A week ago today, our Dad died. To say that feels raw and it is. I got the call from my aunt as we were preparing dinner. I thought she was calling to tell me she would be in town and let’s get dinner. But as I said how are you– I knew. She said they were all shocked and it was unexpected and she was so sorry. Aretha Franklin and our father left on the same day.
I started to sob because I knew this day would come but I always thought our Dad would be the guy who drinks and smokes but lives to be 100. I wanted to ask him about growing up in the south or about my parents wedding in their backyard or the day we were born. He always had his own version of what happened and I wanted to hear it. I thought there may still be the opportunity to know the person behind the parent. I wanted to be able to text him-if I ever needed to.
My Dad visited in the winter and he fixed my car and I asked him gardening advice. He sang Motown to Fitz and I thought, as Shelby recently told me, “That something would open up and we would get to know him.” I think you always think that as a child of divorce. That eventually maybe the relationship will be rekindled. He slept on our sofa by the Christmas tree and the fireplace was left on at his request. I felt almost parental watching my Dad sleep peacefully in my home.
The truth is that I didn’t get to know our Dad the way I would have wanted. The truth is though, he is half of me so I knew him well. What is especially hard is that many of the people closest to me didn’t know him in our life– its lonely to mourn a father that most of the people in your daily life never knew. Shelby and I have concentrated memories and we share his facial expressions. The thing is that most people wouldn’t notice this and they didn’t see him in our lives or make memories with him. The process of mourning is a complicated, slow, and lonely puzzle.
I made the call to my Mom and to my sister and told them quickly, without hesitation, but with deep emotion that he had died. Still, it feels so raw to say that. His unexpected passing feels like a familiar book closed abruptly, a difficult equation, a sadness with great depth and loss. To hear any song by Aretha is now, truly, a soulful experience.