If my father were alive, he would’ve turned 90 years old this week. He was the youngest of six children, born of Russian Jewish immigrants—the only one to be born in the United States. He grew up on the streets of Brooklyn, and chalked the sidewalks to practice calligraphy.
When I lost my father at age 12, I don’t recall being that affected by it. I didn’t cry at his memorial service. I felt a cultural-surface pain, but not a deep or personal pain. At the time, I believed there was something unique about being half-orphaned that set me apart from others my age—a distinguishing yet superficial characteristic that I craved.
As I’ve grown older, his absence has felt more and more pronounced, especially as I’ve come to greater self-understanding—or as I’ve come to learn more about my family and who they are.
I don’t feel distinguished any more—I only feel the slow burning loss of his presence.
Is our response to pain and loss innate or culturally trained? I wish I had been like the wailing mothers deep in Italy, who sob and beat their chests at a funeral or accident scene. I imagine the catharsis is vital to healing.
Recently I’ve come to realize my experience of pain and loss often has a long time delay; I unravel the threads for years, the impact expands over decades. But what solution is there? This process feels natural, fated, in my life.
When browsing City Lights bookstore in San Francisco, I discovered the book Delete. It’s about the necessity to forget. There’s my problem. I seem to have trouble forgetting.