Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Father's Death (Ave Atque Vale)

The way of it was not inspiring, or noble, or peaceful, as one might hope a death would be.  The long, slow decay brought about by cancer; deterioration, debilitation, weakness.  Not a pleasant death for someone always active, sometimes impatient of events and people.  Unpleasant for those close to him as well. 

He could be demanding, could be angry, could be emotional and overbearing.  He could be opinionated.  But he was profoundly interested in his family and its well being, essentially an "old school" Italian in that respect and in others.  He had a great respect for knowledge and education, and tradition.  He was always eager to note the mistakes he felt he had made during life and use them in an effort to prevent you from making the same mistakes.  He was genuinely interested in individuals--I use that word advisedly.  "People" in general did not catch his attention and were not the focus of his intelligence, but those people he met were the subjects of interest, and sometimes intense interest.  He wanted to learn about them, and did so through conversation and questions.  He could judge those he met quite well, and could do so accurately in a very short time, finding the good and the bad in them when others, such as myself, were hesitant and undecided in evaluation.

He was a religious man--traditionally religious--and I think that provided comfort to him and others.  I'm religious in my own way.  It would be wonderful to meet him again, and meet others again, in whatever form.  One hopes for immortality of some kind for those close.

Donald Barthelme wrote a book called The Dead Father which I read long ago.  The vast figure of The Dead Father was dragged about by his children, through all sorts of situations and circumstances.  Barthelme in his fragmented style would comment on the figure and the events, the relations between the figure and the events, sons and fathers, fatherhood.  In a sense, one's father is similarly "with" us even after death, as we carry with us what we learned from him, both good and bad.  He shapes one's reality far more than we shape those things which stubbornly exist regardless of us, indifferent to us.  A father is a standard.

A son is perpetually indebted to his father for many things, and I'm no exception to that rule.  I feel rather like Catullus felt; ave atque vale.  The ancient funeral rites which are due must be made and endured.  It will be a different world, and a strange one, without him.

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