Sunday, June 19, 2016

Father's Death

I was driving home from work this week and began to think about what was my first experience with death? Not understanding why this thought came into my head, I did not shrug it off. Quickly, the death of my father flooded my mind.  I did not push it away. For some reason I wanted to think through and explore my memory further. It was as if there was something I needed to remember or discover.  I remember the funeral.

It was not hard, I was in shock. The moment I first saw my father laying there, my thoughts were still on the living. I remember how thin and flat my father's stomach was and thinking he would be happy he had lost his beer belly. I can remember him joking at the dinner table.  He had recently been eating better to lose weight for the National Guard. Suddenly,  I realized that thinking this way about my father just did not matter anymore.  I remember kissing my father. When I stretched and extended myself across and quickly kissed my father, what I can not forget, is how my front teeth came across his face.  It was hard and some makeup got in my mouth.  I thought dad would not wear makeup?  It was still hard to believe what was happening.  My memory has me not crying much at the funeral. Why don't I remember the crying?

My thoughts went further back to the hospital.  I'm sure I entered the room, but all my memories are from the doorway.  A full body image of my father laying across the hospital bed and thinking that is not my father.  Maybe here is where I had a sense that my father was gone, but prayed for his return. I tried to remember the exact moment when I was told my father had died.  I could only remember sitting on the couch in my grandparents foyer crying and sitting with my sister and my mom.  Mom Mom came and handed us diaries to write down any of our feelings.  They were really nice books.  I used mine for a few years after.  I wonder if I can still find it.  While writing,  I do remember Pop Pop coming out of the car and breaking the horrible news right away.  I believe he said you father as gone to heaven.  How did I grieve?  What happened when the shock had worn off?

I remember, I was sick and I would not leave my bed.  I would swear that I could still smell the funeral home in my room.  Now I began to tear up as I drove down the highway.   I was scared, but there it was at the base of the backboard a single nail hammered flat against the wood.  I remembered how the nail got there and having to face my father.  The memory of this had me full out crying and I thew on my sunglasses.    

I had taken a nail and hammered only part way into the base of the backboard of the bed.  Not sure how it came about, perhaps my sister dared or coaxed me into it.  I remember sitting on the floor and my father on the bed.  Something felt different about it.  He was mad in a more crazy way and as a child I could not understand, but now as an adult I have the feeling that he is stressed out over larger things in his life.  I'm cleaning up my room and he is sitting on the bed taking a minute to consider what to do with the nail.  There is a brief exchange about why I did it and what to do with the nail.  I can't remember it all.  Dad takes the hammer and carefully hammers the nail flush into the base of the backboard.  I sit on the floor confused for a moment.  Dad is mad, but with a devious smile as if he were also happy.  He almost looks crazy as he fights back a smile.  While driving down the road I feel it.  I feel that he was stressed out and then relieved and relaxed.  The base did not split or splinter and did not add to the stress of the day,  a small victory.  It felt as if I could feel my Dad again.  Like I had relived this one moment with a new perspective.   These thoughts and memories were so strong that I found myself driving down the highway crying like a baby.

Meaning?  Of course everyone always looks for meaning and symbolism.

Dad is in Heaven and always with us.

The nail in the coffin.  Dad's expression and the act of hammering in the nail represents the final nail in his coffin and all of ours.

Are you the hammer or the nail?  How about this symbolizes in relating to stress.  Perhaps Dad felt like the nail that day and now he hammers the nail?  Or to me - Son when are you going to hammer that nail?  Are you ever going to hammer that nail and get your house in order?

The range of emotions from mad to relief as he hammers in the nail.  In the end their is relief and happiness?  The nail and the hammer represent life and death.

It means nothing, everything, and anything whenever and however I want forever and whatever.

For the record, I never call my Dad,  father.  Always Dad or Daddy, but it makes me sad now to use it. Although, I notice a switched to dad while writing.

I feel so displaced on father's day.  Not a problem, I feel this way most days

In the end I tried to remember moments when dad was happy.

  • When he visited his mom and dad!
  • In the mornings when we would sneak out and go to the store together,
  • Growing those big tomatoes.
  • Preparing out fishing equipment for the ultimate fishing trip.  
  • Feeling like Jesus in those sandals!
  • Watching and talking about Star Trek and Star Wars movies  
  • Crabbing and being down the shore with the family!
  • Family gatherings for the holidays!
  • Coming home from guard camp.
  • Having a window battle with the new automatic windows!
  • Working around the house and yard!
  • Preparing and having the big New Year's Eve party!
  • Cooking out and enjoying the grill!
  • Wrestling around the floor with kids until someone accidentally hits him in the face!
  • Completing the install of the big pool!
  • Dad's special home fries!
  • Every Payday when we all went out for some food!
  • Bring home Gil's Pizza!
  • When I dangled my legs off the bay bridge!
  • Taking photographs!
  • Getting the new TV and Special order of a VCR.  He was so excited we picked it up at the warehouse when it was not in the store yet.
  • Throwing me in the pool in my uniform when our little league team went undefeated! I can still feel the pool water flowing up my nose! 
  • The Christmas tree, Decorations, and the Train Garden!
I could go on and on!  Love you Dad!