Well at least I know what this pain is. I’ve had some memories pop up the last few days and they may very well have been triggered by looking up the road my grandmom H lived on when I came into the world. She lived there for many years. I think I was in my early 20s if I remember correctly when she moved to Chester County for a few years, before moving to New Jersey to be closer to her sisters.
The house/street I googled is in Upper Darby. Only a few miles from where I live now. I actually live in the same township now, but the section I live in has its own name and post office. I couldn’t stop looking at the street and trying to figure out if her house had been on the end or one in from there. But I recognized (vaguely) the parking lot close by and remembered the back yard was always just an area of tall grass. I couldn’t see that on google but I pictured it in my mind.
As soon as I clicked to see the street, it showed me a wall that becomes a porch and although that is not part of the house my grandmom lived in, I remembered it so well. It felt like a splash of cold water as soon as it appeared on the screen. In fact I’ve seen it in my dreams, walking up the sidewalk past it.
Today I was thinking about “the old house” and hanging out up there in ‘monkey’s field.’ I have no idea why we called it that. There aren’t any monkeys living wild in Delco. I remembered sitting up there on the small hill one day. I forget who I’d met up there. Paul? Frank? I forget. But while sitting on the grass, smoking a cigarette at the age of 14, maybe 15, I turned my head to look behind me, probably because I heard something.
I saw my father approaching. It was the first time ever I’d seen him up there. I didn’t even know he knew the place existed. I never saw him there again either. It’s frustrating to remember snippets like this. I remember that part, but I don’t remember why he was there, what he had wanted is a blank. I’m sure I walked the entire three blocks back to the house with him also, but I don’t remember that either. I don’t remember if he was angry or indifferent. Certainly there would have been no joy in him seeing me up there.
Not that he never felt joy, but if he was looking for me then, at that age, he had a reason that would not have made him happy.
This led me to another memory. My brother (Chris) and I told my father we were going up the street to get cigarettes. There was a place just across from the entrance to monkey’s field I’d been getting cigarettes from since I was 13 and that’s where we were headed.
When we got back from that errand, Chris and I walked past the house, crossed at the corner of our one-way neighborhood road and sat down on the sidewalk of the street that crossed ours. I had some canabis and so we smoked a little. It was one of the first times Chris had tried it and being a song writer, he came out with a really good and funny poem. Unfortunately I don’t remember it.
Just as we were settling into our buzz, we turned to see our father coming out of the alley from behind our house. Chris freaked out. He got worried. You’d probably say paranoid, thinking that our father was looking for us.
I was like, “He’s probably just running some errand for himself.”
Chris and I were 16 and 18 respectively. Why the fuck would he be looking for us, just because we hadn’t gotten back from a cigarette run in the middle of a summer day?
It was out of character even for our father to get in the car to come looking for us.
It could seem like it isn’t, given the story I told above, but that was truly a rare occurrence. We moved to that neighborhood when I was 10 and these two times are the only times I remember my father ever coming to look for me. For us.
Chris wanted to go back to the house because he ‘knew’ our father was leaving to look for us. He was sure of it. I thought it was ridiculous, and although I was beyond disappointed to shorten our fun, I relented and we went back to the house.
My father got in shortly after we did and wanted to know where we’d gotten off to. I told him we’d decided to go for a walk. It turned out Chris was right.
He wanted my brother to sign his social security card, which had apparently just come in the mail. That was it? I was baffled and thought, “Couldn’t that have waited?” But I didn’t dare ask. My father was clearly agitated and and I boogied up to my room.
Abandoning my brother because I was still stoned.
Just as I was taking off up the steps I could hear my father berating my brother as he signed is SS card. But knowing I couldn’t do anything anyway, I kept going.
After some time had passed, I ventured back down to see if my brother was OK. He had since made it down to his bedroom in the basement.
I asked Chris what “Dad got so mad about” and he said, “I signed my card wrong.”
I laughed a little (as I laugh now) because all he was doing was signing his name. “How did you sign your name wrong?”
“I was supposed to sign it Christopher and I signed Chris.”
My father’s timing on a day to come hunting for us could not have been any worse. I sometimes wonder if he had radar to know we were up to no good and that Chris would be too stoned to know how to sign his name.
I know you could use the argument about kids going missing and that as a father he was worried. But since it wasn’t something he did all the time, since we went off and did our thing often, at even younger ages, without him getting a wild hair up his ass with some controlling need to have us there right then and there on the regular, this, to this day, does not make sense to me.
I have a third of his ashes. My brother and sister wanted to have him cremated. My brother in particular could not bear to think of our father buried in the dirt, his body rotting away. And since my father did not let us know what his wishes were on this, that is what we had done.
I don’t really want the ashes. But I’ve held onto them not knowing what to do with them and when they were given to me, I certainly would not have expressed my lack of desire to have ‘my share’ in my possession. So I took them.
I had found a short, round, squatty, ceramic vase in my father’s apartment after he’d died, so I used that to keep the ashes in.
Lately I’ve been thinking about taking a garden shovel up to the site where his parents and aunts are buried, digging a little hole and putting the bag of ashes in it. So he can be with his family, even if it is just some of him.
Before that, I’d been thinking about making a list of every place (town, house, area, whatever) that has memories and meaning for me and then driving around to each one and taking pictures. Then posting them on a blog and writing about the memories of each place I’ve taken photos of.
I’ve wanted to do all of this to help me through the grieving process. In taking my father ashes and burying them as much as I can, I think that would help me with some closure and to help get a sort of weight off of my shoulders. It would be a symbol of sorts, yes, of me letting him go. But I know it’s not that easy or simple. It’s more like taking a weight off. Each time I think about that vase and his ashes it feels like I’m being dragged down, or more accurately, held down by it. Or at least that’s one of the things contributing. So doing something with it that will also give me peace of mind will help release some of that weight.
So just in the last couple days, I have had a strange thought and a picture in my mind, which combines the trip down memory lane with my father’s ashes.
OK this is weird, but here it is. I drive to all those places with that vase containing my father’s ashes. And then when I feel that I’m finished, then I take the ashes to the plot of my grandparents’.
At least if it doesn’t help me heal, it will be a memory in itself.
I really kind of got away from the point of grief, which i mentioned in the beginning. But these are all the things that have come up for me in my grieving. The last couple days, I’ve had these memories come up and have felt the tears wanting to break through.
Today I found myself wondering why now? But the truth is this happens periodically. Generally though, in the past, I am not willing to be with them. And although I was doing things today to distract from it a little, I didn’t use any substance to try to escape the pain. No beer, no weed, not even food. I ate. But not to escape any pain…except hunger pangs.