fallen

Read the last of the Mark Fydrich tributes this weekend in the paper. I knew he’d died by his truck. Figured it was probably a heart attack or something of that nature. But no, his clothing had gotten caught on a spinning piece of machinery and suffocated him,  as he’d worked on fixing a part, something I’d seen my father do, many times as a child, on his own truck, tearing the engine apart and putting  it all pack together. I thought of my father as I’d read this detail. I thought of my father, because, like Mark Fydrich, my father died alone in the morning, beside his truck.  An accident.

My father was, after many years of driving trucks for other companies, an independent contractor, with his own rig;  a glistening white dump truck, with a Roadrunner painted on its grill by my grandfather. In the winter, he’d wake at three in the morning to haul pulp and logs to Canada, and in summer and early fall, he’d work locally on construction; a job he’d hated, because of the long hours in the hot sun, sitting stationary; sweltering  in the oven of the cab. One Monday in early September, my father, working alone at a site, backed his truck atop a dump site to unload some fill. The box had gotten caught upon some overhead electric lines, and likely obscured my father’s view when  he made contact with the exterior of the truck as he’d stepped out. 2000 plus volts  coarsed through his large body. My father died instantly. Alone.

I remembered him saying that if he was going to go, he’d want to go in an instant, unaware. I can’t remember the exact number of voltage that took my father down. Wouldn’t save my copy of the article in the paper. Could have been 2400, could have been as much as 5600. But I do remember many, many things about that day, and the days and years after. I remember seeing the spot; the tiny, tiny maroon spot where his index finger had made fatal contact with the white metal of his cab. It was the finger on his left hand, the one that was always darker  than the his right side, after propping his arm along the window of the truck all of those miles in the sun. He’d told me that you could always spot a trucker in that way, by looking at the unmatched tan on their arms. I don’t remember his boots, because the coroner wouldn’t let even my mother see them, they’d been synged so badly. But his face was fleshed out, with his full head of silvered hair in place, though cold and oddly strange to the touch, just as his fingers were. I remember blue, everywhere. Light blue satin lining his coffin. Blue bunting. Blue tinted carnations. To this day, I don’t care for carnations. I remember fretting over the burial internally for about an hour, before consulting my grandmother, who’d  counseled me not to say anything or protest the fact. My father had wanted cremation; he’d told me so in our conversations together in the living room, just the two of us,  when we’d skip weekly visits to my mother’s parents in favor of watching a ballgame at home. We’d watched a Yankee game the day before, and I’m forever grateful that I had that. I wouldn’t watch many games until 1994, when I lived in Manhattan that year and the Yankees almost made it to the Series.

I remember the queerness later that morning that I’d felt as my mother’s family surrounded the table and drank wine, gin, and whiskey. An Irish wake, apparently. I rarely saw my parents drink. My father drank a beer occassionally at home, with salt on top of the head, or maybe a few more if he was out hanging with his friends at a gas station. I remember him drunk less than a handful of times. He was a giggling, silly, silly drunk. I thought it was as adorable as the beard he’d sport some winters. My mother hated the beard. She hated any drinking. My mother didn’t drink.

I grew tired, that day, of watching the oddness around the dining room. I was tired of being hugged.  I didn’t want the dollar bill tokens of comfort. I didn’t want to write names on scraps of masking tape  upon the undersides of Tupperware containers filled with donated casseroles and baked beans. So I went upstairs and sat upon my sister’s bed, and stared at a yellow melamine cup on the window sill. I stared until the cup became filmy to my eye and became instead one last vision of my father, alone and lying in the dew topped dirt,  in the fog, at 7:30 in the morning. Dead, while I was still asleep. A thousand, grand, folded neatly inside of his shirt pocket, like it always was.  For the first time, I bawled hard. Uncontrolled. Almost instantly, my mother, who’d probably been searching robotically for a set of clothes for my father for the funeral home, appeared behind me and wrapped her arms around me tight.

“It’s going to be o.k. We just have to come together,” she’d soothed. I wasn’t comforted by those words. In such times, something inside me is  not willing to believe what I already know otherwise by instinct, just as I hadn’t believed in a miracle for my sister, stricken with ovarian cancer, stage IV, five years ago. I wanted to pray like my mother, then, but instinct told me again, that my sister was going to go. I wanted to be wrong. I did. My instinct is always, always right, even during the rare instance that I ignored it. All I’ll say about that is that users are cunningly  adept at manipulation.  But the  best I could do for my sister was to pray for less pain, and for the rift that had lain deeply  furrowed for over ten years between my sister and I, to heal. The rift did. Is there an organ for instinct?

Instinct was right, in that bedroom with my mother, so many years ago. We didn’t stay together. My sister went away to live in foster care, voluntarily, when I was about sixteen. And on my graduation day, my brother, at sixteen, left to go live with relatives, right after the luncheon. Again, voluntarily. My mother and I? I left the morning after graduation, for New England. She’d tipped her hand, the morning she’d held me in her arms, that day. I couldn’t trump instinct even in the comfort of her touch (we’d rarely exchanged anything so soft as touch; or a murmured “I love you”, prior), not after the stern warning she’d singled me out for as we crossed the entrance way earlier in the morning to The Different Home, the home without my father, forever. I was the last one in. She blocked the entrance and warned me in a reckoning voice and with a cold eye, finger cocked, of  hell to come. I remember that. I’m not sure she does.

Prior, we’d fought like warring queens. Two black queens, on a chessboard. One king. I always pick the black pieces when I play. The queen of course, is my favorite piece. Not for its power, but for its flexibility. But there can only be one black queen, right? After, there was, in a sense, nothing to fight for, except for stupid things. And stupid things–without the rational buffer of my father between us– became many things. Anything. Everything. Seemed like all of the time. My mother had confided once to her brother that the way in which I could engage in  head games scared her. She’d call me Jezebel. I just dug in. The games were all I had left in me. Only equal distances of time and location made the games go away.

I still can’t believe it all happened, just as I can’t believe my sister got cancer, suffered, and then died. I’m in touch with the reality, thank you very much—I’m not that far gone—but like a child, I simply can’t believe the people whom I most love can be hurt. Or taken from me. Like a child, I can still only ask: why? Why? Why?? With wonder and awe, and respect for the willful, wild nature and power of the heart, I cannot believe the ways in which a heart can be broken, in spite of swearing, after the first time; after losing my father, that my heart would never, ever be allowed to love enough for it to hurt again, in such a way.

 Stubborn, I am.

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4 Responses to “fallen”


  1. 1 bets April 21, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    you are so amazing and i am in awe of your talent. i love you true.

  2. 2 petitmuse April 21, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    you are sweet. the blog has become, occassionally, a sort of labratory for a possible book—fiction, probably–I’m thinking of. I still like to journal, but it can become a vacuum. The public nature of a blog informs me about what to share, what not. Here I think I’ve said to much, but ah, well. I’m always surprised by reactions here because while I feel what I write, I’ve had the buffer and perspective of time. I can write about things like this now.

    Thanks for your input :>

  3. 3 fee April 23, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    ahh, good stuff. very moving and i like all the details. perhaps even a movie someday! i can picture it vividly.
    ps. working on the side project, hopefully will be able to post soon.

  4. 4 petitmuse April 27, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    cool. thanks, fee. you could be my screenplay writer. :> possibly direct?


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