This is not a tribute, though I must admit I wish it was. It was not even a help, even though that was its original intent — it failed at that. It ended up being amazing, even though I’m pretty sure I was doing it entirely wrong the whole time.
Three days ago, my dad died. I never called him my dad to his face, though I spent most of the years we coexisted on this planet thinking of him as that. At first it was pure shit-headed stubbornness, which devolved into a tongue-tied pile of failure to overcome an old habit. He was my father, as much a father as I was ever going to get anyway, and I failed to tell him that. I would advise anyone reading this to avoid that particular failure or anything even approaching it if at all possible.
Do I even deserve to tell you about the road trip, and my selfish notion that it had some significance and maybe made up for something, whether or not that thing even mattered? It was not even an epic road trip by any sense of scale; the fact it felt epic was only due to the pathetic nature of everything else around it. It was not transcendent, but it did manage to do some transcending, I think.
Late in July 2007 he called me to tell me my mom was gone. It was expected, a blessing, relief; any loss from the perspective of those left behind was pure selfish, I assure you. In case it’s unclear, I am selfish. I am also practical, so I scheduled almost two weeks off beginning the day after the first payday in August. I spent the first day preparing and woke up the next day at four in the morning, piled the preparations and the kid into the Kia, and seventeen hours later we were there. I was a little blind and maybe crazy, but there anyway, somehow safe. We, the child and I, were supposed to be a help; help organize, help clean, help get all the things that needed doing done. The fact that those were our intentions is a testament to the last of my idealism, or more accurately what I wish was the last of it.
It was the most amazing series of days that followed; hot as hell mostly, but cocooned in the efficient basics afforded us by a late model zippy little economy car, we indulged in what most normal folks would consider a series of bad ideas. It was irresponsible and I have no excuse, but I will never ever regret even one moment of it, except the part where I kept thinking about how bad the ideas were and not how awesome it felt to follow them. Fortunately that sort of responsible thought hardly surfaced at all, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for that foolishness.
We would set out in the morning, not early, and wander to various points of interest in the Pacific Northwest: Mt. St. Helens, Multnomah Falls, Timberline Lodge … we would be headed to one place and add in another on the way back even if it was hundreds of miles not-on-the-way, the best bad ideas I’ve ever had, and probably ever will. All in all three thousand miles in ten days, feeling quite rightly that we couldn’t afford a bit of it, but affording it anyway.
There are only a very few pictures left of it, aside from these entirely fuzzy memories that I am furious with myself for not being a better curator of. The drive home was an adventure which I shared with my son in honor of the many road trips my parents gave to me, though I know I could never give as well as they did. I did what I could, and I hope it was ok.
I did not save one picture of my dad. Which pales in comparison to the fact that I never called him my dad in a way I could be sure he heard me. I can only hope he knew but I must admit that’s a pretty far-fetched thing to hope, as far as hopes go.
I loved my mom and my dad, and I hope they knew that well beyond what I showed of it.