My dad would’ve been 77 years old today. My birthday is on July 7th, the seventh day of the seventh month, so today feels like a sad golden birthday. I wrote this last year around the 20th anniversary of his death and let it sit on my computer. And sit. And sit some more:
He would’ve been an old man. If my father hadn’t gotten sick in 1995, maybe he and death would’ve already intersected on different road. His heart giving out in his sleep. A car accident. Another form of cancer. The maybes are vast and the comforts are few.
Everything happens for a reason. It’s what people offer as condolence. As if sadness is a small part in some grand plan, a mere sacrifice for something spectacular to come. Twenty years later, I’m still waiting.
And I will wait forever because nothing happens for a reason. That’s what the past two decades have taught me. There’s no plan. There’s no calculation behind misery. It’s up to us to take our tragedies and learn from them the best we can, use the sadness and heartbreak from the past to enrich the present. Break unhealthy patterns. Learn from regret. Salve our wounds.
In the absence of a father figure, I sought out my own older, wiser, loving statues to watch over me. Without a father to raise an eyebrow at my friends and romantic interests, I chose without guidance. I made good decisions in all areas. Was I lucky? Was I smart? Did the fourteen years I had with my father influence these decisions? Are the people that have entered my life over the past twenty years his legacy? That sounds good. Let’s go with that.
If my father hadn’t died, I would still be a writer. But I write comedy (this piece is a poor example), and that’s because my dad is dead. I can joke because I’ve heard the moans in the middle of the night before the morphine drip ushers someone into the beyond. I need to laugh. And I want us to all laugh together.
Everything happens for a reason and nothing happens for a reason are chicken and egg. By trying to make sense out of everything happens for a reason, I determined nothing happens for a reason. And by learning from nothing happens for a reason the nothing becomes everything. It’s the vicious cycle of the search for meaning. I’m satisfied dancing the same circle over and over again.
Time makes things better. Sometimes worse. Innocent days turn bitter when it hits me how much he’s missed. How much I’ve been deprived. These days seem to come on random afternoons in the shower when I’m unemployed (freelance life, yo). Yet, the wedding day that I’d been apprehensive about for a decade floated by without a single dark whisper. It was a gorgeous day and neither my father nor his shadow were part of it. I can’t figure out the pattern. I’m done trying. There is no pattern. Everything gets lost in the nothing. Or is it the other way around?
I can’t believe it’s been twenty years. It was yesterday. It was another lifetime.