Tuesday, August 19, 2008

My father was a very nice guy... really...

Less than a week after my father's death, everything began to change.

My dad, you see, wasn't a particularly nice guy in life. He'd done some rotten shit in his life and everybody knew it. Most people who knew him long enough didn't like him a whole lot. Vicky liked him... but she never had to spend more than four hours with him...

So, it's stunning to see how quickly everyone's opinion of him changed now that he's dead. Like stepping out of a blizzard into a cabin warmed by a toasty fire, everyone is warming to my dad. Even one of my brothers, who insisted my dad had been "faking" his illness, is now spouting all kinds of diabetic nonesense about how much he had loved his dad and how close they were.

And I am appalled.

Shortly after my father died, I began writing a eulogy for his memorial. The way I figured it, I was the writer in the family, the only one really comfortable speaking in front of people, so I would be the likely candidate to speak at my father's funeral. I wrote a eulogy that I felt was honest, somber, even a little poetic. I had asked how long I'd have to speak and was told, "As much time as you'd like."

You can imagine my surprise, then, when I was told that the eulogy was too long. I'd only have five minutes to speak because all four sons were now going to be asked to speak. My experience, my talent, the fact that I had asked didn't amount to a hill of shit. Worse, though, was how I started seeing my brother, the guy who said dad had been "faking", write the most syrupy nonesense, painting my father as a cross between Albert Schwietzer and Gandi. But nicer. And far more understanding.

My eulogy was sent back to me in an edited version that tried to retain its meaning but - well, when you condense a 15 minute speech into a five minute speech, what you end up with is a generic imitation, at best. Clearly, a rewrite was required. Summing up my feelings in five minutes would be tough, especially while my brother told the most incredible lies in some posthumous attempt to score points with our dead dad. The two other brothers would probably tell some version of the truth but I didn't feel I could count on them to counteract the idiot's nauseating posturing.

That's when I realized what I would have to do. If I was going to be able to face myself, I would need to explain who my father really was, injecting a little honesty into the whole thing. So, I wrote. I found a theme that I felt was appropriate if not complimentary. Vicky was sure I'd be cast out of the family completely, which is ironic given a family history where people have been routinely cast out, but once she heard it she agreed that it provided a little honesty to the whole thing. She also said that part of it sounded like "Is It a Sin to Lick a Burrito", my long lost though not forgotten monologue.

My dad wasn't a monster. He was a human being. I prefer to remember him that way, as the man he was and not the man he wished he'd been.

1 comment:

Jenn from WA said...

I wanna read it!