I have a myth in my mind.
In the myth, I am 36 years old, and I meet my father at my mother’s funeral. Or, rather, at her wake. It is the hour before the public is set to arrive, the designated funeral home “family hour” from 3 until 4 pm when only close family members gather to see my mother in her casket. And yet, there he is. My father. A bearded stranger. Pacing back and forth behind a row of metal folding chairs in the back of the room.
He is there, yes, that’s him. But we’ve met before.
I met my father around my 18th birthday. His mother lived in my town, and though I’d had little to no contact with her over the years, she’d sent me a card with money in it for my high school graduation and, in lieu of writing her a thank you note, I called. She was happy to hear from me, and I remember feeling the warmth of that, her grandmotherly embrace, and somewhere during that phone call she asked if I’d like to come over for a visit to look at some family photos and I asked where my father was, and I said it rather boldly, like, “Do you know where Lee Roy is these days?”, feeling all grown up at age 18 and out of high school, and she said he was living right there in town, “right up the road!” and would I like to meet him, maybe next Sunday, at her house?
At least that’s how I remember it. The edges are so watery.
A few years ago, I logged into Facebook and, in the sidebar on the right a photo appeared under the words PEOPLE YOU MAY KNOW. An elderly man with dark, slicked-back hair and a gray beard; eyebrows raised as if puzzled or lost; glasses reflecting the light of a camera; my father’s name underneath. I clicked on his photo and, with the magic that happens only in cyberspace, landed in my father’s internet life.
There he was with his family: wife, sons, a daughter. A photo montage of the porch he’d recently built on the front of their house, the stages of its construction set against red brick and clipped green grass. I have a thing for porches — always wanted one, never had one — kind of like having a father? And my father builds porches? He could build me a porch? He could stay for Sunday supper?? There are status updates about going to the Baptist church (he’s a Baptist?), asking after the health of friends, warning of a coming thunderstorm (“a big one on it’s way”), his back-and-forth banter about a private joke I’m not in on.
I noted his birthday. My father has a birthday. How had I never considered this? Born on November 29. A Sagittarius.
I typed the words “Sagittarius Characteristics” into my browser and these traits appeared on my screen: magnanimous, honest, expansive, generous, reckless, extroverted, proud, larger than life, free.
I remember the day he sent me a Facebook Friend Request. I remember how I pressed the ignore button immediately. He disappeared. And the next time I typed in his name to check his FB page, all but his profile photo had disappeared. No more banter or jokes or storm warnings. No more building of porches. His life no longer available to the public. And the public is me.
I met my father at my mother’s funeral. A myth I’m still holding on to, though for what reasons, I can’t decide.