Walking into that room was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. Knowing that I was going to have to accept what I saw, not knowing how I would react...my legs were jelly and every force within me told me to turn and run away; to reject what had happened, to return home and go on with my life. But there was one stronger force which morbidly and determinedly pushed/pulled me towards the front of the room. The funeral director had set this up specially so that the family could "view the remains" before they closed the casket for the wake. Gritting my teeth, holding my breath, and fighting to control my emotions, I walked up to the coffin and stared down at my father.
I remembered being very young, and how much I loved my Daddy. I spent so much time with him that everyone called me "Daddy's Girl." I used to follow him around, singing him songs, keeping him company, asking questions, and joking around. I used to bring him my favorite flower, dandelions, and he would hold them under my chin to see if I liked butter. I often brought him bouquets of violets and dandelions, in all their vivid color. And he would always smile and thank me and give me a hug. Then he would put them in a vase as if they were the most precious gift he'd ever been given. He was a very good Daddy.
But sometimes, I remember, Daddy used to act kinda funny. I thought it had something to do with the strange-smelling stuff in the brown bottle. Or the stuff in the tan plastic glass with the brown rim. I wondered why he would never let me near it, or why Mommy glared at him so much when he had it. Then he and my mom started yelling at night after my brother, Jacob, and I were in bed. I was upset by it, but only because they were loud and mommys and daddys weren't supposed to fight. I would go to sleep, covers pulled over my head to protect me from the ghosts and monsters because Mommy and Daddy were too busy yelling at each other to chase the boogie man away.
People were coming in to pay their last respects. I was composed, but unsure of how to act. Jacob and I stood together, needing each other for support. My uncle directed the guests to sign the book. We accepted condolences and thanked people for coming. With a strange sort of detachment, I thought for awhile that I was the one who had died and the sentence imposed for my sins was to sit in eternal damnation at my father's funeral. The wake dragged on and on, always the same. Different faces, everyone saying the same inane things over and over again and again...
"He was so young! I never even knew he was sick! I just realized the other day that I hadn't seen Josh in awhile and I was going to go visit him...what happened?!"
We went on, telling the truth, so help us God. We went on as always, just as we had been for years, avoiding what should have been faced so long ago. Not that it mattered anymore.
Before we left to go to Daddy's friend's house (a shrine circus clown!), Mommy admonished Jacob and I not to ride with Daddy if he'd been drinking. I was confused. Wasn't it good to drink? Wasn't she always telling us to drink more water? Why shouldn't Daddy???
But I did understand, no matter how much my child's soul tried to hide it from me. and the clown's children, who were older than us, told us not to go with him. They thought they should call our mother. But being children, they did nothing, fearing even to do what was right. There was a line there between adult and childhood, and it should never be crossed - so we thought then. As the time drew near for our departure, even though I heard whispers of daddy's friend's children, talking about our dad and looking at us worriedly and sorrowfully, we still got into his car. What choice did we have? He was Daddy! And Daddy always knew what was right. It was easy to relinquish control when you don't possess it in the first place.
Daddy was driving funny on the way home, swerving all over the road, back and forth. Jacob and I were laughing because Daddy was fooling around, just being funny. then we looked behind us at the flashing lights. Wow!! A police car! Just like in "CHiPs"! Daddy was getting "pulled over!" Neato-Cool!!!
It never really occurred to us that Daddy was doing something wrong.
Jacob and I got a ride home in the squad car. Mommy wouldn't tell me what was going on but years later I learned that she went to bail Daddy out of jail that night.
"I'm very sorry this happened. If there's anything I can do..." Voices droned on and on.
I wanted to scream at them, "Look! There's nothing you or anyone else can do! He's dead! Look at him! you should have done something while he was alive so that you wouldn't have to smother me with meaningless words!!!! Someone should have stopped this from happening! GO AWAY!"
But I only nodded and thanked them for coming.
Go to Part II