02 July 2005

it's already in the past

It's like it never happened.

Peetie called me yesterday, no, this past Wednesday, no, a week and a half ago Wednesday.

Dirk and I were hysterical in his grandfather's driveway for three or four minutes, then we pulled ourselves together, walked up to his grandfather's door and knocked.

"Opa, this is Sheila. Something terrible has happened."

We spent hours on the phone with travel agents, airlines, the funeral home ("No, I know there's no death certificate yet. Can you fax a letter to Spain saying that my father died? They won't know the difference.").

"Hi. Pleased to meet you." What a terrible way to meet someone's grandfather. Dirk's family was upset for me and for him. His brothers text messaged him, "Happy Birthday anyway." What a terrible way to spend your birthday.

We arrived in Memphis, went to the wake the next day and the funeral the day after. The loudspeakers at the funeral home were broken, so we couldn't hear anything but static. They spelled his name "McKinney" (the town in Texas where he lived) instead of "Seiler." We were in a separate part of the funeral home the day of the actual funeral, so we hardly saw anyone who came.

It was like it wasn't happening.

My best friend wrote me this:

"Will you take the time to grieve? Will you let yourself fall apart for ten minutes? I have no words of comfort to offer you, no one does. People offer vacant condolence, and the natural reaction is a gag in the back of the throat, and a thank you. We thank others politely for their empty injustice. Why not scream FUCK when they say “I’m so sorry for your loss.” Why do we always say thank you? Wouldn’t it be a more cleansing wake if in the receiving line one might suffer temporary turrets? This is an impossible time. I am so angry, and sad, far too much a victim of human emotion. I am feeling this with you."

And the thing is, she's right. Except there was no cemetary service, no receiving line. They didn't even spell my father's last NAME right.

I think my Sunday school teacher and preachers and two family friends and a couple of cousins said something to me along the lines of "I'm so sorry."

Did anyone else notice that it happened so fast, that yes, I'm his daughter, ME, standing right in front of you, hello? Does anyone else realize my siblings and I are in this room?

My boyfriend told me once that after a funeral of a family member, everyone pats you on the head and gives you lots of attention. He said that even if you don't want to, you like being asked about, clucked over, worried about. Part of you needs the coaxing.

But it's like no one else remembers he was even here.

There's this Lemony Snicket line that goes something like this: When someone in your family dies, it's like you're climbing the stairs in the dark. And you know where you are and you know where your room is and you know where your bed in the room is, even though you can't see anything. And then when you get to the top step of the stairs, suddenly it isn't there.

And what's amazing is that when I graduate, I can say, "my dad died a year ago." And ten years from now, I'll say, "my dad died ten years ago." I was supposed to be spending this week with him in Dallas. His cancer was offically gone.

My dad died yesterday, last Wednesday, a week and a half ago, today.

Hello? Does anyone remember?

betholindo at 19:50

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