Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Then and Now

What I remember most is how long it took to type out, hunched over my mother's electric typewriter out in the barn-made-office where our oil company was housed. The song had nearly 68 lines and I was not first in class in typing. And it really made no sense as to why I'd picked this song over other that were his favorites, other than I could see my father singing it and doing a hilarious dance to its jaunty klezmer Broadway tune, as I typed the lines. 
My dad, big as life, funny, irreverent, was gone. Something in the words, in the practice of transcribing them, brought something concrete to the chaos. I handed the note to my mother, folded up, and asked her to put it in the coffin with him. As odd of a request as it was, I know she understood.
The strange things we are called and compelled to do is how we make sense of things, I've learned this in the nearly 28 years since that piece of paper was slipped into his blue ultrasuede jacket, as easily as his casket was slipped into the marble floor that day. Today I have my own "burn box," held on the shelf of my home, filled with the most select group of emails, letters, poems, writings that I want to take with me as I return to ash. Everything in my burn box holds the deepest meaning for me, each piece given to me by loves of my life in moments that will forever be etched on my heart. I want to ensure, for myself, that I can carry this love into my future lifetimes, not an immolated gift for the gods, but love that is deeply entwined with my very essence, encased in my forever, wherever that may be. 
A year ago, I posted the following poem to my Facebook page, no doubt touched by the funny synergy of Leonard Cohen's act. Today we bury a friend, she, herself like my father, far too young and vibrant to be gone. I'd ferry her off with champagne if I could, and a picture of her sweet boy and the man who has been her lifelong backstop, and the best memories, painstakingly typed, all of those who will be here today for them and for her. What we take with us matters, what others give us for the journey, this side and the next, makes the most of life.

Ghosts on the Road
-David Rivard
A bookkeeping man,
tho one sure to knock on wood,
and mostly light
at loose ends—my friend
who is superstitiously funny, & always
sarcastic—save once,
after I’d told him
about Simone’s first time
walking—a toddler,
almost alone, she’d
gripped her sweater, right hand
chest-high, reassured
then, she held on to herself
so, so took a few
quick steps—
oh, he said, you know what? Leonard
Cohen, when he was 13,
after his father’s
out-of-the-blue heart attack, he slit
one of the old man’s
ties, & slipped a
message into it, then buried it
in his backyard—
73 now, he can’t
recall what he wrote—(threadbare
heartfelt prayer perhaps,
or complaint)—
his first writing anyway.
The need to comfort
ourselves is always
strongest at the start,
they say—
do you think
that’s true? my friend asked.
I don’t, he said,
I think the need
gets stronger, he said, it
just gets stronger.