Today is March 30th, it would have been my fathers 66th birthday. It is fitting that I am working in the yard and fixing the irrigation pipe. Fixing items was one of my dads greatest traits. He was extremely handy, worked hard and maintained what he owned.
I have Johnny Cash in my ears. Most ironically he is covering Till we Meet Again, a song that speaks to the hopefulness of a life ever-after. My father taught me how to fix sprinkler lines on a similar spring day decades ago in our front yard after the mishandling of a shovel. I can still see his hands as he showed me to hand sand and prepare the pipe for glue and give the fitting enough time to dry test before burying it again.
This birthday has been particular bright in my thoughts. Not just the fact that it is the first without him but that in just a few days I will be the age he was when I was born. My life has encapsulated my fathers mid life to his passing. the years that I have currently, only amount to his last remaining.
The totality of death is something that we all grapple with in different ways. I think to the Sicilian and Portugese woman of the Central Valley that clothe themselves in black to mourn their husbands death. I think of the long tradition of New Orleans burial processions with early ragtime jazz played jubilantly as they march in such a lively manner down the street. I think of my own memories of death.
Though I had people pass in my lifetime, no one close to me really passed until I was 22. My friend was struck killed by a drunk driver. His shattered, makeup textured face still haunts me as I approach coffins to this day. I then lost my grandmother and my great aunt in a period of eight months. My aunt being particularly shocking as she was fine just hours before her death on the floor of her kitchen.
Now my father. His burned remains stand dry and memory laden upon my shelf in my home. He was my father but he too was a builder, a creator, a businessman and obsessive. I especially have taken the nature of obsessiveness within me. The blue, cheap, velvet bag houses his remains as a person on this earth.
We are made up of the same elements that are in the earth, but we are also made of the experiences that happen during our interactions. I am thankful that I had the father I did. We were close at times and distant at others but what I can take most from my father is the innate nature to build with my hands and mind.
I am building a bike at the moment and though I am not a superstitious person I did have an encounter that is particularly memorable. I was disassembling the bike and needed to remove the front compensatory sprocket. A nut that is an inch and a half across locked with Locktite and eighty pounds of force. I had searched everywhere for a fix that would work by itself in my garage but never looked to his toolbox that I inherited. I then happened upon two foot long box end wrench that was in a dusty middle drawer. Why did my dad have this? He was primarily a wood builder and most of the tools are carpentry related. I removed it from the drawer. I then put it on the nut and pulled and with a bit of effort the nut came loose. It was an incredibly moving experience as after all the work to get it removed all it took were my dads tools.