In Honor of Joe Rizzo (December 6, 1936 – May 27, 2005)
Yesterday was my father’s birthday. I still miss him, but I’m glad he’s at peace, whatever that looks like. Sadness comes and goes, along with my notions of death. Mostly, I invision him as floating around with me – little particles dispersed in the eternity of air and earth and water that surrounds us all. As comforting as that idea is, the whole invisible thing is a drag. I wish I could see him if even for a moment, to make sure he is okay and that he could hear me when I talk. And if he could, what would I tell him? How much I love him, of course. But that’s an involuntary reflex generated by loss. One thing my father never had cause to doubt was the love of his children. (If I couldn’t sit here and know I did everything I could to communicate my love to my father, I would never accomplish another thing. I would be too busy consuming and being consumed by remorse. Not being a huge fan of regret, I try to keep that in mind.)
So, what would I say?
I would tell him that life is short. That blood pressure is still undervalued and Rizzos are not inherently unlucky. I would tell him he deserved every bit of love he received in this life, and more. That death isn’t, I hope, as bad as he expected. That Lauren and Cat and Bon are doing great; Eric less so. Mama is Mama – that shouldn’t surprise him, and hopefully my saying so would no longer anger him. Finally, I would tell him happiness is not impossible.
My dad was a silent man, though, in the manner of those uncomfortable in their own skin. We share that, and the sharing made conversation between us sporadic and trivial. I don’t imagine he would care much for post mortem postulations any more than he did pre-death small talk. In my dreams, whenever he reappears, healthy and unchanged, it’s always with an air of nonchalance. No one comments on his long absence or on his former illness. It’s not that I don’t recognize both, I just decide to leave well enough alone. “He’s back,” I think, and that is enough. Sometimes, at the end of the dream, he gets sick again. Sometimes I realize I am dreaming and that he is dead. Even then, I don’t comment, I just watch to see how he takes the transformation. He doesn’t usually take it well. Neither do I. In this life, my waking life, any words would depend on time and circumstance. If we had a few days I’d say too little; a few minutes and I’d most assuredly say too much. Caught unaware – Daddy, hey, what are you doing here? – there’s a good possibility that I wouldn’t say anything of consequence. So, how’s it going? See anyone you know floating around the universe? If, implausibly, death had changed him, made him relaxed and confident, I’d let him take the lead.
But maybe none of that is important.
Maybe all I would really need to tell him is Happy Birthday, Pate. Hope you’re enjoying the afterlife.