I’m always aware that the date of your death is right around this time. I know it’s in April, but I’ve never really been focused on the actual date. I know it’s not at the end, but it’s also not right at the start. Turns out it’s the 11th.
There are certain things that don’t change, one of them being where the sun is in the sky during any given time of the year. Where it rises, where it sets. Where it sits during the middle of the day. How low on the horizon it sits during the winter and just how far north it gets during the end of June and the start of July.
There’s a way that this time of year looks in North Dakota. The sun is getting back to where it needs to be in order to save us from winter. The days can still be cold, but if the sun is shining it feels better. Radiant heat, I guess. There’s also this paleness that the sun has in the first weeks of April.
Everything is still brown. The streets are still covered with sand from winter. Sidewalks have the dirty brown remnants of melted snowbanks strangely laid out like shadows burned into the concrete. The sun is trying, but all that we reflect back to it is this paleness of the winter almost past. That’s how the sky looks at mid-day. No deep blues of summer or never-ending grey of winter. Just the paleness of waiting.
In 2006 you died. That’s what happened. Everything after that was just life happening at the speed of light. No time to think, just had to work. If I did have time to think I didn’t want time to think because this crushing sadness would come. So work. Don’t think. Just work. Don’t let those moments overtake your mind. This strategy worked for a time but eventually it backfired on me in a total mental breakdown sort of way but that was a few years later. Old news now.
in 2020 we are having a global pandemic. That’s what happened. That’s what’s happening. That’s what’s going to be happening for a long time after I am done writing this. Again I find myself working. I’m what they call an ‘essential worker’ now. Have to be in at 7AM to work my shift (the photography gig…well…that’s a story for another time.) No time to think about it except all the time to think about it.
This one is really fucking me up. You see, when I sat by your bed this thing – this death thing – it had its eyes focused on you. I knew that. I didn’t want to think about it but I knew it. Now, this death isn’t focused on one person, it’s looking at all of us. I know that it’s looking at some of us a little bit closer. Those of us that don’t have the ability to work from home are being eyed just a little bit more than those lucky enough to work from home.
But I have a job. I have my benefits. I’m not going to be furloughed any time soon. I don’t have to ‘rise & grind’ or think of the next gimmick the next hustle in order to pay rent. The tradeoff is that every cough, every time my throat is a little sore a part of me can’t help but think that the darkness lurking in the corner has made the move. Like I said, it’s fucking me up. But don’t think. Just work. Wash your hands. Wear the gloves. Wear the mask. Don’t touch your face. Keep people six feet away. Flinch every time a coworker sneezes or coughs or a customer tries to come within my radius. Please stand back. Just work. Go to bed and do it again. Find a way to live.
I’m happy that you’re not here for this. I miss you like mad but I’m so glad I don’t have to worry about COPD and COVID-19 and the thought of you dying alone in order to stop the spread. I was able to be with you and we had a nice funeral. Lots of people. Good music. And the get-together at the old studio after was great. None of that would be possible now. I don’t know how people are able to grieve through a live-stream. The thought of knowing that someone you love is going to die alone is absolutely soul-crushing. I was lucky that it went down the way it did.
2020 is not right.
None of this is right.
I would guess that all of us are thinking about our own mortality a little bit more. I’ve always been a little bit obsessed with it but at the same time, my greatest fear is death. So the question becomes if I were to die today what impact would it have. Would it be like that kid in that movie they used to show us in health class called ‘Cipher In The Snow?’ When that kid got off the bus and fell into the snowbank nobody even noticed. Would there be this great sadness when we lose someone we deeply love? Would it feel the way I felt when Mom died (relieved that I didn’t have to deal with that insanity any longer) or some combination platter of it all?
I wonder if you would be proud of me and the decisions I’ve made since you left. I wonder but I don’t wonder because I know that the love you had for me was not based upon achievements but instead by pureness. But am I a good person? Have I done right by others, have I done all that I can or have I been self-centered and didn’t practice anything that I preached?
Would you look away from me in disappointment in that way that only you could when you heard of how cruel I could be to those I have claimed to love the most? Would you shake your head and walk away in silence?
Would you wonder why I have been in a state of emotional paralysis that prevents me from making a move, any sort of a move when it comes to seeking out happiness and true love when it’s been standing right in front of me for so long?
Would you tell me to leave you behind, to leave Mom behind. That it’s all old news and it’s time to make my own life unshackled from ghosts. Would you say that either I can have a life that the sun eventually changes to color or I can have a life that consists solely of that paleness of waiting.
Would you tell me that it’s not about doing right by you any longer. Your ashes were dumped in the backyard a long time ago. And don’t forget that the dark shadow of mortality is making its way toward me, regardless of a pandemic. And it’s time to start living before it’s all regret.
Is your voice actually my voice? Is the father I seek not actually you?
So many questions, old man.