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Travels With My Father (I)

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Dec. 4th, 2012 | 01:17 pm

My father arrives in a box. “The wooden box I got for him is too heavy, it must be thirteen pounds,” says my stepmother, so she puts the plastic bag from the crematorium in a couple of grocery store bags, puts them in a one-price Priority Mail box, and that’s what I get on my porch a few days later.

At first, I forget what it is, and there’s a lot of other boxes that have come, from Amazon and the costume people and equipment I’ve ordered. I open the heavy-for-its-size, slightly battered box last, and in the opening of grocery store plastic bags is the heavy plastic bag of my father, somehow less grey, more brownish, than I thought it—he—would be.

The color freaks me out so much I fold the flaps back in and slide it under a bookshelf in my room, where the box sits for four weeks.

I know I have to take part of him to India, to the holy city of Varanasi, to leave some of his ashes there and some under the big sky of South Africa, the trip following hard upon. Amazon sends another box, with a brushed-nickel cocktail shaker. The sinuous curves of the shaker, called The Marilyn, suit the smoothness of my father, a man who never let anyone see him at a disadvantage. Whose rages at me, now I realize, were that I put him at a disadvantage.

When I was ten, we went to Mexico, where my father laughed at me while I sat on a steep hillside, unable to go up or down, before he flung one end of a towel to me and pulled me back over the edge. For years the family drove to Canada in June and home in August, the cracked car window doing little to suck out the cigarette smoke, my dad unable to quit until those final, coughing years.

No, I wouldn’t bring him back “even for” the smoky times.

He was ready, he said. He’d seen a lot of things, he’d run a lot of businesses, met a lot of people, bought and sold a lot of gold. He was tired.

There’s a round metal tag with a number on it, twist-tying the neck of the bag. Tarnished and blackened, it’s been through fire. With the box in the steel kitchen sink, I steel myself and open the bag, careful not to let my gritty father spill across the counter. Scoop with the cocktail shaker and wipe the edge, cram the lid tightly, bubble wrap and a zip-lock and yet another plastic bag, and there is my dad contained in a metal tube, the time capsule of everything he said to me and I said to him, eventually knowing, we can’t break each other.

I fold the Priority Mail box closed, slide it back under the bookshelf. The shaker goes in my small duffel, with electronics and contact lenses and spare underwear in case I get bumped. If you care about it, put it in your carry-on.

“I’ll take you places,” I said at his bedside. “Places you haven’t been yet,” and I want to remember him saying, “I’d like that, Ali-kazam,” so that’s what I’ll write. That’s the story I’m left alive to tell.


________________________________________________
And now I am in Varanasi.

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Comments {19}

unmowngrass

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from: unmowngrass
date: Dec. 4th, 2012 07:41 pm (UTC)
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This is so touching.

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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: Dec. 5th, 2012 05:29 pm (UTC)
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Thank you - this was a tough one to write.

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imafarmgirl

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from: imafarmgirl
date: Dec. 4th, 2012 07:50 pm (UTC)
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This is beautiful and sad.

Safe travels.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Dec. 5th, 2012 05:29 pm (UTC)
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Thank you very much.

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dragon

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from: dragonwrites
date: Dec. 5th, 2012 12:57 am (UTC)
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T and I both want to be cremated. I think I'm going to put a clause in our will that our ashes are to be mingled, then made into diamonds, which his daughter, my niece, anyone else we can think of, will be guilt-tripped into wearing around the world.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Dec. 5th, 2012 05:30 pm (UTC)
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I love it!!! And I volunteer :)

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dragon

(no subject)

from: dragonwrites
date: Dec. 5th, 2012 10:17 pm (UTC)
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Did you see my other message re: writing camp?

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The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors

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from: halfshellvenus
date: Dec. 5th, 2012 02:24 am (UTC)
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I'm glad you took the time to write about this, hard though it must have been.

The allegory here, of having such a vivid person reduced to ordinary and unremarkable gray, is death itself-- the unfairness of how it takes the people we love without even noticing all the things that make them who they are.

, the time capsule of everything he said to me and I said to him, eventually knowing, we can’t break each other.
This was beautiful, and so perfectly suited to this piece and to your journey forward with him.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Dec. 5th, 2012 05:30 pm (UTC)
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Thank you - I'm glad you think it worked.

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blahblahblah, whatever

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from: kathrynrose
date: Dec. 5th, 2012 02:45 am (UTC)
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This made me cry.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Dec. 5th, 2012 05:32 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for being there with me.

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drwex

I may do this a lot if you write a great deal about your father

from: drwex
date: Dec. 5th, 2012 03:37 pm (UTC)
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*pebble*

And thank you for letting me know about him, and you.

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whipchick

Re: I may do this a lot if you write a great deal about your father

from: whipchick
date: Dec. 5th, 2012 05:33 pm (UTC)
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Thank you, and you're welcome on all counts.

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similiesslip

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from: similiesslip
date: Dec. 5th, 2012 06:51 pm (UTC)
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Wow, this really grabbed me. I love how you can...ashes are so sad but you make this journey into one with positive connections with your dad. It's lovely.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Dec. 11th, 2012 11:26 am (UTC)
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Thank you.

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Your Father

from: anonymous
date: Dec. 7th, 2012 02:41 am (UTC)
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Brought tears to my eyes, the memories, the good and the tough times and seeing the places you are taking him through your journal.
Thank you,
Auntie C
PS Can figure out how to change the Anonymous "From" to me.

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whipchick

Re: Your Father

from: whipchick
date: Dec. 11th, 2012 11:27 am (UTC)
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Thank you :)

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Donna

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from: dabhug
date: Dec. 19th, 2012 10:46 pm (UTC)
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This moved me. Thank you for sharing it and thank you for having me.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Dec. 20th, 2012 06:36 am (UTC)
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Thank you - this one was tough to write. And glad to be asked - any friend of K's is a friend of mine :)

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