Saturday, September 15, 2007

Missing You (Todd Snider)

My father passed 12 years ago today - I've spent a good part of this morning going through a box of memories, culled from his home. There's his death certificate... the police report (he was dead two days before he was discovered, sitting on the front porch with a radio, still playing, on his lap)... an award from the Chamber of Commerce for his work on urban renewal... clippings of articles from when he worked for Atlanta Magazine, the Journal-Constitution and the Athens Banner-Herald... pictures of him in Korea, where he served in the Marines... copies of various letters he had written, one of which was to me, in utero, gender unknown, and thus addressed to Susie or Curt Jr...

Tuesday I will celebrate my 31st wedding anniversary (a blog post unto itself) - I spent the occasion of my 19th at my father's memorial service, after which we all changed into jeans and long-sleeved shirts and spent the remainder of the day grappling (physically and emotionally) with the chaotic debris of his life. He had continued to live in my grandmother's house after her death - I thought I would never rid myself of the smell that permeated the walls/our clothing/our hair and skin and, on visceral days like today, it comes right back...

I returned with 8 iced tea glasses (two of which shattered in transit), four small Depression glass bowls (differently-patterned rose, clear, cobalt and amber), a deck of Rook cards, a Japanese fan, his wedding ring, two dogs (one carved, one ceramic) from my grandmother's miniature collection, his Sigma Delta Chi pin, my grandfather's eyeglasses, a quilt and a mantle clock (non-working), which had been promised to me for as long as I can remember - many of the aforementioned items, along with a film cannister of my father's ashes, reside on a shelf in a curio cabinet in my dining room...

My father was a good man who hit a bad patch and never re-found his equilibrium - he loved raw oysters, smoked herring and cornbread crumbled into a tall glass of milk... books on the Civil War and by Pat Conroy... Johnny Cash, Dave Brubeck and Credence Clearwater Revival... barbequeing on the grill each Sunday... telling "shaggy dog stories"... driving long distances... and he loved me and I loved him in return, fiercely...

The blog-titled song was written by Todd about his father - I've only heard him play this live once and, with eyes closed, he choked up a few times... which of course wrenched my own heart because I understood...

Rest in peace, you son of a bitch!
Mixed emotions does not begin to describe this melting pot (boiling pit?) inside me.
Rage, sorrow, fury, pity, disgust, regret -
all jumbled up together, as each surfaces to claim its own identity, then is reclaimed in the steaming brew.

Just like the details of your life inside that house -
no sense of order, priority or importance.
Empty liquor bottles on top of family photos, next to jugs of urine, buried beneath priceless glassware.
You gave as much worth to useless junk as you did to sentimental keepsakes.
You equated human waste with sacred memories.

Forgiveness is a moot point.
No one could consciously choose such an existence, knowingly reducing his own life to such a pathetic heap.
Rest in peace, you tormented soul.
Find a better life, our genetic benefactor.
Feel the unconditional love, my father.


What a gorgeous day - a welcome breath of fresh air, compared to the day before.

"He loved the mountains", said one.
"We need a rushing stream", said another.
"It must be sun-dappled", I said. "Those words are always so descriptive in novels".

We found a combination of the three as we proceeded down a winding path, eager tourists and picknicking families unaware of our mission.

The first handful began his journey down the fast-moving water ("Amazing grace, how sweet the sound..."),
the second scattered him to the winds ("Rock of ages, let me hide myself in thee..."),
mine becomes earthbound on a flat stone ("Love hurts, love scars, love wounds, love mars..."), until it (he?) is finally washed over and away.

The brook strips him clean and new again, and we feel the transformation.
He has finally found the peace he deserves.
God is kind.

QUOTE: "It is told that Buddha, going out to look on life, was greatly daunted by death. "They all eat one another!" he cried, and called it evil. This process I examined, changed the verb, said, "They all feed one another," and called it good." ~ Charlotte Perkins Gilman


  1. oh. crying a lot and then this: Rest in peace, you son of a bitch!

    how perfectly that sums it up :)


  2. Hey, J -

    Thanks so much for taking the time to comment - "mixed emotions" indeed, as the celebration of my wedding anniversary will forever be tied (enmeshed) to memories of my father's death...

    I love these lines from the Jules Shear song, Windows and Walls: "some people are changed by great romances, but it's the wounds that have made us what we are" - so true...