I cried exactly twice in the year surrounding my dad’s death; the last time, at the funeral service, as I listened to my cousin Lisa read a passage from the Bible. My brother and I sat in the front pew and I remember that I wanted to stop crying before we had to stand to give the priest the wine and plate of bread.
I didn’t cry when I went to the nursing home to find my dad in a deep sleep, hooked up to an oxygen machine, and was unable to wake him up. I didn’t cry when I got a phone call a few hours later from my cousin Ray, telling me that my dad had died. I didn’t cry between then and the funeral, not at the viewing, when my brother, mom and I sat, lined up like ducks in a shooting gallery, my dad across the room in the suit and tie my mom picked out, his eyes and mouth held shut with some kind of human glue. The only other time I cried was a year earlier, late December of 2002, when my dad told me he was ready to die.
We sat in the living room, he on the blue armchair as I sat on the red couch. Law and Order was on television; the room was filled with smoke.
“I just want you to know that I’m happy with my life,” he said. “I have no regrets. I did everything I wanted to do.”
The words were simple, even trite. When you imagine someone on their deathbed, this is what you want them to say. You don’t want them to regret decisions, to wish they had done more things or that the events of their life had gone differently. But somehow, I cried harder when he said that then I had in years. My chin bobbed, tears streamed down my face. I didn’t want him to see me cry, but I couldn’t help it – he wouldn’t die for another year, but the finality of those words seemed to end everything there. I couldn’t understand how someone could be ready to let go so easily.
I’m not a crier, but since December of 2003, the only things that can make me cry are father-daughter related. I cry at the end of movies, like I Am Sam, when Sam is on the witness stand in court to regain custody of his daughter and he uses Beatles songs to explain that he can’t be separated from her. Paul’s songs wouldn’t have been the same without John, and vice-versa. They were an inseparable pair. Sam says, “Paul wrote the beginning of Michelle, then handed it to John so he could write the part that goes ‘I love you, I love you, I love you.’ He said it wouldn’t have been the same without that part, and that’s why the whole country cried when the Beatles broke up.”