In the quiet, life stories seem so complex. Events take on a surreal importance molded by our living experience of them. I guess we figure out, in the telling and retelling of our experience, how to fill in the blanks so that they suit our personal timeline. Already intricately woven in childhood, a silky, spell-inducing web eventually embodies the telling, connects all things – the people we know, meet, marry, love, hate – in some way meaningful only to us.  Occasionally, we might notice that our story follows patterns and designs. We begin to feel that we are animated, even if barely perceptible at first, with traits of men and women we hardly know; family, add on’s and ancestors, who are all part of the big web codex that flows through our days here on earth and maybe elsewhere too.  I think of them as the magical seeds and cells and bits of root and shell; the lineage  of clandestine ghost writers who help us relate our stories, highlight what needs to be rewritten.

I think we are happily unaware most of the time – patient and simple weavers of little white lies and tedious reports. Though sometimes, when faced with loss, it seems we awake, for a moment. That’s what I feel like now.

People are always saying undecipherable stuff like “You are just like your father.” “No wonder you act like that, your mother used to do the same thing.” “Your great grandfather had a mark on his arm just like that.” “A rolling stone, just like your sister.” “A disciplinarian, just like his dad.” “A dreamer; like your mother’s mother.”

No one can make sense of what it all means, but you still want to know, what is  the connection.

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The thousand word picture. My 20 year old father at home for a visit, looking dashing in uniform among the chinz, a protective arm around his step-mother’s shoulders. She looks uncomfortable,  rather like she is sitting all by her self, concentrating on being still.  Theirs was not a tight relationship, their New England-y stories overlapping with wordless oceans – years wide, that only deepened with the death of his father.  Funnily enough, close to her centennial dad became suddenly smitten by his step-mother and visited her in Boston on  a folly stream of trips. Maybe he was regretful. Maybe a tenderness set in – who knows.  It doesn’t matter, it was short lived and in end effect, changed little of the narrative.

We had our own misaligned relationship, my step father and I,  mostly defined by long lulls and tenuous years of truce.  In all the years, I never made the connection,  though I was thought to be so clever, that he was a step son and I, a step daughter. And so it was, unwittingly of course, that I took up his secret story and schlepped it right along with my own growing up with him. We followed his script, defying his step-mother, his mother and mostly his father for what ever sins they had committed against him and I did so too, did it to him just as he had done it to them. The dance of the familiar. We practiced hard to perfect it and the cult of the ghost writer seed was entrenched in both our lives till the end.

I guess it’s just so damned curious to think about all of that because in the retelling, the irony is so glaring.  You just don’t even know what happened until one day the fox trot from the den to the chicken coop is just so there and in your face. Then, when it is already too late. That’s when the answers noisily dance in.

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Surely, had he known, had he recognized the patterns, my father would have bootstrapped them under his command, trained them to march, to fight, he would have led them to the other side of jungle hell, to safety in friendly territory with a minimum loss of life –  like in the movies and like often in his case, in real life. He would have made things alright and we would have had no regrets, he and I.

In the end, the days that follow loosing a person you have loved, little stands out except for what could have been. One thing you can be sure of is that a kind word, a touch or a gesture will be remembered by the giver and the taker which is after all, never a lonely place. I would say, if any small wisdom can be gleaned from any of it at all, it is this: be a kinder and a gentler soul. Be kinder. To them, to others, to everyone. To yourself. Even if you don’t want to be. Do it anyway. It’s impossible to know what another person’s experience is, and I’m not sure the complicated details really matter, because it’s the simplest gesture – one of recognition –  that will be remembered.

These pictures, that I have seen for the first time today, of my younger father – his handsome face and proud glance, his shoulders at army attention, the full, curled lip stolen from the movie screens,  remind me to see him as he saw him self.  If you look closely you can see that everything in the world belongs to the man in the picture –  a man who dares dream to be different, who outruns the mundane, who casts off the laws of the tribe. A man who dares dream he is a god.

That’s the secret. In the mirror, his mirror, his story –  he is the picture – a young man, like all young men,  defiantly hopeful.  With absolute certainty, he was in command of at least the stars and constellations –  the sun merely a light illuminating his brilliant path – dreams strewn before him for the taking. And that is how he acted, may he rest in peace, till his last day, and how I have chosen to remember him. So that I, might after all be my father’s daughter.

RIP Harold Edward Hoitt,

b February 22, 1938 Boston, MA d May 5, 2015 Denver, CO