Brittle skin. Exposed roots. A broken heart.
It hasn't been long since my father died so the feelings are fresh. They hit me often. I believe that some might call me a "functioning mourner". I'm able to do what I need to do to get through my day while quietly masking my feelings until I explode. When my father passed, it was already late into the night. The very next day, I woke up at 4am, took a 2 hour train ride to work and taught two 4 hour classes. That night we took a red eye back home to prepare for the funeral.
It wasn't until we landed, walking past the gates to the exit, that I thought of the last time my father picked me up from the airport. The memory overwhelmed me so much that I finally broke down, crying hysterically in front of the TSA.
Since then I've been able to outwardly appear fine but I would be remiss if I didn't mention that I lose myself in grief from time to time. I am now slowly learning to deal with that.
Many things remind me of my father. Music and movies are hard triggers for me. He loved going to the movies. He loved 70s rock. I was in London, eating Thai food at a very nice restaurant with absolutely nothing to do with my dad when all of a sudden I hear Jim Croce. Instant tears. I went to go see a blockbuster movie over the summer. I saw a father and son sitting in a movie theater and just started balling. For a while, it all was overwhelming. It made my days hard and eventually my nights. I started having vivid dreams of mundane events with my father in them. And thus it was a constant cycle of seeing and being tormented by the memory of him.
With the recent passing of beloved Robin Williams, I revisited an old movie of his, Hook. The movie tells the story of Peter Pan all grown up played by Williams. There's a scene in the middle where Peter must convince the Lost Boys that he is still the exact same Peter Pan that they all loved and followed many years ago. A small boy goes up to Peter and carefully examines his face. He reaches out and touch's Peter's face. The boy turns Peter's head this way and that. The moment is beautiful and exemplifies child-like innocence and curiosity. After careful consideration, the boy's face lights up and he says in a simple statement, "Oh there you are Peter".
I love that scene and this movie. There's a lot of themes and emphasis on childhood imagination, families, love, and acceptance. The movie also holds such a sentimental place in my heart since my own father, named Peter, was an Army pilot that loved to fly. My childhood is filled with him exclaiming to be THE Peter Pan and later after the movie Hook came out, being able to crow louder than any Lost Boy, pirate and Captain alike.
It is such a happy and loved memory that my remembrances began to outweigh my sorrow. I didn't cry and it wasn't a trigger. It was a realization. I realized that I can remember my father through all the associations that I encounter and choose to hold on to the good memories they elicit rather than push them away before finally bursting into hot, sad tears. It's small and silly perhaps. But it's truthful and real for me.
I'm not perfect. I don't expect my sadness to go away. And though he isn't here, I will try and keep his memory alive by carrying his traditions, his likes, and his hopes for me. This is a small step for me and something I've finally been able to accept. No longer will I turn away and ignore my feelings. I know now. The next time I happen to think of my father I will approach it like the boy said with such simple acceptance, "oh there you are Peter".
You can find that adorably gut-wrenching scene here.