The Shadow at the End of the Tunnel

I’ve tried to eliminate the obsession. (Which one?) I’ve tried to push it out of my life. (Good job, nice try.) The tragic reality, the truth of the matter, (the cold, hard fact), is that there is really no avoiding the inevitable. You can pretend all you want, but there’s no getting around it. It is there, lurking like a demented grizzly in the dark, dangerous woods, or prowling like a cougar on the suburban fringes of the sprawling metropolis (pick one) or merely a cougar on the shadowy fringes of some Scottsdale bar. Death is the only invitation you and I, (all of us), are guaranteed to receive in our Earthbound time. Any other invite is just gravy. I’ve tried to push it all away, but I’ve failed. Emily Dickinson put it best, “Because I could not stop for Death, he kindly stopped for me…”

My father’s death is a specter, visiting often, never seeming to recede. It isn’t my father, mind you, it’s the thing that happened, just there at the end, that was awful and all but impossible to forget. I don’t want to forget.

But I can’t get it, or him, out of my head.

Sure, it doesn’t help that he is my current writing muse; him, fatherhood, being a parent, the whole she-bang! I’ve been fumbling around with the subject matter (Him) and unable to really get going. It’s like I can’t remember a thing about him. Like he is and WAS ALWAYS a ghost. How can that be? Is it because I am hung up on the end? I keep trying to find shared moments from our lives together somewhere in my mind, but they’re gone, like he’s invisible.

I keep returning to me, always me, talking, crying, doing, going, seeking guidance, but never anything about him. Did I ever once listen? Did I ever once stop thinking about myself and open myself up to his needs? Wasn’t I supposed to?

As a decent human, I think you are.

You should make time for the people who are your parents, whether they created you or just got you at the adoption agency. They deserve something from you.

After all they’ve done.

Right?

Did he do anything for me? Maybe that’s the problem. Could it be that his impact on me is negligible. Maybe I just want the idea of a father to exist. He fit the bill, yet perhaps it was all a front, a facade. Maybe it was all my mom’s work that turned me into the human I am right this moment.

He is there. He is here. Right this goddamn minute. I just can’t seem to get my fingers around any shred of his existence in my life. It’s mostly blocked out. It’s as if the tortured, mute slip into the abyss that he endured has erased the accumulated days and weeks and years from my memory.

Maybe, as a son I’m just supposed to move on. We are not here for our parents. It’s the other way around. They are here for us, just as I am now here for my children. They don’t need to suffer any of the bullshit I’ve suffered. It’s my job to help them avoid the dumb mistakes I’ve made. it’s my job to guide them to adulthood so they can walk the earth with confidence and let me go when the Reaper comes to call.

But I want there to be something. There has to be something there of my father. There has to…

Otherwise, why does he still matter? Why do I get tears in my eyes, like I am right now, when I consider his life and death? Why do I get choked up when my kids pine for him and cry inconsolably for their grandpa like my son did last night? Why is my voice reduced to a whisper when I try to explain that he will always be here with us, with them? Do I even believe that? If he doesn’t matter, why can’t we all get over it? Why does he keep hanging around? It’s been over two years. What must I do to move on? How can I retrieve the stories that will keep him around?

I aim to get to the bottom of it. I’ve really tried to put the macabre stuff behind me, but it just won’t go away. There’s only one thing to do: face it.

So, you know what? Come on ye black-souled bastard, let’s do this! If Death is the only way out, I may as well get comfortable. Here, I shall pull up a chair and have a nice long chat with this shadow at the end of the tunnel. Let us do an interview. Maybe you can tell me about myself and my dad.

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