I have an essay I wrote about my father’s death that I’ve tried to get published for, well, four years and counting now. That’s how it goes with writing. You send out. They reject. You revise. You send out. They reject. You revise. The work you feel is worth holding onto, you hold onto with a choke hold. Other work you catch and wind up releasing into the blue. Or the dumpster. Or that adorable little trash can at the bottom of your computer screen.
Though he’s gone, dad’s essay won’t die. At least not for me. It’s not the type of essay you might imagine. Dad wasn’t Ward Cleaver. We weren’t close-knit. In fact, we rarely, if ever, knitted anything (unless you count that seventh-grade Home Ec pillow in the shape of a turtle, which was sewn ... poorly and by me alone).
Anyway, one thing I’ve learned upon my dad’s death is the role I played in our lack of communication and subsequent lack of closeness. (Politicians call this accountability.) I’d like to say I don’t have regrets, but I have regrets aplenty. Maybe enough to fill something loosely resembling a canyon. And maybe that’s why I have this essay I’ve caught and refuse to release. For me, it’s an attempt at immortalizing our relationship, no matter how thin our relationship was or wasn’t.
Photographs are another way to try to immortalize the moments, the people, the things we love. I snapped one today of nail clippers. You heard me. Nail. Clippers. According to my stepmom, these particular nail clippers were my father’s. She gave them to me in a paper bag, along with some other assorted mementos. I don’t know if any of said mementos capture the true “stuff” of my dad, but I’ve formed a bond with these clippers. They are not your run-of-the-mill stainless-steel talon trimmers. The cutter, is, in fact, embedded into a plastic sportscar. The plastic sportscar is painted sportscar red (duh). It’s not all that different from the shade of the car I bought from my dad less than a year before he died. Technically, I called the color of that car mid-life-crisis red. So I guess if I ever bring myself to cut my nails with the sportscar, I’ll call it a mid-life-crisis manicure.
Without giving anything away (because I’m sorry, I’m going to continue holding out for that illusive publication acceptance), the sportscar makes an appearance in dad’s essay. It’s less than a supporting-supporting role, but trust me, it’s there.
And on my desk and in this very post, it is here. Here it is—another reminder of dad’s absence on this day after Father’s Day.
Don’t worry, dad, the sportscar isn’t doing 100 on some lonely stretch of highway.
It isn’t hastily parked next to some beater.
It isn’t cutting the craggiest of cuticles.
It isn’t stuck in a traffic jam.
It isn’t cleaning toe jam.
It isn’t clipping anything or driving anyplace. Fingers (and nails) crossed.