April 27, 2014
Today, an interruption in the National Poetry Month guest posts, which will, incidentally, continue into May. Couldn’t let this day go unacknowledged. —Nishta
I almost feel like I don’t know how to write these letters anymore. Today would have been your seventy-second birthday, and I know everyone expects me to say something heartwarming about how much I miss you and what an amazing human being you were and how I’m trying to raise Shiv to know and honor you, but fuck all of that heartwarming shit. I’m so tired of it.
Every single one of the heartwarming things is true, of course, but what’s also true—and what goes unsaid—is that this isn’t getting any easier. In fact, in some ways it’s harder, the farther away I move from you in time. There’s so much forgetting There’s more and more of my life that would be unrecognizable to you. Sometimes I say things like “Papa would love this,” and then I wonder if I even know anymore. Would you? I worry that I can’t trust my sense of you, that it’s fading, and that scares me. There’s so much that’s new, so many things that you were never a part of; nothing smells like you anymore.
People are fond of saying that even though you’re not with me, you’re “with me,” and I know they mean well, but it sounds like a cop-out every time. Because some things are never going to be okay, and some things are never going to get better, and some things are not fixable, nor do they have an upside, and I wish that people would just tell the truth about the fact that you being dead is one of those things.
We got cheated, Papa. End of story. For once, I just want to say what’s so without worrying about sounding pleasant or optimistic. I am pissed. I am bereft. And I still get ragingly jealous of other people’s parents, the ones who are still alive, still together, still celebrating anniversaries, still coming to visit, the dads who comment weirdly on their kid’s Facebook and text awkwardly and give frequent, unsolicited advice. I know I’m not supposed to, but wow do I covet.
In the end, there are a few things I feel like I know for certain so I stick to them: one, that you would be so proud of mom, of her bravery and her willingness to change and shift and be open to new things, of the way she and I have built a new relationship and new incarnation of our family, and of her happiness. Two, that you would absolutely love and delight in Shiv, and he in you. He is so much like you, Papa, that it’s almost eerie. He has your joie de vivre and your appetite and your significant charm, and on the days when I am more filled with gratitude than rage, feeding his voracious little palate feels almost like feeding you. I’ll take it.
Three, it’s always been clear that the best way to honor you is to be present in my life to the greatest degree possible: to enjoy each and every day, to err on the side of extravagance, to find satisfaction in ordinary details, to maintain traditions and enact rituals, to give generously of myself and my time, and to do my best to ensure that everyone I love knows that I love them, because that’s what you did.
Right now, your grandson is running around pants-less, holding my toothbrush aloft and giggling like a banshee while Jill chases him around the kitchen. I wonder if this is what you were like when you were his age, and the thought that it might be makes me grin. I wish you were here to see him.
Always and forever,