And Yet I Cannot Forget, Dad

Windswept Graveyard HDR: St. James' Church, Thornes. Copyright Kevin Wakelam
Windswept Graveyard HDR: St. James’ Church, Thornes. Copyright Kevin Wakelam

Not sure what I can say that I haven’t said before, Dad. Not sure what I can say about your death that I won’t say on the next anniversary, and the next, and the next, ad infinitum. …

Nevertheless, as is years past I feel the need to mark this grim date here, simply for my own edification. Sages of grief tell us that we should dwell not on the bad aspects of death but on the good aspects of life. I would not disagree, and yet some dark part of me can’t or won’t let get of those last days, those last moments of your life. Good or bad, they are the last memories I have of you and I don’t want them to fade, grim as they might be.

Even as time and entropy causes these memories to fade — damn them both — I would cling to them, the good and the bad, the lovely and the ugly, for they are all that I have left of you.

As before, it’s difficult to accept that so much time has passed — four years, to be precise. Even half a world away, living in a foreign culture, with the added distractions of moving into a new apartment and beginning an organized study of a foreign language, December 16 looms large in my consciousness. A day that lives on in personal infamy, along with its sister, January 19.

A dead laptop can keep me from writing about until a week after the fact — yet another distraction — but I cannot forget. I would not, even if I could.

I think being here does make it somewhat easier to deal with, though. They celebrate Christmas here, too, but like the Japanese, it’s merely a secular holiday for them: an excuse to sell things people don’t need; an excuse to buy them; an excuse to listen to awful music; an excuse to celebrate and party — not that Thais need an excuse for that, which is one of the reasons I love them.

So even with the reminders it doesn’t feel like this dread season, but then I think that has more to do with my physical environment than anything else. When its 90 degrees outside — that’d be Fahrenheit, or 32 Celsius — the sun is shining and I can see subtropical plants and flowers outside, when a gecko skitters across my wall chasing after a bug that has wandered in through the open window — well, it’s just doesn’t feel like the Christmas I know and loathe.

For this, Dad, I give thanks. And yet, and yet. Part of me still resides this time of year in a small rural hospital, watching over your last laboring moments of life. Part of me still resides on a frost laden, wind bitten graveyard, next to your casket poised over its hole in the ground, all your grimly playful allusions to “daisy-root sniffing” over the course of my life coming back to me.

And part of me still seethes with anger at how your memory was desecrated and betrayed by those whose petty concerns outweighed your final wishes. Those whom you gave life to and loved. And part of me weeps that I don’t think I’ll ever be man enough to forgive and forget, as you would want me to do.

All that talk in those last months about burying hatchets. Even now I’m astonished about how you knew, or at least suspected in your aged wisdom, what was to come. I’m sorry I couldn’t prevent it, that I didn’t do more than I did to try.

There’s nothing more to say, Dad, except that I love you still, and even though you are gone you are not forgotten. That even now rarely a day goes by that I don’t think of you and Mom, at least fleetingly, in passing, for one reason or another. And that even now I would trade almost anything — years of my own life, even — if I could only have a few precious hours to speak with you again.

Until entropy catches up with me as well — the cancer or the heart disease lurking in my genes, or simply pneumonia — whatever it might be, until then I shall not forget, and I will forever be saying goodbye.

A note on the image: This image isn’t mine; I found it via a Google image search for “windswept graveyard.” The graveyard where my parents are buried unfortunately isn’t quite so picaresque. Anyway, the original by one Kevin Wakelam can be found here. 

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