Imagined Conversation.

My Late FatherYesterday marked 12 years since my father passed away. I am reminded every year in Trinidad and Tobago only because of Emancipation Day.

To say that our relationship was complicated would make a British person cringe at such use of understatement. We rarely agreed on anything, and if we did we, as individuals, wondered what was wrong.

So I wondered how the conversation would go, so many years gone by and myself having grown entirely out from under his shadow.

I expect my father would start it off. He was good about that.

“I’ve been dead 12 years. What have you done?”
“Well, I’ve turned things around on the land. People have gotten to know me and are coming around.”
“Good. You learned how to deal with them. I didn’t think you had it in you to squeeze them.”
“Well, I didn’t squeeze them.”
“What? They’ll take advantage of you!”, growling, “You can’t be soft! They’ll walk all over you!”
“Well, they walked all over you when you were confrontational.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I have 12 years of knowing what I’m talking about. Your ashes blew away from Mosquito Creek with you not having enjoyed anything about the Estate. I tell the people who have problems with you to go down there and shout into the wind.”

He sighs, grinds his teeth and looks off.

“So, are you married yet? Children?”
“Nope.”

He sighs, grinds his teeth and looks off.

“What about your cousins? Are they dealing with their land?”
“That’s not my business.”
“So you don’t know?”
“Ask them yourself. The answer they give you may not be the answer they give me, the answers they give may not be what they are actually doing. Why waste time worrying about things like that?”

He glares at me, then sighs. “That was always the problem I faced.”

“And I don’t have that problem simply by not making it mine.”

“What happened to the workshop?”
“Oh, you’ll love this. Your sister closed it.”
“What?!”
“Yes. Your brother had a stroke, a lot of things happened afterward that boiled down to her taking control and she closed it. ”
“You were supposed to run it! Or one of your cousins!”
“Well, truth be told only one of us ever really wanted to run it and when it came down to it, he didn’t really want to either. And your sister made sure of that.”
“Hmm. Which sister, anyway?”
“What, you folks still don’t talk?”
“Don’t be a smartass, tell me which sister.”
“Does it matter?”

Again, the glare.
“No, it doesn’t.”

“See, you’re all dead but two. It’s a brave new world.”
“How is it?”
“If you were here, you’d probably die of heartbreak.”
“Oh.”
“Yeah. So did you ever talk to your father like we’re doing now?”
“Many times.”
“Drove you crazy, didn’t it?”
“What do you mean?”
“You never really got out from under his shadow, did you?”
“What?!”
“Well, the closer to death you got, the more you talked about his visions and plans.”
“I did?”
“Yeah.”
“I didn’t realize that. So are you trying to do the same as you get closer to death?”
“Nope. Your visions and plans are gone with you – have been for 12 years.”
“So why the HELL are you even talking to me?”
“I thought it would be interesting. I thought about how you imagined your father, and I imagined mine. And you’re here. And now… you’re gone, left as a part of my memory and imagination in a small room of my mind. I may visit you from time to time, but you are only me remembering you.”
“You always talked about shit like that. Unproductive!”
“Generally speaking, yes, this was unproductive. But it was closure.”
“What?! You little…”

And he’s gone. What’s more, I’m free of him.

Time

Do You Want to Fall in Love She AskedA strange thing, time. It’s our way of explaining things, of looking at the past and the future. It connects us and disconnects us.

The concept of time varies by culture.

We don’t think enough about something that has such control over the way we deal with our lives – and how ‘time’ varies with people we interact with in a global community.

They say that time heals, but if time heals it’s by transporting us to somewhere else – sometime else – where things are different. It’s not time that changed, it’s our environment – internal and external – that changes, and we mark it in our own versions of time.

And if we remove time altogether, we flatten our lives into a summary of all the interactions we’ve had and how we’ve interacted with it.

The living call this death.

Suddenly, She Was There

I’d been avoiding smartphones, using a basic phone for a while, partly because of a self-imposed exile from noise. But I got another smartphone because I had found a half decent reason to and a way to make it work for me without subjecting me to too much noise. I’d thought this through, as I always do – cool, rational. I’d pay for data when I wanted it, subsisting instead on WiFi so I wouldn’t get charged for WhatsApp jokes I’d seen and even posted years ago.

