“I have told many, yet when I go down that last trail, I know there will be a thousand stories hammering at my skull, demanding to be told.”
― Louis L'Amour, Education of a Wandering Man
Wanderers - a short film by Erik Wernquist from Erik Wernquist on Vimeo.
This would have been something you'd have enjoyed. Even near the end, you'd have felt it in your bones, like the memory of flying, I'm sure. You gave me enough glimpses of that man over the years, though not enough of them, and never the long look at him that I hoped to have. Sometimes I wonder if he was more my creation than your reality, but I think he just got obfuscated by the passage of time and your life's limitations. Still, I think he was still there, and I know he—I know you—would have found it captivating and fantastic.
Perhaps it is that I am not so different than you in some ways, Dad. Given the emotional impetus, I will take the raw stuff of my feelings and apply it to my ponderings or interests in a way that, occasionally, turns into writing, or at least fuels my imagination and wonder for awhile. And I need that, crave it like a thrill seeker craves the next thrill,—because it simply feels more like real life than what is normally, actually, life of the all-too-human sort on this particular spot on this particular little planet.
So then, I dreamed of you the other morning. Well, not of you, per se, but about you. I was going through some of your personal stuff—something from your desk, if I recall—and I found some hybrid item like you only find in dreams, something like a leather day planner (I forget what they call those), only bigger and with tabs of some sort, and the AOPA logo was worked into it like it was made for pilots. And it was this last thing that, for whatever reason, got to me. I was, in the dream, so acutely aware that you were gone, as if I'd not understood until that very moment, that the air was sucked from my lungs, and I only inhaled again so that I might let out the most pitiful sobbing…. I very nearly screamed with the pain of my heart being pulled out of my chest. I woke to my partner soothing me even as she tried to make sense of what was happening. It took a few minutes to recover my composure enough to stop crying and catch my breath again.
It's only the second time this has happened to me. The first time was when I dreamed that you and Mom were hugging me together, and the pain of the loss was exponentially exacerbated by the relief I felt to be held again by you both.
You are gone, the both of you. But I've had more time to make peace with Mom's death than I have had to make peace with yours. And you were always more problematic and iconic to me, making my love for you something of a mongrel beast in my own breast. I say that with no malice or sardonic edge. My guess is that you'd understand me, now, stripped of all the things that kept you trapped in the world you made for yourself.
Really, I only wish I might show you this, and you could share your response with me, and there would be again—as occasionally there was—that sense of recognition between us wherein the best form of love between us flourished perennially, however often it was utterly obscured by recurring difficulties neither of us knew how to deal with.
It is a cruel fact of life that you can't fix relationships with the dead. It is a true object lesson regarding the immutability of history. There are no do-overs, no going back. The dead are like holograms encased in the amber of time, slowly fading and blurring with the memories that recall them, while the living continue on with the perverse sense that their own feelings somehow connect backward through time to a past that is eternally vital and conscious. What is most true is that this sense can all but be equal to the profound despair and enormity of the loss. It may not amount to any metaphysical belief in an afterlife or eternal soul, but it is as pervasive as the unconscious mind, and as real as history itself.
I can't help but think what it may be like for our descendants, who, if humanity survives its stupidities, will one day leave this little planet. How shall it seem to them, to leave behind the final resting place of so many countless humans, the very cradle of humanity, where, as Carl Sagan said,
On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.Will there be a need for something like psychologists to help people come to terms with a profound sense of loss occasioned by the realization that never again will they set foot upon the good earth? I really do wonder. I wonder what you would have thought of the idea, Dad, and I wish you were there for me to call and ask. We didn't get enough times like that, and now we never will.
I love and miss you.