When Edward Severy’s father died, there were dozens of people at the funeral he had never met. They all acted like his father had never made a mistake. “Maybe I just knew a different man”, thought Edward.
My dad was in the hospital after falling off his bike. I was 11 and living with my mom and sister in Venice, and he was in a Simi Valley hospital.
My mom, sister and I jumped in the car and went to see him. This was the first time I remember my mom driving up there. He had started a new life in Simi Valley, and our visits naturally became fewer and fewer. Atop an arid hill, a giant cross with an explained-but-forgotten history cast a shadow on the road.
We arrived at the hospital and made our way through the frenetic buzz of staff and clinical whiteness. My sister was holding a sombrero in her hands as we approached his room, anticipating a warm surprise. We watched as the nurse woke him up, as he gazed half-aware at us. His hair was gray, and prickly stubble was starting to appear on his face.
“Do you know who this is?” the nurse asked him, bringing my sister to his side. He looked carefully at her, trying to discern.
“Someone from work,” he stammered. He had had a stroke.
A day or two after we went home we learned that he had terminal lung cancer, despite having quit smoking more than 20 years earlier. They moved him back to his house so he could spend his last days at peace.
We drove up again to see him before he went. When we got there, he was completely sedated. My sister knelt down beside his bed, and whispered some last words to him. I didn’t say anything.
He was gone the next day. I didn’t cry.
The memorial ceremony was held in a church and the minister read some of my father’s poems. I remember as I sat in the pew, I finally thought about tomorrow. That promise he made to me to buy a remote-controlled boat was never going to be fulfilled. We were never going to watch it fly over the vast brown waters of an ideal lake. He was never going to take me hiking with my newly purchased but never used metal detector like he said he would.
I broke down and cried in that pew. I turned around and saw two kids with their mom. They were watching me cry over this dead man they probably never met. They might be where I was someday.
After the ceremony, we went into a different room replete with catered foods. Many people had come to the funeral of my father. I knew none of them. They were all relatives of his, or members of the church, who had come out of respect. Many spoke to me and said I would do fine, I’d be OK, I’d be a champ and keep strong. They probably tousled my hair too. What frustrated me the most was how everyone treated him like he had never made a mistake. Maybe I just knew a different man.
I think I spent a long time recovering from my father’s death. For a long time I didn’t feel right. I really needed a father figure. I wish he could know where I am now, how much like him I turned out to be. After everything, I still blame myself for not being good enough to him while he was alive. And I’m still not complete in his absence – I just think about it less.
photo: goingslo / flickr