I know that, many times in the past, I have mentioned that my father died on Christmas Eve in 1990. I have also mentioned that he was only 38 years old when he died. Of course since I was only 16 at the time, 38 seemed older than dirt. I guess it takes you a lot of years to realize that you weren’t really an adult when you were 16, it did for me at least.
I remember looking at my dad in the weeks leading up to his death, the death was totally unexpected and doesn’t have any actual bearing on my memories. I can remember that, in my sixteen year old eyes, he really looked old. He had the crow’s feet around his eyes, lots of gray hair, his skin was becoming leathery, he just looked old to my sixteen year old eyes. 38 is well over the hill to a child of 16.
Now that it is 2005, a full fifteen years after dad died, I am thinking that maybe he wasn’t as old as I really thought he was. The fact that I am 31 years old might play into that a bit. Now that I have three decades behind me, I find it pretty tough to think of anyone in their 30’s as old. I don’t think that anyone else who hits their 30’s would have a different opinion on that; 30 seems extremely old when you are a decade away from it. When you hit that 30 year old milestone it doesn’t seem so old anymore.
I still look into the mirror and think that I have looked exactly the same since High School, which is an absurd thought. My hair is turning to a magnificent silver color (one at a time), my skin is darker and far dryer than it was back then, my eyes are sinking (ever so slowly) into my skull, my skin knows exactly where to go when I laugh, thus creating lines on my face when I do so. Yes, it seems that 30 something might not be that old at all, also I should give up on the notion that I haven’t changed in appearance since High school.
I am reminded of the time when the child of one of our neighbor’s, who was mentally retarded, gave me some advice. I had just gotten my first pimple (one of many to come), and thought it was the end of the world. He (the mentally retarded, 20ish guy) said to me, “just wait until you turn 18 and go through puberty”. I didn’t laugh at him since I knew that he was mentally challenged, but I did question his logic (though not verbally). So, you turn 18 and you instantly have a full beard and pubic hair? That seemed pretty foolish, even to my 13 year old self (of course my grammar school actually taught sex education, if your parents were willing to sign the form).
Puberty is a process that takes years to get through, not like a race where there is only one clear winner. Everyone goes through puberty and it certainly doesn’t happen all at once on your 18th birthday. The same is true for the aging process. You don’t just wake up one day and look like you are 80, it takes years of trials, failures, successes and losses to get to that age. Every success, every loss, every trial, every failure, will mark you in some way. The mental aspects will better prepare you for the next trial, while the physical aspects will add creases to your skin (laugh lines if you have done well, wrinkles if you haven’t). Life, it seems, is a process.
Hidden away, in the back bedroom which we never use, I have a photo with my father in it. The photo shows my father and all of his siblings posing for the camera as a Christmas gift to their mother. Their mother has long since died (and I couldn’t make it to her funeral). I believe the picture was taken in about 1989, and every single person in the photo looks young, vibrant and about to tackle the world. None more so than my dad. He looks downright young in that photo. Out of the eight children in that photo, a few went on to tackle the world and become extremely successful, a few went on to become housewives to successful men (some of which have their own careers by now), one had a horrible stroke that made him basically an invalid (since his career was playing the guitar and singing), and then there is my dad, who died far too young.
38 years just doesn’t seem like infinity anymore.
When I look at that photo, hidden away in the guest bedroom, and look at my father’s face, I now know that he was only just a child when he died. 38 years on this earth is simply not enough time. Whatever evil he did in his life simply doesn’t justify him having to be eliminated from the earth at such a young age.
As the days blur by ( sort of like watching your life on camera, yet it is what is happening now) I often think about my dad. I bet the days blurred by for him just as they do for me. The childhood antics are lost to a dresser drawer somewhere, the proof of the antics is eventually traded or lost. The man that I thought was more powerful than THOR is reduced to a rapidly fading memory, a memory which can only be kept alive by the occasional glance at that photo, hidden away in the back bedroom. Eventually that photo will come down and I will be left with nothing but my memories, memories which are 15 years old already and certainly not getting any clearer.
Twenty years from now I doubt that there will be anyone who can remember my father at all. He will fade into the great oblivion. His life will have been no more than a speck on the windshield of time. He, and all of his siblings, will eventually be completely forgotten. While I have the one photo to look at, most others do not.
As my father is slowly, and systematically, forgotten about, I am left to wonder how the days blur by so fast. I will suffer the same fate as my father (hopefully some years from now), but I, too, will simply disappear into nothingness. I may be remembered for a few years, a dozen at best, but, eventually, everyone will completely forget that I ever existed.
While it would be quite noble to say that, on my death bed, I wished for world peace, the reality is that on my death bed I would be far more likely to wish/pray that I wasn’t going to die.
The days do blur by, try to take note of them as they do. You are never going to get this chance again.