gone there is no one who I won’t let down and there is no one who will ever again believe me incapable of doing any real wrong.  All I can do is look at those I love and hope that I can create for them, through my eyes, a vision of them too beautiful and too perfect not to be.  I’ll have no choice but to see my own selfishness, brokenness, and fallibility.  I will never again be loved by you but maybe, if I string the numbers and letters of the equation together in the right order, I can love like you.

I miss you papa.