I am sure that you noticed that I haven't written anything in a while. There were quite a few attempts, but at no point could I get past more than a few sentences.
My father, Milton Washington, died on May 19th in Little Rock, Arkansas, where he was living, one week before he was to escort his youngest daughter, my younger sister, down the aisle at her wedding. In what was likely to be one of the strangest emotional moments in our lives, my sisters and I found ourselves preparing for both my sister's wedding, and our father's funeral, all in the same week. I wrote my father's obituary on a Saturday morning, emailed it to my older sister, then dressed my daughter to be an attendant in her aunt's wedding, heading out to the celebration shortly after. It was a wonderful service and celebration, tinged with just a hint of the bittersweet, for the glaring absence of someone that was supposed to be there. And the day after my sister returned from her honeymoon, we help my father's funeral.
May was a helluva month.
Yesterday, we had our father's ashes scattered over the spot in the Santa Monica mountains just opposite of where they filmed the TV show MASH, which was one of his favorite shows.
On Monday, September 19th, he would have been 66 years old.
And except for a brief moment, the moment I found out for sure that he was gone, I haven't cried.
Shock, grief, anger and regret have played through my mind and heart at various times over the last few months, sometimes overlapping at odd junctures where you wouldn't expect them. But I had supposed that because he lived in another state, and I hadn't seen him in a bit, I thought I would just have a delayed reaction.
If you talk to each of his three daughters, like the stories in the synoptic gospels, you will get slightly different versions of the same person. Milton gave each of his daughter's a different side of him, neither perfect, nor horrific, but ultimately, entirely too human: another person muddling his way through life, doing the best he could with the tools he had. One could argue that his preferred methods for coping with a relatively young marriage and parenthood in the early 70's left something to be desired, but one could also argue that despite the psychological bumps and emotional bruises that come along with a person trying to figure out parenting while still trying to grow up himself, we three girls actually turned out none the worse for wear. Two Master's Degrees and a skilled trades-person aren't bad outcomes.
Maybe my own guilt over an un-returned voice mail, figuring that I would see him in a week anyway, and was in no mood for one of his long phone conversations, and admitting to myself that I was sort of avoiding him.
Or perhaps it was the realization that, rather than spending anymore time or emotional energy replaying the past, even if in an effort to repair anything I though wrong or off, I was now forced to push forward, as now nothing could ever be said again, to explain or rationalize our common story with the wholly uncommon elements.
And Dad has gone, and we go on...