In January of 2003 I began to search, in earnest, for my father. A task made no less daunting by the fact that he had died in February of 1978. Only 55 years old at the time of his death, I felt dad was much too young to depart this world–one of the few matters on which the two of us would have agreed and the old man couldn’t even be here to revel in the moment.
Physically, of course, I could pinpoint his position; a small town cemetery in the Midwest. I was there the day he moved in. Sure, locating a corpse is easy enough, except it wasn’t his body but the scattered fragments of my father’s life that I was trying to find.
He was born on New Year’s Eve 1922, though the deduction advantage would hardly have mattered because his dad was dead from a ruptured appendix by the next September. Considering the circumstances, it’s entirely possible that my father spent much of his life in a quest similar to the one I had embarked upon. Some would consider that I had a distinct advantage having lived with my own father for 18 years. I’m still not so sure.
I’ve been told that during his formative years, and well into adulthood, Dad’s Mom could be somewhat domineering; which is a little like saying that the Marquis de Sade was a bit cranky. For some time it’s been my opinion that Dad died prior to his own mother’s demise, at least partially, out of spite.
This upbringing, a tour of Europe during World War II, and having me for his youngest son, only helped me to understand that my father was haunted by specters that I could never hope to comprehend.
Until the day he died, my father always hummed softly to himself whenever he was busied with his gardening, a woodworking project, or just exploring his private thoughts. More of a low thrum, really, with occasional changes in pitch and meter. All of us assumed it was a nervous habit, but perhaps he had simply found his own Father’s pulse in the staggered rhythm and was finally able to say “Goodbye”.