July 7, 2006
Today marks the thirteenth anniversary of my dad’s death. That’s a rough sentence to start off with. Today is the day, thirteen years ago, that I went to see a Pauly Shore movie called “Son-in-Law” with my best friend Kristie in the middle of the day. And I’m sure I will always be thankful for having that memory in my list of choices of how to remember July 7th. I can never remember if 13 is a good luck or a bad luck number. I seem to think it’s a bad luck number because of a Mitch Hedberg standup sketch about Number 13. And if 13 is unlucky, then 7 is the lucky one. But since all that’s happened with my dad happened on July 7th (7/7) I don’t think it’s such a good number at all. “Lucky” seven my ass.
So thirteen is the good luck number since seven didn’t exactly pull its weight. What’s happened in these thirteen years? At work the other night, one of my customers, so drunk she was dropping f-bombs into her sentences and asking me “what the hell is your name?” managed, somewhere in between her slurring and swearing to offer a crystal of good will. She said that somewhere around year 27 in a person’s life things start to come together. (She didn’t say “things,” actually; rather she spurted out, “When you’re 27, you start to get your shit together.”) She was pleasant enough after her five drinks and we had a lovely conversation, which I’m sure she won’t remember; I told her and her guests about Brazil and they all wished me good luck. When she made her remark about a person being 27 getting her shit together, I kind of nodded in agreement. She didn’t hear me say it, but I said it anyway, probably mostly for myself: “Yeah, I think that’s true. And the pieces are coming together quite nicely.” And I think that’s pretty much right.
I went to Providence today to say goodbye to a good old friend and to my cat, Francis. Dennis came with me and while I was with my friend and Francis, he walked around Thayer Street and the Brown campus. I had my first official farewell of the Gina’s-Leaving-The-Country-For-A-Long-Time process, seeing that I won’t be able to make it up to Providence anytime in the very near future. But enough of good-byes—it was sad enough the first time not to be repeated for more tears. On the drive home, while Dennis slept, I listened to the radio, so low I couldn’t hear the words but could occasionally hear the tune over the rush of the air conditioner and the thump of the rubber on the road. I didn’t do much on the drive, except look out the windows and try to see the moon through the drifting fog and humidity way up in the atmosphere.
When I was younger, just after my dad died, I used to believe that in the moon were the last few moments of my dad’s life—kind of trapped there as a picture. I used to stare at the moon through the tree branches and fix my eyes on the craters and mountains of the moon’s surface to make them form my dad’s face and body. Once I could make out the picture, I would talk to the moon as if I were talking to my dad. I would tell him the things that had happened or ask him questions or just give thanks. Eventually a cloud would pass between us or my eyelids would get too heavy and I’d have to end our conversation. Still to this day I glance at the moon with the hope I can see him there. It’s a silly hope, I know. But it’s mine nonetheless.
On the drive home tonight, I looked for the moon again. It was only a half moon, but I glanced up anyway half-heartedly while driving to find his face. I told the moon hello and I told the moon thank you. I told the moon what I was thinking about Brazil and kind of asked for some safety. I whispered it all under my breath so as not to wake Dennis or let him know what I was doing.
I think it’s almost a gift—and I say “almost” with a lot of weight here—to have lost someone so close to me. I say that because July 7th makes me aware of the passage of time and therefore makes me appreciate my own growth and change over the years because there is a date to mark time—and therefore change—with. Would I have my father back in a heartbeat if I could? Oh yes, without a doubt. But I have to realize what I would be missing—how the many good things I’ve experienced in my life after my father’s passing might never have happened. And realizing that makes me aware of the fact that SO many good things have happened after my father’s passing. The pieces have and continue to come together nicely.
And then there is my step-father Frank. Of course, if my father were still here, Frank would not be. And at this point in my life, I’ve spent as much time with one father as I have with the other. This is always a bittersweet thought process, and one that’s pretty much always remained in my head, never really making its way to paper or to someone else’s ears. I’ve never really told my stepfather that I love him. And that sentence that I just wrote, using “stepfather” makes our relationship seem so cold. Which it’s not. For all intents and purposes, Frank is my father. He is my father in this older part of my life, the one I’m sure (according to my mother’s gray hair and arthritis) my father wouldn’t have wanted to be around for anyway if he had the choice: I was a brat, a princess, and an only child—so totally mean to my mother that my stomach churns when I recall those years.
But Frank was there and he spoke to me with so much calm and wisdom, talked to me like a real adult—or at least the adult I thought I was—when even my own mother wouldn’t. Or couldn’t.
There’s a little bit of betrayal, I fear, in telling the second father I love him when I wasn’t really through loving the first. And there’s a little bit of fear that if I tell Frank I love him the remaining invisible strings I have tied around the memory of my dad will whither away, snap, or disappear. But what can a person do? What can I do but stare transfixed into the night sky and hope against hope that even though I’ve split my heart into two equal sized portions I’ll be okay in the end.
Because I will be okay in the end. It’s been thirteen years and it’s still okay. It really is still okay. The pieces are coming together quite nicely.