January 28, 2006

My father, once and again

No one in my immediate family recognized the anniversary of my dad's death, save me. So many years on, I have done what I think my father would have, what made his friends see him as generous and well as nurturing: I take one or two close friends out for dinner in a nice restaurant, a place my father might have gone.

This year, I took CC and her husband. CC remembers my father well, from when we were in our early 20s. I didn't know until this past week that my dad used to call CC, to make sure she was being good to me....he knew what was going on between CC and me, and while we never acknowledged my sexual preference at the time, it was evident to him how important she was, and has again come to be, to me.

I doubt my father ever had a conversation with The Croquet Player -- the only time I think their paths may have remotely crossed was in 1980, the first time TCP and I slept together, a night followed by my returning back to my dorm with my parents there, early for once in their lives, to meet me for lunch. My father asked: "so, what time did you get to bed last night? Get any sleep?"

This was how we communicated: much was alluded to and otherwise acknowledged, but rarely, if ever, did my father directly say what he was thinking regarding what he knew (and what he, sometimes incorrectly assumed) about my romantic life.

Actually, the indirect, the unsaid, formed a great deal of my time with TCP: for reasons that escape me, he usually knew what I was thinking, and I knew, without asking, what was on his mind.

The other day, CC said how glad she was that I had never married TCP. I reiterated the line I came up with 25 years ago: "it would be the only shotgun wedding on record where the gun was aimed at the bride to put her out of her misery beforehand."

CC expects he'll reappear in my life, on my doorstep, as had been his wont for 22+ years, when I least expect to see him. I dreamt about him the other night, an unusual character in my dreams. I left a message on his machine, then I searched the Web for his activities: he is alive and well and playing croquet, approaching his busy season, and that is all I need to know. I fear that I will dream and awaken one morning knowing he has died. I've had those premonitions before, twice, and have been correct on both occasions.

What TCP, CC and I have in common is that none of us anticipated living as long as we have: TCP didn't think he would see 30; CC's number was 36 (Marilyn Monroe's age), and mine was 35. Ten years later, we are all still here, equally puzzled by our lack of plans for this point in our lives.

I imagined by now I would have published a book or two; instead I have a 17-year-old novel in manuscript tucked away in a closet, and every time I have an idea for a new novel, depression overtakes me, reducing any impulse I may have had to do anything that requires more than getting out of bed and feeding the off-White Rabbit.

What I could not have foreseen, in my early 20s, was how debilitating the depression would continue to be, nor could I have foreseen my father's sudden death. The signs may have been there, but I wasn't reading them: I was Daddy's little princess until he died, and that's a hard place to move on from, even in the Wonderland I appear to inhabit. My dad, TCP, CC and I have all worked at being self-destructive, or perhaps that was in our genetic codes.

In the end, my dad may have died an untimely (when is it ever timely?) death, but the lesson there was not simply "take better care," but, perhaps more importantly, "life is short. Try to make sure you enjoy the ride." As far as I know, my father had a damn good ride, inner demons not withstanding.

I hope to do the same.

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Anonymous Robin said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Very moving...

10:15 AM  

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