“Truth is, I never knew my father. Not one adult to another. He was dead long before I grew up. Sure, I was twenty-three….”

“He remained the distant, preoccupied, flawed, eventually the deathly-ill old man he was that last year.”

“He was fifty-four or fifty-five before I had any memory of him at all. I don’t even have that many pictures of him before that. One from the/his thirties….”

“He told stories. Set pieces repeated. Views going back to his childhood. These may have served in place of knowing him. Didn’t tell me that much about what he had been like as an adult. What he did day to day all those decades before I was born.”

“By the time I was ready to start thinking about getting to know him he was already shutting down. Wrapped up in the serious work of dying. Closed into his soul? Even more than before. We made tentative steps to bridge the gap. Meager attempts compared to the enormity of it. Was this his final failure? My first adult failure? It cemented, fossilized, our relationship at that immature stage. Left me with twin, buried convictions: That his life was thwarted and the inevitability that mine would be no different…”

“On top of this, as I say, buried conviction…. This was, has been, a tenet, something I’ve lived by. Been more faithful to it than any other. Buried, never spoken until today. Never acknowledged. Buried in a mound of guilt.”

“His grave, dirt displaced by a lead-lined vault slowly sinking into the sand for over thirty years.”

“Don’t know that for sure. Only been there once since his funeral.”

“Don’t remember anything at the graveside from that day. Just a faded sense of my awkward discomfort at his wake. His embalmed body. Was he wearing his glasses? He always looked startled without them….“

“This guilt became a foundation. A foundation upon which I built an edifice of my own failings, regrets, errors. Even sins. Venal and mortal. Carefully tended over the years. No need to visit, put flowers, on his grave. So long as I tended, tenderly tending this plot…. A monument to who he was. Who I was. Would be. Never looking to see if the void at the core of this covenant of belief was genuine. Never considering whether by accepting this notion – notion maybe all that it ever amounted to. An accident of timing, leading a callow youth. This callow youth, into accepting a set of circumstances however actuarially predictable. Still, an arbitrary set of circumstances. And on this basis condemning two lives. To date spanning over a century. Condemning us to a verdict of failure. A sentence passed part post-facto, part a-priori. Condemning both our lives to a term of indefinite striving and inevitable tragedy. Not grand tragedy. A quiet, banal, thwarted existence. A dissipated legacy. A legacy of dissipation.”

“I only arrive at this point where I can put this into words now that my anger has lifted. I find I can accept my own responsibility for this. Fully my doing. However much he assisted in preparing the ground for this living memorial. This use of my life as a broken plinth set upon his grave.”

“My doing. My responsibility. I don’t admit this as just another way to add another layer of guilt or self-loathing onto the pile, bolstering a conviction in the truth of this perverse covenant, feeding its hunger for continued sacrifices.”

“I simply did not know him. In the sense that I now see how one-sided my view of him has been. I need to find him. Find parts of him I’ve ignored. Who was he?”

“It’s not a literal task. Few opportunities remain to uncover facts, telling details pried from independent sources. I don’t see this as a problem. Imagination, coupled with identification, release parts of him that live in my physical and psychological legacy. These will do.”



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