It’s a sound plan that allows me a discrete camera for street shots, so I can blend with the writing. It’s not a great camera, but I let that lay for the price. The price of freedom is sometimes compromise.

And so, despite the work of the helpful young woman who set basic things up on the store, I went through the Android device and configured it as I wanted it.

I logged into my Google account, set up email, pulled my contacts, etc.

And today, as I was about to send a text to someone, the SMS app helpfully showed those I messaged the most and… after all of this time… her name was there.

Her name. Hers. That name. The name I don’t speak often for fear of it all boiling over. The conversations late at night, the text messages flying back and forth, our secret codes. Her name.

That conversation at 2 a.m. about whether she should have that surgery to have her other ovary removed. The hopeless conversations about endometriosis, a sinister condition for her. The idiocy at her job, hew she had invested so much of her life into the company to see it being pulled in a direction that diminished her.

It wasn’t all bad or it wouldn’t have been. We had well matched quills, and for two people who were noted for being stubborn we had an odd habit of listening to each other and of being able to communicate with a word or a glance. We had the crazy nights where she sang country songs I hated, or where she put up with my own insanity as I bubbled up from the other world I visit as often as I can. The way we pushed against each other to allow us to be more ourselves, the way our backs immediately came together when we were surrounded by the idiots.

Then there was the shock of her suicide that wasn’t as much of a shock as a painful finality for me. She’d told me what she would do when the pain was too much for her and I thought it was… not as soon. That there was time.

There wasn’t.

We wonder about those things even when we understand them.

And after all these months, she’s the one I message the most according to Google.

And she’s gone, but still pulled a final ‘gotcha’ on me.

Brat. I do miss her.

Life’s For The Living

2010-04 Winnersh Dinton Pastures 022
Photo by Edmund Gall. 

I’m no stranger to Death. It’s something that I’ve dealt with a lot professionally and personally – yet over the last 4 months, I’ve had 3 people close to me in different ways die.  I’ve been surrounded by people dealing with death for almost 5 months at this point, and the various ways in which death is handled by people.

I sat thinking about all of this for months, sometimes actively participating in funeral rites and the logistics, sometimes not. There is really nothing new to write about death. A few days ago, I had a moment of clarity after months of numbness.

I had been spending an inordinate amount of time with death in the last 4 months, dragging previous experiences into the mix, listening to the litany of loss from people around me as they mourned separate losses embodied by the same persons.

We, the living, spend more time dwelling on death than I would like to think the dead spend on the living. We bait our own traps of suffering, mourning what was and the illusion of what could have been.

The three close to me all made the world a better place on a grand scale through their lives. One did it through technology, one did it through her children, one did it through his passion and talent for music – yet all of them were more than what people knew them for, touching lives around them in ways that they didn’t understand or know. I got to see each of them through the mourning of others and what was being mourned.

They are gone.

I am here.

 

 

Odie

Away from Ohio,
Wearing a uniform that stinks of
Mothballs, sweat
And burned starch.
The work-shoes sparkle as
Stray light glances
Through the glass door.
Images flicker on these black screens.
Gurneys flash to one from the other as
The sounds from well-oiled wheels filter in
(The audience is listening)
The clock stops
Little hand on 2, long past 3,
A voice echoes.
“Time of Death:
2:17 a.m.”
Motion stops as the clock moves again,
And in the background, a near whisper:
‘And his dog’s name was Odie.’

Long Walk On A Short Plank

Sadness is a Raven's Heart

This haze of smoke
Never seems to clear,
This constant fog
We hold so dear.
Mists to rain
Before the sun,
The sun is next –
The sun is done.
A walk in the sunshine
On the beach,
A walk there
At night, where
Noisy lights
Can’t reach.
The haze returns
So bittersweet…
Travels in darkness
With constant tread,
The knell displaced
Awakes the dead.
Small feet move
And aren’t heard
Silence remains…

Silence the dirge.

Written on Mother’s Day, 1996