Monday, October 6, 2008

The Death Post (wherein the topic is too big for 100 words... and if I make the rules, I can break 'em)

When I was a tween, I found myself alone at the dinner table with Dad. I think Mom and Nolan had been squabbling. So, post-eating, pre-diving into whatever negotiations were required between mother and son, Dad engaged me in a duet. The Blue Danube. I did the Oom-pah-pah parts and he did the melody. In falsetto. I couldn't go more than a few seconds without breaking up, just tickled beyond oom-pah-pah ability. I think this is my favorite memory of my Dad for a lot of reasons, but maybe most of all because it was just the two of us. I remember where he was sitting and where I was sitting and the dwindling candles (we always had candles) and the palpable sensation of diminishing tension and real engaged enjoyment, alone with my father. And, also, just cracking up.

Laney's not a tween yet, but I taught her the duet. She loves it. On the long car ride to school or when walking Ginger, she starts in with her little voice "Oom-pah-pah" and every time I join in. In falsetto. And then we both break up.

Y'all who know me, know that I'm not sentimental about death. I have no visions of Dad looking down from above and smiling. He's dead now. But he was alive. And I loved him a whole lot. And part of him stays alive in me when I get to take the melody while my own daughter keeps the rhythm.

This is getting a little schmaltzy now, so I think I'll stop. But I'll finish with this: when Dad first died, I was inconsolable, in its purest sense. The knowledge that I'd feel him, or at least some powerful echo of him, five years after he died wouldn't have done a thing to make me feel better about him dying. But, now, I feel a big lump in my throat writing about this. But I also feel good. I got to have my father, and if you knew him, you'd know what a gift that was. And I think that there's enough of him in me left to pass onto my own daughter. And, really, I can feel it in her oom-pah-pahs and my own falsetto.