Twelve years ago this week I was spending my days going through my father's apartment with my brother. Dad had shot himself on the 9th and his body was found by his oldest friend in New York on the 12th. Twelve years ago Wednesday.
Twelve years ago I was sifting through grief, memory and questions questions questions. Not the ones you might think. The fact is, when I got the call from my brother that the police had called him from Dad's apartment, I knew what had happened. I'd hoped I was wrong. But I knew.
Mom said it best that night when we called to let her know. "He was always so sad". It was true. He was also scared. Whatever the combination, he had a dim world view.
I loved my dad. He was basically a good man who never really dealt with his anger issues, his alcoholism or his strengths. A talented actor, he'd packed us up from Tucson Arizona, sold the Ford Falcon and got us on a train to New York City and went straight into substitute teaching and social work. His career as an actor was essentially small productions in holes in the wall (before the moniker "Off Off Broadway" was coined.) and extra work in movies.
As a kid I would listen while he would lament the vagaries of the business and how hard it was...and it instilled in me the belief that the business was indeed brutal. It didn't stop me from wanting to be an actor. It didn't stop me from thinking I could do better. But these things are insidious and the sins of the father are often visited upon the son. His beliefs did become mine and even when I achieved some pretty good if minor successes, my joy would be tainted by fear of the success not lasting.
Now to be sure, being an actor isn't easy. It can be brutal, but I can see very clearly as I look back how my own thoughts and feelings that were inherited affected the way I approached my career and subsequently the way my career developed...or didn't as it turns out.who raced down the street with me...encouraged me to take the training wheels off my back when he knew I could. The man who when he saw I was floundering in my efforts to audition for the High School of Performing Arts bought a gazillion plays for me to look through and helped me find the right pieces and even coached me. A man who as a social worker had saved or improved as best he could, so many lives, wasn't even able to remember a simple meditation technique because anxiety had overcome him.
He'd been given Buspar and started to take it, then stopped. 12 years ago it got so bad that he sat at the edge of his bed and ate the barrel of a .357 magnum. He left a note that was really more of an excuse than anything else. Fears of a cancer that didn't exist.
Two weeks later, the girl he wanted to marry, a dancer from Japan was finally allowed back into the country. He'd become convinced it wouldn't happen after months of legal back and forth. Fear of being alone and abandoned convinced him that his life wouldn't work out as he desired. So it seems he decided to just stop trying.
12 years later I still wrestle with loving him and hating him. Remembering his capacity for compassion for everyone while he seemed to only have pity for himself. I am sometimes on the edge of forgiving him. And then I remember having to tell my daughter what happened. I remember how as she is now almost 20 years old, she can't play chess because that's what she used to do with Grandpa. I can't quite do it.
For the past 12 years, for about 3 weeks before and after the anniversaries, he shows up in my dreams. Sometimes as if he's never been gone, sometimes as if he's only been on some trip in South America or something and we all just THOUGHT he was dead.I forget about it...forget it's that time of year...sometimes even the days of his actual death or the day he was found go by entirely unnoticed. Sometimes not.
Twelve years later I can watch Dirty Harry make one line comments about his Magnum and still get a kick out of it. But when Heroes first aired and there was an episode with half a skull being cut off and brains removed, I get completely worked up.
I wrestle with fear too. And it's not hard to see how it keeps me from acting. Clouds my thinking. I've made a decades long struggle of shifting from "can't" to "can". It hasn't been easy.
Twelve years ago I cremated my father. Twelve years later I'm still cremating parts of his legacy so I can rise from the ashes.