Shifting the Sun

When your father dies, say the Irish you lose your umbrella against bad weather.

May his sun be your light, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Welsh you sink a foot deeper into the earth.

May you inherit his light, say the Armenians

When your father dies, say the Canadians you run out of excuses.

May you inherit his sun, say the Armenians.

 

When your father dies, say the Indians he comes back as the thunder.

May you inherit his light, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Russians, he takes your childhood with him.

May you inherit his light say the Armenians.

 

When your father dies, say the British, you join his club you vowed you wouldn’t.

May you inherit his sun, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Armenians, your sun shifts forever

and you walk in his light.

Diana Der-Hovanessian

 

 

When your father dies, it doesn’t matter that other people’s fathers have died, that fathers have been dying since human time was born. What matters in the moment of his death is that he was your father. Your one and only. Your loss is unique, profound, yours alone.

When your father dies, people say many things to you, much of it the same thing. Sorry for your loss. Condolences. May he rest in peace. You will not remember words. You will remember kindness.

When your father dies, if you weren’t there with him, you will carry that knowledge forever like a permanent hole in your pocket. You will get used to it, but you’ll always know it’s there.

When your father dies, even if you were with him, you will think of all the things you meant to say, to ask, things you may have said and asked a million times but you’ll want to say them just once more.

Thank you.

Sorry.

Why? What? When? Who exactly are you?

When your father dies, you will remember that time, maybe more than one, that he made you so mad.

When your father dies, you will worry about your mother, who, you are likely to learn, is more resilient than you gave her credit for. This assumes she’s the one left behind, as mothers so often are.

And when your father’s gone, you’ll see your mother from a different angle. You’ll see more clearly how your father helped her, hurt her, made her less and more than she would have been without him. You will see more clearly her power over him.

When your father dies, the small particulars of his life, the kind you barely noticed when he was alive, grow into revelations.

The smell of his aftershave. The style of his boxer shorts. How neatly he arranged his loose change on his bureau before he said his prayers at night.

When your father dies, even if he was grand, you realize how small he was, how human.

When your father dies, you will become more intrigued by the life he built from the childhood he was given.

When your father dies, you have to adjust your place in the world, in your family, your sense of who you are performing for. You wonder if you can. You can.

When your father dies, you discover how others — say, your brothers and sisters — saw him differently.

When your father dies, you start to know him better. “Oh,” you think, a long time later, “now I get it.”

When your father dies, you take to noticing how much you’re like him. It’s not all good, but it’s how you keep him with you.

When your father dies, you wonder what he would be like if he’d lived longer, what he would think if he could see you now. You hope he would be proud.

When your father dies, you will grieve and then, one day you’ll notice your grief has dried up. You may spend weeks with no conscious thought of the man who was once at the center of your universe. You will be relieved and your relief may feel like betrayal.

But every now and then, when the sky is a particular shade of blue, or you spot a man with a familiar build on the street, or you hear the chatter of a ballgame on the radio, you will feel a knot in your chest, and to no one in particular, you’ll say, “Dad.”

Mary Schmich

With Love,

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Olivia Shaw

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