It’s been 9 years today and the only thing I now mourn is having nowhere to do exactly that. I have no gravesite, no ashes, no urn, no gold leafed decanter to rub three times when life doesn’t seem to be batting for me. A family feud has ensured that I don’t know where my fathers remains are. And so I’ve taken to borrowing from others. The brilliant thing about grief is that there is no need to pilfer it, someone is always willing to share. I take comfort in the fantastical graveside stories, I often hear through family friends. Most notably I recently took comfort in the images Papa B sent me from his Grandmother’s passing. Why this wasn’t a melancholic affair at all. It was quite frankly a celebration. Bosoms and bottoms were wrapped in the brightest of colours with matching head wraps stood to glorious attention. The coffin itself was more of a chariot, its beauty highlighted and contoured by that of a photographer leaning ever closer to it, to get that perfect shot. The funeral itself, was a wondrous circus which simply demanded that no one weep over the end, but instead, chatter merrily about how it had begun. And oh, how this vision soothes my soul.
The first couple of years were riddled with nightmares. I struggled to sleep, turning to drink, drugs and seasonal debauchery to block out a lot of what I just couldn’t process. Then came the walloping anger. For so long, it seemed may tongue could only spit fire because I foolishly believed that this pain was unique to me. And then finally came understanding. I must be clear that it’s not on par with acceptance. I will never accept that my father’s life was ripped so brutally away from him, from me. But I have spent a many a night, reading and researching so I’m in a place of understanding. I’ve learned that it’s almost humorous to be so precious about something that is so fragile and fleeting. In the eyes of time, we are but a blink.
And so now, all I can do is honour him.
The time of merriment is upon me. Now, I rarely cry. It’s all about remembering the good times. Like when he confused the fish tank cleaner for water purifier and killed every fish in the tank (RIP Lloyd, the most gangster goldfish there ever was) or when he would laugh and clutch his belly at the same time. His lack of height and stature made him resemble a jelly baby and in turn this vision would have you laughing too.
If I close my eyes, I can feel the way he would gently pinch the back of my neck with his thumb and forefinger, or the grip of both hands of my shoulders as he would force me to dance to whatever new CD he purchased at Our Price. The scent of Jean Paul Gaultier can still stop me in my tracks and the sound of keys rating against one another will always make me raise my head. I only wear Adidas Gazelles as a homage to him.
I remember creeping into his office two days after he died. Although I knew the creeping was now without reason, it felt instinctual as he would very rarely allow people in there without he, himself, being present. His belongings were strewn around as if they were anticipating life once more. His Adidas Gazelles sat in such a manner, it was clear her had kicked them off in a hurry. The hum of his sleeping computer was the only sound in the house. His office chair still reclined as if it held the weight of future expectation. I swear i saw him sat in it, legs outstretched, crossed at the ankles, toes flexing back and forth whilst his hands rested behind his head as he proceed to tease me about how many more books he had read since I failed to finish the last one I purchased. Making my way over to the bookshelf, with shaking hands I allowed myself to finger what he always believed were one of life’s greatest past times. The energy was unexplainable, I felt haunted and protected all at once. I ran out of the office and never went back.
And now, I could kick myself.
If I could, I would head back into that office with a black bag and pack up all I could, no matter how big or small. Having nothing but memories is sometimes not enough.
But I have nothing but a handful of artefacts and his smile. And for better or worse that has to be enough.
Perhaps it’s a reach to even think that a place, a shrine, a whole in the earth filed with bones and dust to mark his existence, would make me feel better. If I’m missing him, I only need look in the mirror and a barefaced reflection would show my heart all it thinks it’s missing. For I am my father
and he is me, forever intertwined by a name, DNA and plentiful memories. And that will have to be more than enough for me.
It’s been 9 years today and I feel as light as the feather that fell from the sky as I stood outside the apartment in Napoli, cold and crying awaiting a cab to bring me home to my new reality. But I don’t have it in me to cry anymore. It’s time to celebrate. Even if only in my mind. So I cling to the homecomings of others and paint a picture that pleases me. The sky was blue and we all filed in the church together. I attend the wake and fix people plates whilst listening to your parents speak of you. I sit by your gravesite and tell you how the kids are doing. And that is enough for me.
It’s been 9 years today, and I’m doing ok you know. I’m doing ok.