Sixteen years

father1

Sixteen years ago today I held your hand when you exhaled a final time, and maybe you felt my hand on yours just as I felt the current of life slip from you. But I doubt it. Then again, that’s something I could never know. You’re gone or maybe you’re still here or you’re somewhere else. It’s not important. Your hand was cold even before you died. It wasn’t supposed to be that way. I should have hated you. But instead I found a way to love you, it was me who held your hand in those final moments, and now I know that says more about me than about you. Life will break your heart and death will reaffirm the wreckage, a necessary measure in order to reassemble justly, deliberately, categorically, completely. Sixteen years is but a fraction of a fraction of time but a lot can happen to a human being in sixteen years. I moved away from the child I was programmed to be and fashioned myself into a man of my own design. I wrote about you, at length, and still do. I studied and studied and studied and wrote and wrote. I made friends and a few enemies who could not agree with the strange intensity with which I approach life. Perhaps I owe some of that to you. Perhaps the intensity proves to me that I’m nothing like you, or maybe just a little like you, sometimes charming, as you were, and also funny, but mostly serious, a seriousness deadly enough to have nearly cost me my life on a few sober occasions. I owe some of that to you as well. I graduated near the top of my class at an internationally respected institution. I have loved and will always love and because of you I will always try to show love the way it’s supposed to be shown. Married now. You weren’t there. I dream of you often and in the dreams I’m usually forced to correct one of your mistakes, just like in waking life. You were only human. We won one pennant, but it was a fluke. You missed out on all your grandchildren except for one, and he probably doesn’t even remember you. Not your fault. Sixteen years and your father’s gone now. He lived through your illness and your death and it took most everything out of him. Your mother’s still alive; she’ll probably live forever. She likely dreams of you, too, but I’d wager her dreams are nothing like mine. Sixteen years. I’ve written two novels and begun a third and you’ll never get to read them. We never had a beer together. We hardly ever shared a genuine laugh, or shared anything, for that matter. Sixteen years transforms blame into acceptance, and it’s true that I look like you and yet…not. Your stamp still bleeds through every letter of my life. Sixteen years for me to fall, and I have, many times. Yet here I stand. You had nothing to do with that. My age has nearly doubled since then. Sixteen years of wondering how different my life would be if you were alive. Sixteen years of learning that it was supposed to be this way.

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