Today is the second anniversary of my father’s suicide. I’ve spent the last year thinking I would go to Texas to see some of my family, be in my hometown, and visit the grave as I had done last year, but when Jason and I looked at our finances a couple of weeks ago, we decided it wasn’t something we could swing. Since my father and I didn’t have a good relationship, being in my hometown is the only thing that gives me any sense of connection to him, although it’s a tenuous connection at best. Still, I can’t put to rest the longing to have a connection to him, presumably because I am no more distant to him now than I was during the last few years of his life. The only difference is that the potential for reconciliation died when he put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger.
So today, I’m here at home in Philadelphia, and most everything that makes me feel connected to him is there in Texas, so all I have is his stuff piled in my basement and the memories of that day forward. I think about how this time two years ago, I was going about my merry business while my family was trying to figure out what to do, including how to contact me because I hadn’t been in contact with any of them for several years prior to my father’s suicide. I think about the message from my cousin to call my aunt, the conversation with my aunt. “Your father took his own life.” The sheer incomprehensibility of it. I cried. I called my mom. Jason bought plane tickets, and the next day we went to Texas.
I remember the first night we were there, I abruptly awoke in the middle of the night, scared and out of breath after feeling his presence and seeing a bright white light. I have no idea if it was something outside of me or just my troubled unconscious. The funeral home was able to make him presentable for the casket, and I remember he didn’t look like himself. I remember standing at the graveside for the service, and the short stacked heels of my pumps slowly sinking into the soft, moist soil.
I’ve come to see that there is no true healing from this. Residual pain lingers. There are things that comfort me, like acknowledgement from those who were close to him that my presence in their lives is of value because it’s more than I ever got from him. There are things that remind me of him, like aviation, onion rings, and my own reflection. There are things that remind me of his death, like any reference to suicide or talk of guns. Then are the things that remind me of his absence from my life, both before and after his death, which are harder to label because they aren’t things so much as feelings or a sense of who I am. His suicide often feels unreal to me, but then I consider that he was often unreal to me even in life, and the reality is that I will only ever know him as much as I can the contents of the boxes of his stuff in my basement, and he will never know me, which sadly, was his choice.