|My dad: He got cooler later in life, but not much.|
It goes without saying. Or, at least, it should. But it never seems to, does it? "Time heals." "You're stronger for it." "Everything happens for a reason."
No, no, no. Especially the last one. Everything happens for a reason? Please. My father did not leave this life, extremely prematurely, for any reason. Or at best, as the result of stupid, pointless events. Still, nearly everyone, since the day he died, seems to want to tell me it happened "for a reason." The wost offenders usually include some variation of "Don't worry; everything sorts itself out" along with the platitude.
Before you think I'm a horrible, horrible person who secretly hates all your comforting words, let me explain. I do take comfort in the fact that so many people care, still, after all this time, and that's the main thing. So thank you, truly. However, I think it's more comforting to not assume reason and direction. I prefer to find it, or better, to make it.
If my dad hadn't died, I probably wouldn't have taken the precise career path I had, I wouldn't be married to my husband, and owing to the circuitous interconnectedness of things, my son probably wouldn't exist. Really, everything does affect everything that comes after it in one's life, to some degree or another. But you can go crazy assigning meaning like that. He didn't die so that these things could happen. He lived, and with my mom raised me, so that they could happen.
I honestly don't usually remember the anniversary of when my father died. I always remember his birthday. He lived for a reason, and it had nothing to do with predestination or guiding spirits. He lived for the reasons that he created every day. He was a father, son, husband, brother, teacher, coach, fantasy baseball commissioner, unabashed Beach Boys and Jim Croce lover, sarcastic joke teller, conservative, and pain in the ass. He did what he did, and to hell with anyone else and their idea of cool. (See that photo at the top? I never again want to hear you say "Oh, yeah, my family is full of dorks too," unless it reaches that level of dorkitude. I mean, seriously.) He was a whole ton of other things. And none of it just happened. He was, determinedly and perpetually, the reason.
He was never big-time into nature, but I am. Yesterday, I was chasing birds. It was early enough that the date hadn't really registered. After an hour or two of attempted birding, miles and miles off course, I pulled to a stop beside his baseball field. Yesterday would have been his 53rd birthday.
The birds didn't guide me there. There wasn't a mystical force pulling me. I probably already remembered in the back of my mind what day it was. But it has meaning anyway. It happened for a reason, and by "it" I mean my recognition of the moment. I assigned meaning to the moment. I couldn't stop smiling, all the way home. The radio seemed to play the most pleasingly cheesy songs I'd heard in ages, and I thought of him as I bellowed along with the lyrics.
I returned to the field last night with my son. We brought crayons; paper; cameras; a really old, really dorky photograph; and an old clarinet.
David plays the clarinet now, and that certainly happened for a reason. One other thing that my dad was was a clarinet player, and a good one (his failed attempts at circular breathing notwithstanding). My son now plays his old clarinet. I couldn't possibly be prouder. David played the clarinet at Brian Hosey Field, we did some rubbings of the plaque, and he ran and ran around the field until he could barely breathe and the light had faded entirely.
My father, whatever and wherever else he may or may not be, most definitely lives on through us. He's behind my humor, love, aggravation, creativity, strengths, and weaknesses. It really has been a while now. We have, of course moved on, if not gotten "over" anything. I'm honestly startled sometimes to realize it's been days and days since I've really thought about him. And then I stop. And breathe. And think. And maybe write; or sing, loudly and badly; or read a stupid comic book; or vociferously argue a point about which no one cares. No one tells me to. No one makes me do it. Possibly, no one's watching over me. I choose to do what I do. But he did teach me.
He didn't die for a reason, but he's gone, and we deal. It's made a little easier by the fact that he lived for so many reasons, and we nurture those every day.