I don't miss my father. Or more precisely, I don't miss him any more than I did when he was alive.
My father was, in many, many ways, a very good father. In the realm of the practical, he made sure that I had everything that I needed not just to survive, but to thrive. Whatever I wanted to pursue, he made sure that I had what I needed in order to do so. When I became a journalism major (which I don't think he thought was such a good idea--though one never knew for sure with him), he made sure that I not only had everything one needs for college, but also that I had subscriptions to The Atlantic Monthly and The New Yorker so that I could see how journalism was supposed to be done. He supported me when I went to Michigan State, when I went to Yale, and when I graduated from Yale without a job. As I started my life of changing professions every couple of years, he made sure that I had the tools that I would need. And more important, he managed to instill in me the belief that I could do whatever it was that I set out to do. I'm especially impressed by and grateful for that, given that he couldn't do that for himself. Instead, he seemed to find a way not to be or do what he wanted.
But beyond this practical realm, he was not an emotional presence in my life. There are many, many people with whom I have only a passing friendship about whom I know more that is important. And most of the important things that I know about my father, I have learned from others since his passing. One of the things I do know is that he was different when he was younger, and that it was only later that he drifted into absence and, apparently, hopelessness. So I understand that for those of you who knew him when he was younger, this might sound strange. If you have other memories of him, I invite you to share them--they are something that I'd really like to hear. But from my memory, my father was a towering and somewhat intimidating silence. When I was younger, that silence would be punctured by laughter or temper, but eventually, even those outbursts faded. So when I try to talk about how I feel about my father and his passing, my basic emotional repsonse is not that I miss my father, but that I miss, as I did even when he was alive, any father.
I don't mean for that to be as harsh as it sounds. I am not accusing or admonishing him or his memory. I am beginning to understand that that is all he was capable of. For the longest time, I felt guilty that we didn't have a closer relationship--as if there was something that I should have done--as if I should somehow have been more interesting. But then I came to realize that as the parent and the adult, the development of our relationship was his responsibility. If I was not what he wanted me to be, he should have told me, and in any case, he should have done more to build a relationship between us. That realization left me angry. But then as an adult in the world, seeking to form my own relationships, I have come to learn how difficult building a relationship actually is, particularly given how poorly our family seems to equip one for that. I understand what he was facing and how difficult it was for him, and I see that he did what he could. And with that understanding, my anger has softened to sadness.
It is in that sadness that I often feel closest to my father. When I read a book or see a movie that explores the theme of fathers and sons, from The Odyssey to The Sopranos, I feel excluded from the rest of the world. There is an emotion in those works that I can see, but that I have never felt. I miss that emotion not as one who has lost it, but as one who envies those who have had it. And when I feel that alienation and sadness, I feel close to my father. I don't know the details of his childhood, but I suspect that feeling excluded from the rest of the world was at its emotional core. I know that feeling, and I understand how it could lead to hopelessness and, ultimately, to passing. This memorial is the beginning of my project to rescue my father's memory--his soul, if you will--from that pain, and by doing that, to save myself from the same fate.
One of the other things that my father (and my mother) gave me for which I am truly grateful is Cape Cod, especially Provincetown. I have begun to travel around the world. I've been from the Vatican to Venice to the Parthenon. I've been from Svostrup, Denmark to the Arizona desert to Harbour Island in the Bahamas. I've never found a place as beautiful, a place that I'm as comfortable in as Provincetown. And from what I've heard, my father felt the same way--he was happiest in New York and Provincetown. That is another way in which I feel close to him. So in thanks for all that he gave me--to put him in a place of sublime beauty from which we may all heal--I would like us to disperse his ashes here. But before we do so, I would like to invite everyone who wants to to share their thoughts and feelings.