Thursday, February 09, 2006


I have been dreading this for quite some time. Every time I consider what I should write on the day commemorating the three-year anniversary of my father’s death, my mind wanders elsewhere.

Where are you going? I ask myself.
Elsewhere, I say back.
And why are you going Elsewhere?
It just seems like a decent place to go to.
But why couldn’t you just stay here? I persist.
What qualifies you to ask such questions?
You are avoiding something.
I thought that was obvious.
What are you avoiding?
I thought that too was obvious.

Time flies when you’re having fun. Time also flies when you are focused on forgetting. The memory of my father feels faint and distant like a friend you think you recognize from afar. You squint and squint but the squinting brings them no closer.

I do exercises to help myself remember.
How would you describe Dad’s voice, I ask my sister.
Sweet. Sweet like honey, she says.
I visualize the taste of honey and then try to imagine how that sugariness would sound. I transform the sweetness into a pronouncement.

Hey Ar, he would say. Shortening a name was the way he showed affection.
I try to recall his Boston accent, so subtle, yet so distinct, like a man on the cusp of losing his distinctive pronunciation, yet desperately holding onto it because that accent, saying "cah" and gahbahge", that was his childhood.

I try to remember his walk. Deliberate and graceful despite his lack of coordination. When I saw my father dance at weddings, I was almost certain he was drunk. Except for the fact that he never drank.
I never liked the taste of alcohol, he would tell me.
Although, I say back, you would take a shot of Slivovitz at synagogue with the "boys," who, in actuality, lost their boyhood status nearly a half-century before then.
Yes, he would say, but it made them feel younger.
How did you help yourself feel young? I ask.
Ha, I'm certain he would say. You helped me stay young.

And I did. It's true.
I wanted him to live forever.

When I think about my father, I suddenly realize how much I've forgotten and frankly, it doesn't seem fair. Someone as close as a would think the memories associated with him were yours to keep. You assume they would be eternal even outlasting the physical person. But in truth, both are fleeting. When I think about my father, it frustrates me why I don't think about him more often. With just three years gone by, how time passes--moments, hours, a whole day--without thinking of my father.
Do you feel guilty about that, he asks me.
Of course I do, I say back. How could I not?

I remember when I was even getting older how my father would occasionally try to hold my hand in the car. I always found this intruding. I'm too old for this, I thought. I would fight it by pulling away. And if it persisted, I would jokingly chide him, I'm too old for that.

Now, in retrospect, it doesn’t seem that bad.


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