I mentioned news which makes processing anything a little difficult. I've been waiting for this call for nearly 23 years, and tonight it's happened.
My father is dead. He would be 77. All I know at this point is that he was found in his Berlin, New Jersey apartment yesterday or today. I'm sure more will come out in the days to come.
Right now I'm not sure how I feel. Inside there's a tightness in my chest, but not real tears. See, 23 years ago my father stepped out of my life. It was his choice. And it's not like there wasn't president for it. We had hardly spoken for more than 12 years before that. So I never really knew him. I'm not entirely certain I missed much.
There were the various Father/Son events, some of which I had with my grandfather, whom I felt closer to. I still feel the sting from when he passed. The only "confusion" (that was the word they gave at the time for boys who grew up without their fathers) was dealing with friends who didn't understand why my Dad wasn't around, or didn't show me things, or talk about football, or whatever. And it was dealing with their sadness or pity for me that hurt the most.
So it's almost like the passing of a stranger. I don't know, maybe more will come later as I digest this. Maybe this tightness in my chest will release in some catharsis. I'm not going to lay money on it, though. Maybe this is just shock at the news, but I don't think so. Like I said, I've had 23 years to prepare and wait for it. Twenty-three years is a great distance to bridge, like the 12 years were before that (and, if I had to guess, was part of him cutting me out of his life when I didn't embrace the stranger whom I vaguely remembered when he reappeared).
At the same time that happened we were dealing with other things in our lives that needed our attention and care. More urgent problems presented themselves. The result of having gone through those was more rewarding, if you can use that word for slogging through various hells. My other relationships became more important, as they should have at that time of life.
But morning and the rites of funerals aren't for the dead, they're for the living. The dead are past caring. I'm not sure what rites there will be. My uncle is taking care of things (which is different from the last communication my brother and I had from our father). It's not like he treated my uncle any better than he did us. When people leave this world, they leave behind things, like their bodies. Things that will need to be divided up and scattered to the winds. Signatures need to be put on papers, calls need to be made. Someone needs to tell the bees. I doubt my Father has much in the way to pass on to us that we don't already carry.
I feel like I should be feeling more. There should be something going on, something to mark his passing through this world. Maybe I'll think of it later.
We, my friends and myself, are approaching that time in life were the balance between those we know and those who have "gone on before us" as they say, begins to tip in the opposite direction. More people are dying than we meet. We buy black suits. We get piles of cards ready. We get the words ready to be spoken. The sweeping hands of the clock become scythes. We listen to the ticking of our own clocks deep in the night, listening for the fault in the gear works. We say the same things we heard when we were young and maybe the invincible kids will listen. Probably not.
Frederick Karl Buchheit, half of my gene pool, is no more. And so it goes.