–From David Gates (Bread), Everything I Own
I miss you so much these days. It’s so difficult to make the drive to see you. Like Harry Chapin said, “The job is a hassle and the kids got the flu, but it’s sure nice talking to you…”
When I arrive at the nursing home, I find you sleeping. I sit in your wheelchair beside your bed waiting for you to wake up. I find that you have died a little more. You awaken and call me Becky. “I’m Jennie,” I tell you. “Your favorite daughter.” We laugh, but I am sad that you have forgotten me again.
J is with me. She is 10, now, and can hardly remember all those years you loved her so. But, I cannot forget. It was the same love you had for me – your baby girl, who came in the late, late summer of your life. In fact, you think J is me and you grow confused and sad struggling to understand if the little girl standing in front of you is not Jennie then where is Jennie? And, why is this grown woman declaring she is Jennie? You wish she would go away and leave you with the little Jennie, who is really J. The internal battle cry of your mind: WHERE IS JENNIE?
I’ve been asking myself that a lot lately, dad. I was remembering the other day all the time I spent in your study as a little girl. Your tall, wide bookcase held mystery and adventure for me. I poured over your poetry books and listened to your Joan Baez and Tammy Wynette records. My friends would have thought it weird, but I loved them. I remember how much you didn’t like Rod McKewn – how much you liked “the way I write.”
This past Christmas, I was reading from a poetry book you gave me and out slipped a note you’d written to me. You referenced my poetic mind, my fair skin, my dark hair. (It is mostly gray now.) I sat on the couch wiping puddles of my tears off the leather. I miss you. I miss you. I miss you.
You awaken from your 24-hour-a day, round-the-clock nap. You ask, “Where do you live these days?” You don’t remember. I tell you I live in Oklahoma City, 15 miles away. But, I might as well be 10,000 miles away. I can’t reach you. What took you away from me? I hate it that you are gone, and yet, you are still here. Some of you; parts of you; pieces of you. I wish you could come back for a day and tell me what to do, dad.
In the last three months, I’ve attended as many funerals. Mitchell was 10; Shirley was 59; Zach was 60. I haven’t attended a funeral in 16 years and so I’m kind of mad that I’ve had to deal with these losses all at once. Then, today, there was Ron’s picture in the paper. “One year ago today…” Ron was two years older than me. I’m starting to recognize the people in the obits that have been all but anonymous to me for the past 20 years. I dread the day I open it up and find your pictures staring back at me. You will be gone then, but in too many ways you are gone now. And, like David Gates wrote, you can’t hear the words I long to say.
This is true dad:
Set me free, set me free
The finest years I ever knew