This will not be one of your shinier, happier blog posts, so you might want to skip this one, six people who actually subscribe to this thing. Still, it’s a weird and unique state I’m in, and insofar as this is the only form of journal I keep anymore, I believe it’s important to record how I’m feeling right now.
At this very moment I should be packing. My family and I are leaving at 4 AM to catch a flight to upstate New York, where my dad is soon to die of cancer. It’s weird to say that, stating it baldly as a fact like that. As though it was merely something you read in an encyclopedia, sanitized, no emotional freight attached whatsoever.
It’s weird to be packing. Feels like I ought to be doing something more… spiritual. Metaphysical. But I’m putting stuff into a bag. Things I must remember, that I’m likely to forget: toothbrush, toothpaste, shaving gear, power cords for electronic widgets. (I’ll be up there for some time, and will be working from there. Must bring all the parts of the laptop.) Clothes, of course, but only a week’s worth. We’ll do laundry and wear the same stuff each week.
I was thinking, as I laid all these items out, of my earliest memory of my father. I was perhaps five years old. We were living in our house on Spa Drive in Saratoga Springs. My dad had a bike, a big old blue Schwinn that must have weighed fifty or sixty pounds. I remember it had a horn button on the frame. We would go out riding, he and I, with me balancing on the frame, or maybe the handlebars. This one time, he took us down a slight grade — I want to say a side road, or a logging road; my Texas brain says frontage road, but that’s not possible. It had rained, and we took a spill. I bawled my head off, both of us were covered in mud. And I remember how he took his handkerchief and wiped the mud off my face.
When we found out in January that he had cancer, I knew that it was the end for him. His overall health has not been great these last few years, and I didn’t think he had the fight in him to lick it. I made my peace with it then, with some difficulty. I haven’t felt affected much by his recent downturn, because I believed I had come to terms with it.
I have always thought the place we crashed was over by Yaddo gardens, but I can’t think of a spot that matches my (admittedly fragmented) mental image of it. It occurred to me that soon — probably already; by all accounts my dad is not lucid — I will no longer be able to ask him. All of a sudden, I was overcome with a profound sadness. Stupid grief. It won’t fight you like a man, gotta be sneaking up when you’re not looking.
Then I wrote this down, and I felt a little better about it.
I’m not the first person to say this, but if there’s any good to come from a person leaving this life, it is to remind us to cherish the people we hold dear, and make sure they know how we feel about them every day. In all too short a while, one of you will be gone.