Tuesday, April 29, 2008

death and whatnot

In this book I was reading but then abandoned--Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay--two characters are talking about how Jewish people are supposed to be buried naked.

It's kind of an incidental snippet of conversation, but I think it's the thing I'll remember most from the 67 pages I read. My dad died of ALS seven years ago, and though, when it happened, I spent so much time thinking about him being dead--being dead and in the ground, even--I never actually thought about what he might or might not be wearing. So when I read this dialogue, I thought, Oh my god, he was naked!

I remembered sitting in some room in the funeral home with my family and Stupid Daddy and all of a sudden noticing the coffin in the corner, with an Israeli flag draped over it. "Is that him?" I asked Stupid Daddy, stupidly, and he said, "I think so." And then it was real. Or I should say it was real again, because that was the thing about him dying: it kept going away, and then it kept coming back again.

But even though I was aware of him being dead inside a box right there in front of me, I didn't think about clothing. And I didn't think about it during the funeral service, or at the cemetery, where friends and family dug the hole and he was lowered into it, or afterwards when, for many months, I would wonder what state of decomposition his body was in.

I guess, if pressed, I might have always just pictured him in a suit, since that's what he wore to work every day and was so comfortable in he didn't change his clothes--or even so much as loosen his tie--until it was time to get ready for bed.

For years after he died, I dreamed about him. In every dream, I would say, "So you're not really dead!" and there would be this rush of relief and joy. It always turned out, though, that he was sick--but not dying sick; stabilized sick. So he'd be in a wheelchair in one dream, or using a cane in another, but it didn't really matter because he was alive and he wasn't going to get any sicker.

I stopped dreaming about him a couple of years ago, but to this day I keep banging up against the reality that my kids will never meet their grandfather. It's new every time, like I'll crash into that thought with no warning, no "just so you know, you've had this realization before, you might want to put on some shin guards and a helmet, oh and by the way? you should be getting used to it by now." I just keep crashing.


Alyssa Severn said...

I still have dreams like that about my grandmother who died five years ago. We'll be sitting on her back porch, or walking around the gardens and I'll say something about how sad I was when I thought she was dead. How much I missed her. And she'll say that she'll always be there with me.

Waking up from those is no cup of tea.

Cheri said...

He's not dead, not in spirit, not in dreams, and not in you.

Stupiddaddy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stupiddaddy said...

Actually, they won't meet EITHER grandfather. My dad has been dead for 20 years. Sniff.

Deb Abramson said...

Yeah, but nobody cares about your dad.

KD said...

ooow, face. (That's like saying, "no you din't!!")