Last Friday, I went to my first funeral. It was entirely unexpected. It was for my father. He had suffered from Alzheimer's for around three years. It was near the end of August that he went for a walk and never came back. He was missing for almost four days. After he was found, he spent about a week in the hospital. He died the day after I came up from South Jersey. At that point, he was no longer responsive. I didn't get to hear him talk to me again.
Let me point out a few things. I didn't have the emotional attachment my younger brother had with him. We rarely connected on much. I did not follow the same path as my half brother and my younger brother, so he didn't have much use for me. This is not to say that he was a terrible person. His role as a parent was to work, earn money and provide. He wasn't of the mindset to be emotionally involved or to be invested in the interests of someone he didn't quite understand. The man didn't really have any hobbies. He worked. He fixed things. He liked the Minnesota Vikings and the Minnesota Twins (I am a Twins fan, as well.) He watched a lot of television and spent many nights asleep while its glare lit up a dim living room. He loved to have a beer at dinner and he loved butter flavored popcorn. He used to buy gigantic bags of it and eat it while watching tv. A fair amount of it would end up all over his chest.
I can't sit here and unload the kind of words my brother did on Facebook. I cannot manufacture an emotion. Perhaps that is why I was a bit more stoic during both the wake and the funeral. I wanted to feel more. I wanted to grieve. I think it will take some time. My father and I didn't always have the warmest relationship. In fact, I held on to a fair amount of animosity over the years about his lack of emotional availability and support for the things I wanted to do with my life. Of course I am sad. Of course I'm dealing with a rush of memories and of course I want to be able to grieve.
I said my goodbyes in the hospital, in the funeral home. I touched his motionless chest and said, "Goodbye Donny". (My brother and I always called him Donny as a bit of a joke since his brothers and sisters in Minnesota always called him that.) The face I saw in the hospital, and later in the casket, wasn't the Donny I remembered and isn't the Donny I choose to remember. He might never have liked my choices. He might never have read a single poem I've ever written. It doesn't really matter. I'm content with people remembering him as an easy going, good-natured guy who would talk to anyone. The things that happened in the past can stay there. None of that matters anymore. I won't be able to see him again and ask him if he was ok with how I turned out. I don't know if it matters. I'll remember his goofy nature and his weird sense of humor. I will hope that when he saw me for the last few times on the 30th and 31st that he could still remember enough to know who I was and that he was glad that I was there.