My biological father died today. I have been searching around this room trying to locate my feelings as if they were stashed under this pile of books on my desk. The truth is I don’t know how to feel, which in turn keeps me searching. I have only seen Jimmy three or four times since I was 12, which is part of the reason I don’t know where to find my feelings. My childhood was a messy one, words like Devil worship, haunted house, drugs, drinking, spiritual searches were thrown around all the time, it was the 70’s after all.
These are things I remember about him; he was an alcoholic and smoked a crazy amount of cigarettes. He was an amazing photographer, and I sometimes like to think my son somehow got some of his talents. I remember going into the basement with him, where he had his dark room, and he would show me how to develop the pictures he had taken. I remember him sleeping on the couch after he came home from work and I was always amazed how his body was the full length of the couch. I remember one time he woke me up in what seemed like the middle of the night and the two of us drove into the city to watch the NYC Marathon. I remember seeing the runners, and I remember walking around some quaint village and stopping into a kite store and buying a kite. I remember the summers where he would lay on a lawn chair in the backyard while my two sisters and I played on the swing set while Crosby, Stills, and Nash played on the radio. I remember one day he brought home a box and in that box, there was a kitten that he had found at work. I remember going to work with him on days he was in the “office, ” and I remember playing on the bulldozers. I remember the smell of the yard, a mix of diesel oil, dirt and sweat and I remember my grandfather and uncles all there while my sisters and I ran up and down the hallway.
That is all I remember, the total sum of all my memories of Jimmy in one long paragraph. I don’t remember any real conversations. I don’t remember any yelling. I just remember my mother telling us to get in the car and us driving somewhere because she didn’t want us to be home when he got all his stuff. That’s how I remember finding out my parents were getting divorced. Somewhere among all of it I would like to think he loved me, loved my sisters he just didn’t know how to show it.
When my mother remarried I remembering referring to Jimmy as my uncle because it was all just too confusing for me. I was the only one I knew whose parents were divorced. Shortly after my mother remarried we moved from Long Island to Upstate and eventually, we lost touch. He would enter the corners of my mind now and then, but for a long while, he just stayed safely tucked away. I thought about him each time I got married and even sent him an invitation to the first one, that went unanswered. I thought about him when I had my son and even went to visit him so he could meet his first and only grandchild at the time. That picture is now 26 years old, and Jimmy is roughly the same age as I am now. But now he’s gone, and I feel like there are things I wish I said to him, things I wish we could have talked about. I wish he could have seen the photographer that little baby turned into and they could talk shop and compared cameras. I wish he could have met my daughter.
But now he’s gone, and I am searching for some feelings, any feelings, and as I look around this room and the tears start to flow.