It is so pretty here. Even with the ugly, pointy, flipped insideout umbrella trees on the right. What are those called, anyway?
This morning I was driving home from the school drop off run with my cup of coffee in my left hand and my iPhone in iPod mode hooked up to the stereo in my right. (I drive with my mind.) As I came to the stop sign where the Jingle Bells Lady got a ride with me that one time, a few things happened: I hit random on the iPod; I saw a mattress, an old kitchen cabinet, and a For Sale sign on the lawn of the Jingle Bells Lady’s house; Rocket Man came on; and I remembered something my stepmom said on the phone a couple of days ago.
Remember all those hats your dad had?
Of course I do. (Especially that one that my brother and I got him for Christmas that one year. We were shopping at the mall with no idea what to get him, and we found this forest green rainproof sort of fedoraish hat. It was rad. He loved that thing.)
I had to give them all to the Goodwill.
(I didn’t say anything. I was trying not to cry.)
You remember where he kept them?
Yeah. They took up the whole top shelf of the coat closet by the front door.
They did. I just. I. Ihadtogivethemallaway.
I know. I know you did.
So there I was on this perfectly gorgeous morning, looking at this woman’s things on her lawn and her house for sale and hearing this song that I know must be more about drug addiction than about going to space, but my dad, oh man did he ever want to go to space, so that’s where I imagine him now. In space. And the song goes, It’s lonely out in space, and I was thinking of those damn hats and it was like he just died all over again.
Here’s what I tell myself to try and feel better: At one point, everyone was just a tiny little egg just like all the other eggs inside an ovary, surrounded by a body. And when that egg left its ovary for the bigger world outside of it, as far as the other eggs were concerned (not that I think they think, but, this doesn’t have to make sense because it’s how I feel better) that egg was gone. Forever. But, instead of being gone forever, that egg changed drastically and started growing into a person just a few inches away from the other eggs, but totally beyond their perception or imagination. And, as the egg became not an egg, but a person with muscles and bones and blood and a heart, that person only knew the world of being where they were — in water, inside someone else’s body, a body that they couldn’t imagine or understand. And, (I’ve written about this before) as they grew, they became aware of being surrounded by something alive, something, maybe, about the way she sang at night or laughed made them feel secure. And then came being born and leaving the only universe they’d ever known to exist to live so very differently here on the earth.
It only stands to reason (in my mind) that we just keep growing and moving on to bigger places that we’re already inside of but can’t even begin to imagine, right? And, so, because of all this and because my dad was so drawn to space, that’s where I think of him. Not the him that I knew, but the energy part of him. I don’t think we get to keep our memories when we die. I think those are lost when our brains stop. How could we ever go if we wanted to be with everyone here? But I hope there’s something there, some sort of impression left. I hope my dad is cruising through space finally and all that time he spent here wanting to get there has left him feeling overjoyed about it. Of course, if the whole traditional hanging out in the clouds with winged angels and being in paradise heaven with your nearest and dearest turns out to be true I won’t argue, but if I think long and hard about it, I’m not super hopeful there.
Anyway, this morning I was just gutted all over again. I came home to my empty house and in the living room the kids’ computer was on screen saver mode, and all these gorgeous images of space were hanging there for a few seconds before moving to the next one and I don’t care how stupid or crazy it seems, I found myself standing there crying looking for my dad in those pictures. Or at least looking at them and hoping that’s what he was looking at, too.
Willow’s next project at school is this really fun wax museum thing. The kids all pick a famous person and then dress like them. They line up in rows in the cafeteria and the teacher puts a colored round sticker dot on them. They can’t talk unless someone presses their button, then they recite a speech about who they are. Soph was Amelia Earhart. That kid behind her is probably Einstein, but I like to think of him as Mark Twain.
Today was the day the kids got to pick their person. Willow’s going to be Sally Ride. My dad would have loved that. Would have helped her write her speech over the phone. When I’m really daydreaming, I think of how great it would have been if he’d never gotten sick and was out here visiting us and helping her do this report in person. It’s really not all that healthy, but I can’t stop doing that kind of thing. I’ve got a bunch of my dad’s old papers and binders from NASA and lots of photos of the shuttle and of space to set her up with as props. It’ll be good.
By the way, people may think I’m unbalanced with all my theories, but the sharks know I’m on to something. SEE? (Contains an f-bomb so maybe NSFW)
When my father died my youngest was not quite two. He kept looking for his Pop-pop everywhere we went and in the throngs of people who came to the house bearing casseroles and booze. One night, a few nights after my dad was gone Devon pointed up to the stars and said, “Pop-pop.” So then I knew with complete certainty that’s where he was. Since then we have always referred to Pop-pop being “on the other side of the stars”. I think your dad is there as well because that’s where all the awesome dads hang tight.
That Mark Twain kid could also be the Lorax.
Hope you’re continuing to feel better and better every day.
Thank you so much, Heather. I am feeling better and much less alone now that I’m not the only one who thinks my dad has become some kind of space traveler. xo
I am so sorry for your loss. Your father reminds me very much of the father in the book/movie Contact, by Carl Sagan. You may want to read that someday.
And speaking of books… when I first heard the song Rocket Man, I knew what it was about, more than I’ve understood almost any other song on the air. It made me feel the same way I’d felt when I read Ray Bradbury’s short story, “The Rocket Man”. And, yes, Bernie Taupin has said that the Bradbury story was an inspiration for the song.
Not every song is about drugs, after all.
Thanks, Dan. I don’t want Rocket Man to be about drugs, so I’m glad you set me straight. Putting Contact and The Rocket Man on the top of my reading list. I’m pretty sure I read Rocket Man forever ago. My dad was a big Bradbury fan.