I want to close my eyes and hear my father’s voice. I want to remember what it sounded like when he called my name, “Rachel.”
Shit, I can’t remember, 30 years have gone by, he is still dead. I have a headstone to look at now, I would prefer his head and not that marble slab. That marble slab that I have called my dad for 30 years. It’s somewhere in New Jersey, I don’t even know the town. My last visit home we got lost trying to get there. I was so ashamed of myself. How could you get lost going to find your dad, going home? I should have it tattooed in my brain. Go here on the interstate, get off on that exit, enter the cemetery, go down to the far left corner and there it is, five rows back. I don’t have it in my brain, so I call my aunt and she tells me where to go.
I stand and read those beautiful words, “You are my sunshine……under you light we shall grow.” I stand there and get really freaked out. He is in a coffin under me. Yuck, I don’t want to be buried. I want to be cremated and my ashes scattered at sea. So I stand there and feel bad, I am standing on top of my father, it is so morbid. I look around and see that just a few rows away is our family friend Susan. She is near my dad, maybe they keep each other company. Maybe they reminisce about old times, when they were young and funny. I look further back and see the four jewish stars. The big stars that make up the headstone of the four children who died in the fire. I knew that story my whole life. I cried for them my whole life. I cried for their parents. I used to think my dad would look out for them too. He must have had a big job, trying to make all those souls laugh, he was such a funny man. Mel the Jew. I miss you Mel the Jew.
(My dad is a teenager here)
What would you look like if you hadn’t died? Would all of your hair have gone? You would still have those mesmerizing blue eyes, big like saucers. Would you still be skinny? A skinny man with no hair and big blue eyes. Wondering does no good because you are still dead, Mel the Jew is still dead. My dad is still dead. He isn’t going to put on that wig and dress up the Bert and Ernie dolls ever again.
Stuck in time and space. That is what happens when you die, I think. I am a big believer that your soul leaves your physical self and moves on. Stuck somewhere in time and space, watching over us, or maybe coming into another form. My memory doesn’t change, my memory doesn’t leave. Your body is the same in my visions. Mel the Jew will always look the same, he will always be the same. He will always be 38 years old, a big bald spot in his head, blue eyes like saucers, skinny legs in tiny cut off jean shorts. That is how you will always be, even if you aren’t, not really that person anymore at all.
The soul leaves but our memories stay. My step father Carl will always be strong and healthy with a thick head of hair and a big smile, his body gone, but not my memory. That is how he shall stay with me, just like that. My beautiful cousin Natalie. She will always be tall with those incredibly white teeth. She will always have those gorgeous big lips that red lipstick looked stunning on. She will always be young and perfect, just like that. My friend Pat who died 15 years ago, alone in a hotel room, he isn’t that. He is handsome and fit, he is the produce manager at the health food store, he loves Frank Zappa. That is what he looks like in my permanent record. I returned home at 5am from my sleep study. Half awake I opened my computer. The first thing that opened up on the screen was a picture of Ronan. I immediately fly away to New Mexico and think of his mom. How is she? I ran my fingers across the screen and touched his beautiful 2-year-old face. I thought this is his permanent record. He shall remain like this forever in time and space. Beautiful and golden.
Death will come to us all. I learned that far too young. Death means I will see you no more, not in the physical realm anyway. Death meant that your bones left, they went somewhere that I didn’t care to know about. It was your soul that I was more interested in. I needed to know that you could still hear me and see me, even though you were out of reach.
So your bones are in a coffin somewhere, or your ashes are out to sea, and your soul is floating up in the sky, but your picture is as it were when you were perfect and here. Your memory is when you breathed and laughed and called my name, “Rachel”.