“Tidal waves don’t beg forgiveness
Crashed and on their way
Father he enjoyed collisions; others walked away
A snowflake falls in may.
And the doors are open now as the bells are ringing out.”
-Pearl Jam Man Of The Hour
In 1991 the Cold war ended both in Russia and in my home.
I stood at the end of his bed, eyes focused on his swollen, purple ankles. My mother finished massaging cream over his cracked heals. She let go of one foot, then the other. But it made no difference now. His athlete’s foot was dying too.
He shifted in the hospital bed and sat cross legged as normal. He looked so normal. Like he was about to dig into a fat, brown, bag of Alaskan King Crab. But this time there was no brown bag protectively nestled in the curve of his bent legs. This time a hospital ventilation bag hummed a mournful tune behind him. “Smoker!” “Don’t smoke!” “Smoker!” “Don’t smoke!” His last lecture to me.
“See you in the morning.” I could hardly hear the hoarse words drug across chapped lips. He must have noticed my dumb look cause he said it again. This time, his chin rose with more bravado and aided in summoning his baritone. “See you in the morning.”
His message was clear. I was dismissed. Free to go. So I left with a, “Ya, k dad.” And walked alone down the hospital hall, out to my gold Honda Civic hatchback, where I tightened my bike rack and went to buy books for my freshman year of University.
I never saw him in the morning. I knew I wouldn’t. Unless, in his creative way, he’d been being figurative and using the word morning symbolically for, never again on this damned dark earth.
Come to think of it, that is probably exactly what he meant. But see you in the morning was just so much more convenient at the time. His lungs finally giving out from one too many Camel Lights while watching John Wayne movies and being cool in the 60’s.
I wish we had texted. He would’ve loved text.
“Cu n the mornin…” He could have said. Then maybe a few ‘x’es and ‘o’s, cause he was always better at writing his feelings to us. Especially his little girls.
That’s what I I would have texted someone… had anyone I known owned a cell phone that cloudy January day in 1991. The morning I learned I would never have a father again.
“…Mourn n…” Ya. I would have texted my feelings. Cause I’m like him. And besides, how else does an eighteen year old cope?
I knew how it was going to happen. I had felt it. Like I feel what’s happening now. In that place within my bones that isn’t owned by my veins, nerves or tendons. That space for IT. The hollow where what some might call a sixth sense lives. That hollow where feelings and facts join hands and skip through my body, jump rope over my heart and decorate my brain with dreams of things before they actually happen.
I knew he’d died. Before he died. I was laying in bed awake before the phone woke up the rest of the house. Before my mother decided not to say, “Your father’s gone to heaven baby.” She’d save that for the end of my first day of University.
“Your father’s gone to heaven baby.” She said after dinner that night. Like she told me about the end of the cold war.
“The Berlin Wall’s come down baby. The Cold war is ending.”
But I had already seen it, written about it. Don’t ask me how. I just knew. Like I know now. Dreams flutter past my eyes, butterflies before a storm, and tell me I have cancer before I’m ever diagnosed. Tell me my dad’s dead before the phone rings. Tell me, The Cold War has ended. Why? Cuz I’m kinda a freak.
As usual, my tears the day my father died were lost in trying to reason out the shadowy facts my mind throws at me before things actually happen. That day I simply finished eating, went silently into my room, folded cloths and when the house was asleep once again, I wrote and wrote some more. Did what I do to make sense of things. And grew up without him.