It’s weird the things you remember vividly when the most important people in your life die. It’s weird the things you remember when anyone dies, actually.
It was the time before ten year olds had cellphones. I forgot today was the day that we were being let out early. I was walking home, thinking to myself if anyone would be there. I didn’t have a key to the house and mild worry set in. My father worked as a prop player over 16 hours a day at a cardroom an hour away. He was my favorite person in the world and, coincidentally, the person I saw the least.
He rarely came home before 3am and he rarely stayed home after noon.
I knocked on the door. Rang the doorbell. Anxiously pulled at my backpack straps. I stared at my dirty white sneakers while the door opened. I looked up and my father stood there, worried.
“How come you’re home?”
“I forgot to tell Mommy I’m out early today.”
He smiled, then. We were a family of seven and my mom always loved to bring friends over. I walked into the house, slid my shoes off and asked if anyone was home. He said no.
I walked into the kitchen and could smell the spam and eggs before I saw it. I sat at the dining table and watched my father. There are so few moments like this: just the two of us, doing something absolutely mundane.
I swung my feet back and forth and watched my father fry a sliver of spam. He asked if I was hungry and I was enthusiastic.
Two slices of wonderbread, an overeasy egg and a perfectly golden slice of lunchmeat. A generous serving of ketchup to hold it together. One for him, one for me.
We sat at that table and ate, preening. Talking about absolutely nothing. Two overjoyed people, enjoying a two dollar meal in a quiet home.
I think about the sun that day. The dishes left for mom in the sink like a sneaky secret. I think about my father’s white, ribbed wifebeater. His adidas track pants. The crow’s feet of his smile and the worry lines in his forehead. I think about how he could say so much without saying anything.
I think about his slippers walking up the stairs after to take a nap.
I think about how, out of all of the moments, this is the one I wish lasted forever.
I miss you so much Papa. I’m sorry I didn’t write for you on Sunday. I’ve been feeling so weak lately. I’ve been feeling fragmented. Lost. Afraid. The opposite of everything you ever taught or gave me.
I’m so sorry for so many things, Papa. But this year I’ve learned to love people through the small moments that I wished lasted forever. The ones that aren’t monetary. The ones that aren’t extravagant or outwardly spectacular. The ones that your death taught me are going to be the most remembered.
I miss you forever.