Dad died three years ago yesterday. That’s more than a thousand days ago.
I could tell you I think about him a thousand times a day, but that would be a lie. In the beginning, maybe. But now, somedays I don’t think about him much at all. Maybe that’s because I don’t need to. My life is full and happy, even without him here, in part because he was here. I’m okay without him, because he helped make it so. I don’t think about him all the time, but I have 30+ years of him squirrelled away for the winter.
He does cross my mind at one particular time every day: when I’m tucking Max into bed. We read a storybook, turn out the light, and say “goodnight, Poppy Jim up in the sky.” After this sign-off, Max likes to remind me, quite matter of factly: “YEAH, POPPY JIM DIED. HE IS KILLED.” And, without fail, he goes on to mention that Spook and Lacey – my husband’s childhood pooches – are also dead. “THEY IS KILLED TOO.” To him, there’s no difference. Dead dad, dead dog, dead mouse, dead spider… In some ways he is exactly right. Death is a fly in a web, a crisp leaf in your hand, and a father in a casket. Everything goes to sleep, eventually. There’s no getting out alive.
Bedtime seems like a good time to remind Max of dad, with Max going to sleep and dad enjoying a dirt nap like it’s nobody’s business. Sorry – I’m not much of a believer. Dad dying when Max was just nine months old was not part of some great divine plan. It did not happen for a reason. It happened because our bodies are full of cells and sometimes abnormal ones grow uncontrollably and they don’t give a sweet shit about the terrible fucken timing.
But sometimes when Max drifts off to sleep after our usual cuddle, I like to think another comforting arm takes the place of mine. I imagine the two of them together, enjoying an ice cream cone somewhere on the outskirts of Dreamland, right where the clouds end and the Great Beyond begins. No talking, just licking. Licking and smiling and knowing. “You’re Poppy Jim,” Max says with his eyes. “And you’re pop’s boy,” dad winks. “And ice cream is a wonderful thing.” They both nod in agreement. And they’re not strangers anymore.
I made this slideshow. Sorry if it puts you to sleep.