Thursday, April 03, 2014

Once when I was eleven I told my dad that I was "bored." It was a Sunday afternoon. He was laying on his bed watching This Old House and on Sundays us kids would head back to Madison for the school week. He would drive us to the parking lot of Club 18, a biker bar located outside of Mt. Horeb, the halfway point between Mineral Point and Madison, and we'd find my mom waiting for us in her grey Buick Skylark. Every week it was the same, leave for Mineral point on Friday and come back to Madison on Sunday. Bored was the best word I could find, that I would go to school for a week and then come back to the farm for the weekend and it all seemed the same and nothing seemed to change. And even now its hard to pin down exactly what was bothering me, but it was more an existential pain of being without purpose, a fear that regardless of where I was or who I was with this odd, empty feeling would always be there. And I walked into the room and said, "I'm so bored," and started crying and couldn't help it, and I layed down next to him and he held me a while, and later we all got in the car and drove back to Madison.

I've told this story before. I wrote it down in the blog about seven years ago. I write it again today because today is one of those days where I'm feeling that odd, existential sadness. Maybe this is Spring, when the cold turns to warm rain and all day it's been grey. Low pressure weather systems carrying invisible change. Spring time is sleepy time, some of the Chinese students I've been working with keep saying, that we need more sleep and feel more tired when Spring comes. I think this is true. But I've also been thinking about the last couple months, about not writing and taking a break from telling stories, that since my dad died, and the initial waves of grief and shock and weirdness have passed, I've been oddly happy. Not happy like whee, this is fun! happy, but happy like free. Like wow, I can't believe it's over. Happy like relieved, that my dad and everyone can finally move on. And it seems like a space long occupied has been freed up. Like an old sofa that I'd spend years sitting on has been taken away, and there's an empty spot, an outline and a few dust balls where it used to be.

One night, three or four days after he died, I was going through the pictures I keep in an old shoe box, looking for pictures of him for the memorial service that my sister and brother and I were planning. I pulled out the pictures of him that I had and set them in a pile. Along the way I couldn't help but notice all the pictures of myself, my twenty year old self in Japan, my twenty-three year old self in Seattle, my twenty-five year old self in Providence, my twenty-eight year old self in California, my thirty-one year old self still in California; and thought about how for my entire adult life it's felt like some sad secret I've had to carry around. That because it was difficult to explain, that he was both alive and dead at the same time, I simultaneously had a right to grief and no reason to grieve. Jan told me, in a conversation a few days after his death, that he wished I didn't feel like it was secret, that I felt like I could talk to other people about it, and did on occasion. But I never talked about it with my family. And I kept waiting for him to die, and kept waiting to have those conversations about him and his absence, about growing up and missing him. I am thirty-five years old.

To put it another way, now that his death and all this has finally surfaced, and seemingly, at least in these initial months, now that we all can move on, I'm wondering how to do so when my entire adult architecture, especially in terms of writing, has been built around the idea there is something wrong. It could not have been any other way that they way its been, but if I'm not running for my life then why am I running? If there is no longer a darkness to skirt around, then what will be the mystery? If I am free to say what I need to say then how can I be lonely? There is a river and then there is the river's bed. Something like that. Today I came home and said to no one in particular, "I'm so bored." and I sat down and cried. And I don't know why. But I feel better now. And I miss you.