I’m writing this entry on paper, with my dad’s pen. That might not sound like a terribly interesting fact to open with, but you don’t know how I got his pen yet.
Well, he died.
Sorry if that hits a little funny. I’ve learned that the best way to tell people is just to say it, and that it honestly doesn’t matter how you get there. Personally, I found out from the cops, standing over me in my apartment at 4:00am like in the movies. Unlike the movies, though, they had basically lied to get inside, saying they had questions to ask in order to locate him. I was preparing a list of defenses for whatever behavior he’d been busted for when the subject changed. The officer said, “Well, he’s dead.” Everything else disappeared.
One of the things that happens when your dad dies, I’m learning, is you get some of his pens. Whether you want them or not, they just sort of become yours, along with the rest of his stuff. I’ve got a ring he wore on his middle finger that barely fits my fat little pinky and makes me look like an asshole. Currently one of his M&Ms figurines is holding it for me. These things are my keepsakes to cherish, or in some cases, my trash to throw out, but they’re mine either way. I inherited my father’s mushed-up granola bar, at the bottom of his messenger bag.
I realized a few days ago that, in a lot of ways, he is mine now, too. It’s not just his stuff that has transferred into my care, along with a few other people he loved, but the man himself. He’s ours now, and the way we choose to share his memory with the rest of the world is something he just doesn’t get a say in. I can show you all of his most embarrassing pictures, the way he used to show everyone mine.
My dad never got to be old enough that I had to take care of him, which I’m sure he’s happy about, but as I go through this process it does feel a little like that at times. Those vibes were particularly strong when I was rifling through boxes of his shit, trying to find the most incriminating stuff before someone else did.
I remember my grandma getting old, and having to be taken care of, back in the 90s. She would call me George and ask me to dance, and dad had to correct her: “No mom, this is Chris; my son.” I’m forever grateful for his effort, not only because grandma was a terrible dancer by that point, but because I never really appreciated how hard that probably was for him.
Also, one time she took her pants down in an elevator, and we all had to convince her to pull them back up again before the doors opened. These are the things that stick with you.
My dad never took his pants off at inappropriate moments. Or, if he did, he probably meant to. When he died, my feelings for him were oddly defensive, or protective, for a little while. My morning ritual became a Google search for his name to see if anyone had mentioned it yet, and when his obituary finally came up I was, of all things, embarrassed. Come on, dad, pull your pants up. Everyone’s going to see.
We’re planning to scatter his ashes in the same place as his mom, twenty-some years earlier. I remember Dad being surprised, back then, by just how big the tube of ashes we got from the crematorium was. Our little ceremony was in a pretty public place, so he had me hide grandma under my coat on our way from the car to the water’s edge. I felt like I was committing a crime. After a few words we popped the lid off, dumped the whole thing, and watched as a massive cloud spread through the water. We all looked around to see if anyone noticed what we had done to the lagoon. What do you do, then? Well, we ran.
I’m sure it’s not what dad had planned, but if his scattering was to go a bit wonky like that I don’t think he would mind. I probably wouldn’t, either.
I take after him in a lot of ways. Some of them are even good, probably, but I’ve got his sciatica, and I’m pretty sure I’ve recently acquired his hernia from digging through boxes of his stuff. The coroner thinks dad died from a sudden heart attack, and I had my scare with that bullshit around this time last year. I found his blood pressure cuff at the bottom of one of those boxes, and I think that might be the one thing he’d really want me to have.
Dad, I know you always read the shit I posted online, even when I made you swear you didn’t. If you’re reading this now, there’s one thing I really want to say to you.
What the fuck is this?
I’m looking through your hard drives and devices (yes, all of them), and it seems like you must have had a secret Instagram account where you photographed every beige meal you ever ate. I don’t even know where to begin.
- An extra sandwich is not a side dish.
- Veggie Straws are not vegetables.
- Did you really add a second type of pasta to a box of mac & cheese?
Come on, man.
Also—and I’m only going to say this once—I love you. I was never really comfortable saying it, and I’ll blame that on you because you didn’t say it much either for a good while there. But you made an effort, I noticed it, and I would have gotten there in maybe one or two more birthdays. Probably. But you had to go and die young, so I’m pinning this one on you twice over.
And if you’re somebody I love, reading this after I’m gone: I’m sorry if I ever forgot to say anything, and I hope you don’t blame me for too much. That being said, I’ve left everything to the cat.