November 12th, 2018
Back in the spring, I wandered around the country with a band of Native Americans. One of them talked to me about the importance of being connected with the spirits of our ancestors. I remember telling him that I din’t necessarily want some of those ancestral spirits too close to me.
He laughed and said, “Well, I guess you got a problem there!”
He was right. I do have a problem.
My dad died on Saturday. I didn’t know about it until Sunday night. Karin and I had spent the weekend at a Trappist monastery in Oklahoma, and we had almost no connection with the outside world for two days. Our son, Hans, called us while we driving through Illinois to tell us that he had seen something about my father posted on Facebook. I guess that’s the way people find things out now: informal obituaries on Facebook.
I sat in the passenger seat while Karin drove for the last two hours of our journey. My father’s death was not really a surprise. We knew it was coming. He was nearly eighty-six, and he had just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I had thought that he would have a couple more months. I thought wrong.
As we drove through the darkness, I realized that I didn’t feel much of anything. My dad was gone, but I didn’t miss him.
Karin and I have been to a few funerals recently. We are at an age where attending a funeral becomes a more frequent occurrence. A couple weeks ago, we were at a funeral for a friend was just a bit older than my dad. His grandchildren went up to the lectern to speak about their happy memories of their grandfather. They talked about all the wonderful things he had done with them and for them. They had genuine affection in their voices.
I don’t have any happy memories of my father. Well, maybe I do, but I can’t find them. They are locked away somewhere in my head, and I have forgotten the password. I can only find memories that are frightening or infuriating. Thinking about my life with my dad is scary. It’s like going to a dark place, and I don’t want to visit there any more.
Karin and I went to talk with my father in the nursing home about a month ago. He was happy to see us, and I was glad to be there with him. At the end, he wasn’t scary any more. He was just old and sad and tired. I was okay with the old man in the room. I’m not okay with man that he was. I don’t want to remember that man.
On Thursday we will go to my dad’s funeral. I will say goodbye.
I hope that God receives and welcomes his spirit. I hope my father’s spirit finds the peace that eluded him on earth.
I also want my ancestor’s spirit to keep his distance for a while.