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when family is gone...
how do we remember
by katherine l (aka clevertitania) (@CleverTitania)
3.11.10
writing

I had a sudden thought tonight. I won’t say what preceded the thought, because it is only the thought that counts. It wasn’t an errant thought, by any means. No, this was one of those thoughts that’s like an itch below the skin; the kind you know you can’t start scratching or you’ll never stop. It’s also one of those thoughts that makes you feel self-pitying douchebag.

I’m kind of pissed because I realize that the reason I have no real memories of my father left is because no one ever really talked about him.

See what I mean about being a douchebag? It’s true, I feel bad feeling that way, but I’m still pissed.

Now, I’m not saying he was never mentioned again after he died. Stories involving his presence were still told, and his activities during said stories were shared. Dad was also big on photography, so there is tons of pictorial evidence of his existence. What I mean is; no one ever told us about what he was like. There were moments of his personality in trying-family-moments stories, but a lot of that was at his worst of times. I’ve played cards around a family table for years, and heard plenty of stories about my father, but I’ve never heard anyone tell me what he was like around that same table. I’ve don’t know if he was talkative or quiet. I don’t know if he was generous or stingy. I don’t know if I got my political sore spot from him, or I just developed it on my own (definitely didn’t come from mom). I know I got his picky eating habits, but did I get his insatiable inquisitiveness too?

Maybe there were more stories like that when I was younger, but they were far enough back that I have no memories of them.

I know he liked photography, marbles and matchbox cars; but all this is from what he left behind. I don’t know what kind of music he liked to listen to at a picnic, or if he told great jokes, or if he could be a real dick during ideological conversations. I wonder if he was the kind of guy you wanted to have a drink with. Or was he the kind of guy you’d want to get stoned with? Was he the kind of guy you wanted to have your back in a bar fight? Was he the guy who always got you into bar fights?

I only ever remember meeting one of my father’s friends. He was a seriously maladjusted man with a further maladjusted family. I think mom still feels guilty for having let them take care of us when she went on a trip, but hindsight is 20/20. I let her off the hook for that ages back. Those people were lucky I was quite so young. If they’d have pulled their shit on 10 year old me, I’d like to think I would’ve screamed until someone came to get us. But do I allow this reference to paint my dad in a bad light? I had some pretty crappy friends myself, in my youth. And dad was barely out of his youth when he died.

I know that, when he was younger, he looked a lot like Kurt Russell. Somehow, that’s just not too revealing.

So I guess it’s not surprising that the only memories I have of my father what stories people have told me. It’s hard to hold onto someone when you have no context for who they were, or what they would’ve thought about any particular subject you might be contemplating.

I suppose I could ask my mother why she never talks about what he was like in general, just personality wise. I could ask the rest of my remaining family too. But honestly, I think it’s a little late to even mention it. At this point, my father’s death is kind of like when our house burned down a few years back. It’s an awful moment in our history that serves as mostly a time novelty now. Every so often we dust it off and remark on just how long it’s been, and then it’s put back away. And this far into it, I wouldn’t trust their memories of him anymore. If I found something, like a journal, that would be something I’d like to read. But only from the horse’s mouth would I rely on the information after all this time.

Based on all this, I realize it’s almost farcical that my son is named after my dad, a man I’m not sure I’ll ever know. But at this point, it doesn’t matter. Mike is who he is, and that’s what matters. He’s the one I know, and that’s enough.

It’s still a nagging thought, but I really don’t fault anyone in my family for it. Truthfully, I’m pretty sure my overly expressive conversational style didn’t come from anyone else; it developed all on its own. Card table conversations move from tale to tale and topic to topic, but it’s rarely about more than the surface events of the story. I’m the one who analyzes things to death. I suppose I could’ve gotten that from my dad, but it would seem unlikely, or I’m sure I’d have heard a comment to that effect at some point in my life. I heard enough about how I get my car-door ears from him.


ABOUT KATHERINE L (AKA CLEVERTITANIA)

When I grow up, I want to be; whoever Joss Whedon wants to be, when he grows up. I am a writer because it's the first thing I want to do when I wake up in the morning; aside from eating and using the lavatory of course. My work includes screenplays, short stories, film/TV/music reviews and socio-political commentary. The last one is a fancy way of saying I like to shoot my mouth off on many topics. I excel at using $1.50 words. They gone up, thanks to inflation. Isn't our economy awesome?

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