Seek and ye shall find
Death does not take reservations; it comes and goes of its own free will, leaving the living to tend to the resulting disruption.
I am still tending.
So it’s been one year. I can look at my watch and remember where I was. A year ago by the tickings of this watch, I was at Colter’s. I showered. I had been instructed to get some rest. While I slept on Colter’s bed, Jeff worked on Colter’s computer.
The future hung over us, shadowy and low. We knew my father’s death was imminent; the oxygen saturation of his blood had begun to drop the day before. Previously, his mask had provided him with eighty percent oxygen. We knew that moving him to 100% oxygen would not save him - nothing would - but if it kept him comfortable, that is what we would do.
But - no. That is not the way to remember.
I speak about my father’s death because I understand it better than his life, which always was - and always will be - a mystery to me. I would regale you with stories about childhood times with my father, except that I remember almost none of them. He worked swing shift for most of my life, and so my most clear memories are of the changing face of dinner.
When on midnight shift, he would be asleep when my mother and I arrived home from school. The TV would speak in hushed tones while my mother cooked dinner. She and I would eat our dinners at the normal time, and then she would prepare a plate for my father. She would leave it in the microwave for him to find later that night.
When on first day shift (which we called “days”), he would have dinner with us.
When on the second day shift - or, as we called it, four-to-twelve - Mom declared dinner to be “Seek and ye shall find.” In other words: your hands ain’t broke, kid.
When Jeff and I married, the concept of a ‘family dinner’ was amusing and a bit foreign. My family could be best described as a nominally-aligned coalition of autonomous states. My father was alternately a late-night reading presence or someone whose sleep schedule needed quiet accommodation. My mother was an impressively-dedicated teacher, whose nightly ritual of paper grading was shared with the cat. My sister (much older than me) moved out before I was ten.
My dinner usually came served up with a book on the side. I liked that.
We each had our own worlds, with our points of intersection, but for the most part we lived separate lives. I met some of my father’s work friends for the first time at the visitation after his death, names I had heard of for years but whose faces and handshakes I had never known.
He talked about us, it seems now, possibly more than he actually talked with us.
With that said, the process of commemoration becomes more difficult. To do nothing but remember the manner of his death will not do; we are more than the manner of our passing. What to do in its stead? I do not know.
Nevertheless, it has been a year, and whether or not I mark it, the winds of war seem prepared to mark it for me. I stand unprepared for both war and paternal tribute, staring out of sunny windows that just this morning glared grey with thunderstorm and tornado warning.
Accept these words in lieu of the tribute I don’t know how to write, and which I probably wouldn’t publish if I did.
Not everything needs to be said. Sometimes a whisper just has to do.