Can we ever truly move on? Is living on in memory the same as living?
I went to see my Papa’s grave today. I wondered if seeing the place he lays now and has laid for nearly 16 years would make it feel more real. Ever since i was little it has felt as though he would walk through the front door at any moment, finally back from some long vacation with arms wide open ready to pick me up and twirl me around.
I have no memories of him. He was gone two months after i turned 2.
I have photos of him, arms around me and loving eyes looking on me. But no real memory of him lives on in my mind. My whole life everyone has spoken of him. As if he was still here, as if he was never really gone. My grandma speaks of him with fondess and regret. Regret of the time with him wasted, regret for the place our family is in now, regret for how soon he was taken. She speaks of his integrity, his accomplishment, his love, his selflessness, and his good hugs. My father speaks of his shortcomings. The flaws that made him human. He talks about how he worked constantly, rarely saw him or seemed to take interest in him. He talks of how he felt unloved by him.
My uncle speaks of his accomplishment. How he revolutionized the supermarket business, turned a failing company into a fourtune 500 in the 11 years he worked as President.
My sister wonders if it was a secret blessing how he was taken so soon. She questions how well he would have handled his grandchildren straying from the church, how he may have handled us growing into our persons; me relatively immodest, Emily divorced and not looking to remarry, Chloe refusing to go to school.
I wonder what he was like. I wonder who he was, really. In his head, how did he see himself? What inner demons did he wrestle with? Would he have been as resistent to change as Emily feels he would be? Would he have been most fond of me? Or would i have been one of the most disappointing if he knew the way I thought of things; of religion, of modesty, of politics. I wonder how much more tempered my Grandma would be if he were here. I wonder if he would be able to to soften her victim complex and her narcissistic tendancies. I wonder. I wonder. I wonder.
It feels as though ive searched for him most of my life. Ive looked for parts of him in me. I have his eyes apprently. Im sure there are traits of his that live on in me. But i dont know for sure which they are.
True to form, we had to look for his grave. We had to wander and look over and over for it. I picked up fallen pots of flowers and placed them gently back upright as i found them. Finally we went to the front office to ask for where he was. And then we drove back to a place we had already looked and had to search around again.
And we found him. And i stood over his plaque and our family named spelled out in large letters on the bronze plate and looked at his name written above in smaller script.
A man with integrity who walked humbly with his God.
I looked at it. I read it. I took my shoes off and felt the grass above him between my toes as the breeze picked up and touseled my hair and picked up little leaves and sent them twilring through the air. I sat gently down above him as the clouds moved over and away from the sun with the breeze.
The ground had never felt so sturdy or so firm under me. I picked at the blades of grass and left some pieces of my hair beside the plaque. I imagined the breeze was his arms wrapped around me, hands messing up my hair playfully. I pictured him with me, soft, wrinkled hands on mine. I kissed my fingered and placed them gently on his grave.
I murmed quietly. Grammy walked back over and i stood up slowly and put my shoes back on. We walked slowly back toward the car and i wrapped my arm around her waist and she wrapped hers around mine.
“I’m sorry you didnt get to know him, Naomi. And i just hate thinking about all the wasted time.” I leaned my head against hers and kissed her cheek.
I walked around the car and the wind blew gently by again and carried the words “Bye Papa,” gently from my lips before i got in. Grammy was looking at an old photo of me and telling me how she sent it to her sister and was telling her how well i could dress myself.
How quickly time moves forward.
Papa is gone. I dont know if it will ever feel real to me. If he will ever feel real to me. I wonder if he can ever truly be gone until his myth is laid to rest too. I wonder. I wonder. I wonder.
I didnt get to meet you papa. But my heart sings for you. My one wish in life is to have met you. I dont know if there will ever be a day i can stop searching for you.