Long Post Ahoy!
I guess it was Friday, and my brother, Tim, and I were gleefully throwing away all the bits and pieces that my father had saved over the years. This, for example:
I was a student at the University of Edinburgh in 1984/85, and during my Easter break I met my parents to do some traveling (Germany, Amsterdam, Paris, London, and up to Edinburgh). Last Friday I found a box containing every piece of paper my father picked up during that trip. Itineraries, luggage tags, road maps, hotel stationery, rental car receipts, Paris Metro tickets, and the postage ripped off of a cardboard box in which I’d sent something home at the end of the term. I keep wondering if there are any actual photographs from that trip anywhere (apart from the ones from my camera). My father had a thing about using slide film instead of print film, but our slide projector broke in 1973 so we never actually got to see most of the stuff he took pictures of. I know I’ve complained about my father’s cheapness before, but as soon as we find the box of slides that I know is around here somewhere I’ll gladly spend whatever hundred bucks and buy a new projector and hope that between me and my brothers we can piece it all together.
Anyway: Tim and I, going through stuff, neither of us having any idea what we’d ever do with it, pretty though it was — never mind the guilt — into the trash it did get put.
WELL. That same night, after my mom and my brother, Chris, were in bed, I was walking toward the bathroom to brush my teeth when at the far, dark end of the hall — I didn’t SEE anything, but I had a serious and distinct psychic impression of my dad dressed up like Jacob Marley’s ghost, wearing the chains he’d forged in life:
You know, from Dickens. Like my dad was fucking pissed that we’d thrown out all this stuff he’d so lovingly, anxiously saved. It didn’t matter that he hadn’t looked at it in twenty years, he just liked knowing it was there, and we’d gone and fucked that up and it didn’t matter that he’d been dead for ten days, HE STILL KNEW WHAT WE’D BEEN DOING.
Okay. Now, if you’ve read this site much you know that I’m basically agnostic. I stopped going to church when I was thirteen. However, having had a few shall we say interdimensional experiences in my life — people have tugged on my psychic ropes and I’ve tugged back — I actually felt ready to deal with this. Whether it only existed in my slightly panicked and grieving mind or whether it was something else, I was ready to step up.
So as I felt this whatever, this image or presence come at me, I just stood there and said (not out loud, just sort of fiercely in my head), “Dude, WHAT. I’m sorry we threw your shit out, we didn’t know what else to do. I’m really sorry.”
And I meant it, I was truly, humbly apologizing. Even if I was just talking to a movie still in my head and my own guilty conscience, I needed to say that. I felt bad for what I’d been doing.
The feeling eased up on me then and gave me sort of a heavy, psychic, chain-laden hug. And I said (in my head), “You want to hang out in my room for awhile? I’ll be there in a minute.” And I went and brushed my teeth.
I didn’t get a whole hell of a lot of sleep that night, but we talked about maybe donating some of the maps and stuff to an art class.
I know that a lot of people believe that their energy or soul or whatever survives death, with or without the personality developed through hard experience in this life, and if that indeed is the case I can tell you, my dad is still holding on tight.
My grandfather’s high school diploma, Ashland, Wisconsin, 1919. Can you see how huge it is? I put a paperclip on the corner to give you some idea of the scale of it. I found it in a box buried under a huge stack of napkins my dad had stolen from Dairy Queen. I mean, honestly, Dad, what’s up with that? Beside the fact that it’s not terribly archival, it would have been a lot more fun to go through this stuff with you when you were alive so that you could tell me who this is:
I think it’s you — you would have been sixteen the summer of ’44 — but none of us knows for sure. And I have no idea who is who here:
Five of seven childhood-survivin’ Marriott brothers. If the oldest two are in front, then that means they’re Joseph and Frederick. Then in the back is my great grandfather, Harry, and the other two are either Frank, Charles, or Albert. I know for a fact that their mother, Anne, had eight children between 1855 (when she was 24) and 1875 (when she was a year older than I am now), and that two of them, including the only girl, Rosa, died before the age of ten.
Yeah, it would have been better to go through this stuff with my dad, but you know what, truth be told, I didn’t like coming back home much, and when I made the trip I kept it short. My dad was a huge presence in this house, he dominated every room, whether he was in it or not, and the only way to elude the Big Flashlight was to get out. He intimidated every boy I ever brought home, except for Jack, so I made up a lot of excuses so I wouldn’t have to bring them here. When I moved away I moved 2,000 miles away, and sometimes even that wasn’t enough, he’d still send letters every week and he’d pout when I didn’t send one back. He was a terrifically hard father to separate from. Just ask my brother, Chris, who never really moved away, and who’s been living here since his girlfriend died in 1999.
Anyway. Now it’s Sunday and I haven’t been into my dad’s stuff for two days. I found some junk mail with his name on it in the kitchen and I felt like I had to ask his permission to throw it out. Next thing you know I’ll be asking my dinner if it’s okay if I eat it. (This could put me off meat for good.)
I still have another thirty pictures to post, but just like when I threw out all those clothes, it’s mentally exhausting to catalogue all this shit. I think there’s some use in it, though: I could have it completely talked out before my next therapy appointment.