Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Dad, Part 2

I spent this past weekend going through my dad's house.  Because of the way things unfolded with his death, dealing with his house has become a major issue, requiring special cleaners and the need to get rid of most of his furnishings. By the end of the day movers had removed 90% of his furniture, and the house was practically empty.

Except for the garage.

The garage is full of tools, cables, air compressors, vehicle lifts, a mostly-finished rebuilt motorcycle, and more chemicals  than China could hold--spray paint, paint thinners, oil, transmission fluid, gas, anti-freeze and many more that I have no idea what they're for. Something auto-related, I am sure.

The garage, because it is sealed off from the house, has no odor that needs to be dealt with. Instead, I walk into it and I smell my dad as I remember him.  The combined perfume of all those chemicals, a metallic tinge and the scent of rubber hoses and tires.  It's not a bad smell, but the unmistakable perfume of a mechanic's habitat. 

I've smelled that scent since I was a little girl--usually when my dad had us for his visitation and he would take us by where he worked.  My brother and I would put our hands in the vise he used and twist it until we couldn't stand it anymore. We would bring magnets and play with the fine, metal shavings left over from rebuilding engine parts.  We would lay on the flat scooter thingy(the name escapes me), that mechanics use to get under cars, and push off across the garage floor.  It was probably dangerous for us to be there, but we had fun.

All the while my dad would be under the hood of a car, peeking his head up now and again to talk to us.  He would usually have to shout over the loud tape player which seemed to only accept tapes from The Rolling Stones, AC/DC, Meatloaf, or....get ready for this one....Conway Twitty.  CONWAY TWITTY. Most of you probably have no idea who he was. A very corny country singer whose songs are all of the "loving and losing" genre.

Going through my dad's things has led to some surprises, and some laughs. When we went to his workplace to go through his toolboxes there, we came across three bags of silverware---real, silver-plated, old, silverware.  They were mixed in with wrenches and sockets. No rhyme or reason to it.  I asked my grandmother if she'd given him any family silverware. Nope.  So why was it there?  Where did it come from? Why did Dad have it in his work toolbox? 

It will remain a mystery.

As I went through his dressers, I would come across those cheap eyeglasses they have at the drugstore.  There must have been at least 10 pairs of them. I think he would buy some, they would get misplaced or covered up by the messiness of his room, so instead of looking for them, he'd just buy another pair.

I found multiples of things like that consistently. Flashlights.  Scissors.  Remote Controls. 1,000 pens.  Unused notebooks. I think his absent-mindedness about where he put things must have been the source of the repetitiveness of these items showing up in every corner of the house.

Going through his things hasn't been traumatic in any way.  

I've saved things that were signature "Dad"--like the two Indian-ish throws he used on his sofa, so he wouldn't get grease all over the couches.  I washed those and will be sending one to my brother.  

I saved two small ziploc bags of "gems"/shiny rocks that he dug out of the earth with my brother's family, this past summer, during one of his vacation weeks.  I have all of the pictures from his childhood, and the ones he had from our childhood. I have his baptism certificate from a Catholic church in Pennsylvania--another mystery considering my grandparents were most definitely non-believers in every way. Perhaps the Irish-Catholic, extended family exerted some influence there.

I'm doing OK with things most of the time. The first week after his death was so busy dealing with the memorial service, cremation, and making arrangements to deal with his house, that I would/could only mourn in brief moments when my mind wasn't occupied.  The day after his service, when the craziness had subsided, was the hardest.  I had nothing to distract myself from his passing, and finally was able to simply miss him.

Now, moments come and go of sadness.  Usually, the sadness comes not mainly from his passing, though I wished it hadn't happened, but from the knowledge that he had died alone and not been found right away.  It's nobody's fault, just a culmination of bad timing.  Still, I wish he had been at work, or out somewhere, so that someone could have attempted to help him, or at the very least saved him from the indignity of being left alone after he passed.

The sadness also comes in wishing I had said more to him over the years.  I don't have any major regrets, I just wished I had praised him more for the good qualities he had while he was here.

Maybe that's the take-home lesson.  Compliment people while they are still here, instead of saving it all up for their memorial.  Let them know what you have learned from them, while they can be encouraged by your words, instead of only wishing you had said it.

I'm going to work on that.

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