Tuesday, March 22, 2011


This family pulled away from my father, as water from shores before the wave. It was the small things, that went mostly unnoticed. My files gone from his office computer, the lack of words from my mother over dinner. We felt the drawing up, our selves pulling back to a disrupted center, and the waiting tension to return. To return in full, washing over the shores where he had been, and further, to wash away the structures there.
Like many acts of natural fury, this too began slow. The start was rumblings of dysfunction rising to a final draw, when my mother asked him to leave. Things come apart. Either slowly, or quickly. The part of the family that was my father was being unmade slowly at that point. My own feelings were mixed. Even knowing where I stood, there was an awfulness in what I then still believed was the lifetime of a man coming to failure. Amid this, it was curiosity that led to cataclysm. In drawing back, in the steady rumbling of process, I stumbled upon something that did not fit. It felt, beneath the touch of my concern for his devastation, somehow wrong. You look closer at things rough to the touch, and the truth is what you find, not what you are told.
He had built islands of artifice. Shores with the names of all things goodly familial; Love; Compassion; Hope. He poured the sands of his lies on them, and trusted that we would come no further than these inviting beaches. It was all there, in his own words to this other woman. Full accountings of the things had had built, and the lies with which he had built them. The give and take of lapping waves finally ceased, the drawing away completed in a moment. Everything compressed upon its center, and rushed outward again. For every action, a reaction. Such acts are kinetic, moving with fury, unwilling and unable to do anything but take ground. Everything before you is overrun, swept under and you drive on.

What followed was time, probably days but immeasurable in the cloud. For that time, we allowed it that things were neither good or bad, but rather the efficient neutrality necessary to do as needed. The worst of processes are sometimes the easiest. You pragmatize for calm, and focus on physical labors. There is a logic and order to packing, even large amounts and big items. Like high ground, he clambered atop these acts, keeping above the water and moving. A life, even one deceitful, can be stripped down into so many orderly boxes, taped and marked. Old furniture can be pulled apart, this top piece separating from that piece, the contents rifled for a sense of belonging with whats to be left set haphazard to available horizontals. Into the removed drawers can be packed things to be taken. In such a taking apart, many voids will be found, and this is how all empty spaces are filled, with things from elsewhere. Strangers and aliens in spaces of former comfort, teaspoons in sock drawers and socks in pants pockets and pants shoved into garbage bags. The garbage, and dust, of thirty-six years all left on the floors. Strewn behind him, the waste and old receipts of the thing now undone. Or was it the thing long undone? Like days, some knowing was clouded.
And some knowing will never be. Amidst it all there was always a clarity. Some things are known to the point of gravity, a fact beyond all concept of denial. The knowledge, there in every discovered word of my fathers, was inescapable as the risen sea. That too made it easier. If in war it is easier to do the work when you hate your enemy, so too is it easier to do anything at odds with another. Who-gets-what arguments are are easier for the absolute wrongdoing of a single party, for there is always that card to play. The sins are real, untruths and infidelities whole, and they put end to the forever circular arguments. I wonder how families do this when there is less clear-cut reason; How mine would have done it if reasons of amorphous dysfunction had remained the paramount.

And then, after the mad rush of it all, calm. Water and wind, and a great and wholly natural silence follow disaster and action of all sorts. Not for long, there is always the cleaning up, the putting to rights, the changing of lightbulbs and calendars to turn. Some of this work will be difficult, and some is already proving to be, but everything has indeed been washed clean. The rot that escaped the wave, that lingered on or was accelerated is being found, mostly by smell, and cut away. Birds twitter, and other creatures great and small circle and joy in the coming spring. All acts are for now in accordance to plan and planting cycles, a pace lacking any greater kinetic push than life itself.