Something occurred to me today.
Despite all my best intentions to refill my dad’s brief life with air by writing about it, I think all I may have done is reduce it, instead.
As Zadie Smith once said, writing about someone you love can be a reductive thing. Violent even, subtracting all the things you can’t seem to remember, leaving only a small sum of what you can. A simplified equation. A two-dimensional rendering of something you desperately want to be whole again.
Forty-nine years crammed into a tiny memory of making root beer floats in the kitchen.
It seems strange that left-handedness, graying beard whiskers, and a bad temper can add up to a man whose totality has helped craft my entire person.
There is love in that kind of math, though.
Because while I may not be able to recall his favorite salad dressing, and eventually I’ll let go of the balloon string of his laughter, I have managed to make indelible the night he surprised us all by covering his face with shaving cream and pretending he was Santa Claus. And the cool, late afternoon slow dance he had with my mom in the garage, as I looked on from the bed of his Red Chevy pickup truck, draped in his flannel shirt, as the last bit of sun fended off the slow-dripping of dusk.
As the ones who are left, we have a responsibility to hold on to as much as we can. Make relentless, last ditch attempts to take back what was taken from us and glue it down.
I hope everything that I’ve held on to has added up to something that would make him proud — not only of who I’ve turned out to be. But who he turned out to be, too.