For most of us, death will not announce itself with a blare of trumpets or a roar of cannons. It will come silently, on the soft paws of a cat. It will insinuate itself, rubbing against our ankle in the midst of an ordinary moment. An uneventful dinner. A drive home from work. A sofa pushed across a floor. A slight bend to retrieve a morning newspaper tossed into a bush. And then, a faint cry, an exhale of breath, a muffled slump.
My father died on this day two years ago. He was at home with his wife. They were getting ready to watch their favorite TV show. He had just eaten his favorite pasta dish. He slumped over in his chair and that was it. He officially lasted until the next day but really that was when he left us.
I always imagined that he would have a dramatic death. He was a big-hearted and volatile man. He was unafraid to get into it with, well, virtually anyone. I saw him kick the hub cap off a moving vehicle that had cut us off on West End Avenue and 79ths street, and was with him when he pulled a vandal out of a parked car. I thought he’d die in a pool of blood. I worried about it constantly. But he left quietly.
I think about him less now. Of course, I still think about him but I am not consumed with it as I was for the first year after he died, when his absence was acute. Almost every block in the city, certainly on the Upper West Side where he lived, holds a memory, some happy, others not so much, of the old man. I miss his stories, I miss asking him questions about the theater and the Dodgers and Damon Runyon.
But I don’t miss how tough he was on me, or the fact that even as an adult, I felt anxious around him. I don’t miss how competitive he was with me, and I don’t miss worrying about his financial state. When he was alive, I don’t think there was a time when I wasn’t afraid of him, even if it was on a subtle or subconscious level.
I feel relief now that he’s not around. I loved him very much and the feeling was mutual. He was proud of me, he was proud all of his kids, as well as his neices and nephews. He and I buried the hachet long before he died and I tried my best to accept and love him for who he was not what I wanted or needed him to be when I was a kid. Like most parents, he did the best that he could.
But I don’t compare myself to him these days. I am my own man. I remember his warmth and compassion, his laugh and his righteous indignation, and that for all his flaws he was a good man. I’m proud to be his son.