He was a simple man, his worldly belongings fit easily into two chairs of my badass minivan, consisting mostly of rocks, wood carvings, and feathers. He had a box full of pictures – remnants of good times – memories immortalized in time by the click of a camera and ink on paper. He had some sweet grass. Lastly, his pocket knife and shoes along with an “Indian blanket” in a backpack. He never went anywhere without his backpack – always prepared to sleep under the stars, always prepared to never return. And finally, one day, without his backpack, without his sweet grass or even his shoes – he was whisked away to the hospital. Deathly ill he clung to life for almost a week. When I arrived I promised to get him outside. Under the Colorado blue sky, cotton wood fluff floating through the air, warm dry breeze blowing in his hair, he took his last breath. And there I stood, silent. Time stopped momentarily as if the Earth ceased to spin.
Two weeks later and I am just now integrating his rocks and wood carvings into my own yard in Texas. His feathers placed lovingly in a basket along with his sweet grass. His photos merged into the treasure chest with my own. His shoes given with love to his primero primo. His pocket knife will belong to my daughter someday but for now it is mine. His blanket, torn and worn, perhaps I will salvage and make into satchels to carry sacred objects. His backpack currently at my feet, tucked under my desk, empty with no purpose as of yet other than to remind me how he yearned to be nomadic. He yearned to escape a life of servitude to a dysfunctional family. He dreamed of a day he could be free of the yolk placed upon him by his own hands years ago when he chose to be caretaker in his mother’s home.
I have yet to cry out my grief with great ferocity, it is trapped in my chest along with the regrets I have for having not called more, spent more time and all those type of regrets people feel when someone they love dies.
My dad, my father, I forgive him now for his depression, his alcoholism, his domestic violence, his melancholy mood that kept me distant for all my adult life. I see now how he tried, I see how he loved and it only came to me clearly after seeing how he died.