My father and I had a difficult and incomplete relationship. Now I'm in the decade of my life that was the last of his.
There are times that I am astonished by his life. He came from a coal patch, growing up in a company owned house. By then the coal was about played out there. He was young in the depths of the Depression, when people in such places were starving. The only story I know about him as a young man--which I heard as a child, told by his brothers around a card table with their wives, as well as my father and mother--had him driving somewhere, perhaps West Virginia, looking for work, sleeping in his car, washing his socks in a stream or maybe a gas station rest room, and hanging them on the car windows at night. The socks hanging from the car windows--that's the image that remains.
But he did join the Civil Conservation Corps, and several times during his life I remember him extolling the virtues of the CCC. He was also editor of a camp newspaper, something I don't remember him talking about--but I still have the mimeoed copy of one of these stapled-together, magazine- like periodicals.
He worked all his life, although from a few years after my youngest sister was born, my mother had to work as well, to support the family and our home. He lived long enough to have several grandchildren, although his relationship with them was as distant as it was with his children. Still--supporting a family, buying and maintaining a home, going to a job every day, children and grandchildren--I have done and had none of these. However grudging his support was at times, I always had a roof.
His final illness was ugly and humiliating. At the end he was in the condition of a crippled infant. Although ALS is not supposed to affect the mind, I think it diminished his substantially.
Not long after he died I saw him in a dream. His eyes were very blue. He was smiling; he glowed. He looked at me as if to say, this is the real me.
I remember times in life when his eyes looked almost as blue as that. Is the potential the real? Perhaps after death it is, or in dreams.
After his death, the corneas of his eyes were taken to be used by someone else. Now perhaps someone else in the world is looking out from my father's eyes.