Last week marked the 13th anniversary of my father’s death and I’ve been thinking how to say it. This could get very sad and uncomfortable. I thought of sharing a poem I wrote about him. It’s not terrible and rhyming, but it’s maudlin enough to warrant heavy rotation of The Cure, clove smoking and a legal name change to Azrael Abyss.
So no victim poems, deal?
My father’s name was Jesus. Some people knew to say hey-soos, but most blurted out the full-on Christ Almighty pronunciation. He was 59.
My memories of my father, the ones before the hospital stays and surgeries and sickness, are the ones I want to share here.
I am very much like him. I inherited his large flat feet. My mother would point at my ham hocks and say, “They’re just like your father’s! Like irons!” I also inherited his voracious love for reading. I read my Babysitters Club books in the bathroom even if I didn’t need to go, just because that was his routine every morning of my life, scouring the paper and drinking his black coffee. He taught me that french fries are tasty when dipped in sweet and sour sauce and that long division is tricky, not impossible.
There are things I have done that I know he would have been proud of, like volunteering for two summers at a bereavement camp for children, graduating class salutatorian in high school (which means more if I don’t tell you that there were only seven people in my senior class and four of us shared that title. Thanks indecisive parochial school!) and smarty pants things like Phi Beta Kappa and English Honors. The period in seventh grade when I skipped school and smoked Benson and Hedges with the judge’s daughter? I don’t think he would have approved.
Once at a beach gathering, we took a walk, hand in hand. As we trudged on, he told me to be careful of the small holes where little crabs made their homes. He said something about the beach, the way it protected for everything and how we had to be apart of that.
When I think of my father, I go back to that moment, to the time when we towered over the sand, powerful enough to care for all the small things that lived beneath our feet.