Ben Crowder

Post mortem patris

Now that it’s been a bit longer (today marks four months since we found my dad’s body), a few more observations and thoughts, for anthropological interest:

  • We’re fairly certain he died the day he disappeared (the 13th), but the official date is the 16th, the day we found him. Turns out the medical examiner’s office here doesn’t usually do time-of-death estimations as part of autopsies. (Does it matter? No, not really. The outcome was the same either way, and in the end it’s just a number that washes farther out into the past with each new day.)
  • For a couple months I was waiting for the medical examiner to call and let me know the autopsy was finished. Turns out they were never going to call — I’d been misinformed. Luckily I happened to call them a few days after they finished the report, so we weren’t waiting excessively long for the cause of death.
  • Speaking of which, we got the official cause of death from the mortuary on November 18, two months post mortem. The final death certificates came a few days later. We can order a copy of the full autopsy report from the medical examiner’s office, which I’ve been meaning to do but haven’t gotten round to yet.
  • When the sad parts hit, I take comfort in consciously acknowledging that the mourning and the grief, however heavy, are a natural, necessary part of this process. They’re supposed to be here. I don’t particularly like being sad (especially in public!), but I also don’t want my dad’s death to mean so little to me that I no longer feel anything.
  • To that point, there have been fewer sad parts lately. I honestly don’t know if that’s because I’m slowly healing or if it’s just because my memory is a colander. Probably a mix of both. I occasionally worry that maybe I didn’t love my dad enough and that I should be more sad than I am.
  • My brain often tells me that my dad didn’t love me as much because I have almost no interest in business or sports, his two prime passions in life. I know this probably isn’t actually true, and that interest alignment isn’t on the same axis as parental love. I never thought about this when he was alive.
  • The searching-in-the-canyon dreams stopped a while ago, thankfully. I’ve had a couple dreams where I see him randomly and go up to him and say something like, “You’re dead! What are you doing here?!”, but my dreams are also notoriously meaningless and I know it’s not actually him, just my brain doing its usual regurgitation thing.
  • I haven’t felt his presence at all. No beyond-the-veil anything.
  • I’m glad most of my children knew my dad in person. Also a bit sad that my youngest won’t have any real memories of him. There’s enough photo and video footage to make up for it a little bit, maybe, but it’s not the same.
  • It took a few months before I finally threw away the bag of clothes my dad was wearing when he died. It was marked with a biohazard symbol and smelled of death, and I was too unsettled to ever open it. None of my siblings wanted it, either.
  • His car is still in my driveway, a daily reminder along with the canyon (which I still can’t not see every time I’m outside).
  • My doctor (whose sister took her life) said that immediate connections are statistically at a higher risk of suicide. I’m not at any risk myself, but I do worry more about other family members dominoing.
  • It all still feels surreal and distant, like we’re just between visits and any day now he’ll call me or show up at our door with more cookies. There have been a couple times, too, where my brain is momentarily convinced that he’s somehow still alive, that he pulled off an impossible disappearing act and is living a new life in New Zealand or Florida or something. The illusion never lasts long, thankfully.
  • At the very lowest points, I’ve felt that he abandoned us (his children). That he didn’t love us enough to stay. That’s rare, though. And I know it’s not true and that the depression was a parasite driving his brain, and who would expect a parasite to care about those left behind?
  • I’ve slowly been handling the administrative tasks. Opened an estate account. (At the bank, by the way, I learned that I had to have an EIN to open the account. Miraculously I was able to create one on the IRS site in a mere five or six minutes on my phone.) Closed other accounts. I occasionally check his email, though it’s so full of spam now that it’s pretty demoralizing.
  • Probate takes longer than I thought. Reading a summary of something is so much faster than living through it subjectively!
  • I was able to design the headstone myself, which was a relief since I haven’t exactly been inspired by most of the headstone typography I’ve seen. (So much extra tracking, and the typefaces usually aren’t great either.) It currently takes over a year for the monument company to fulfill orders. A bit longer than expected.
  • Given his age, my dad would most likely have died sometime in the next twenty years of natural causes. The fact of his absence currently doesn’t hurt as much as the awfulness of his method. I don’t know what it would feel like if he’d died of cancer or a heart attack instead.
  • I frequently think about how some — older people, primarily — have loss upon loss upon loss carved out of their souls. Parents, siblings, spouses, children, friends. So many goodbyes, so many layers of pain. Whew.
  • A few compatriots in suffering have shared their own stories of grieving and loss with me, and yet it doesn’t feel like an added burden at all.
  • When people ask how I’m doing, I still have no idea how to answer. (Having a two-month flareup of bad back pain hasn’t made it any easier.) I don’t fault the question, though. Someday I’ll figure out how to answer it again. In the meantime, apologies to those of you who’ve asked and have had to endure the awkwardness!
  • Though it might not sound like it given all of the above, I do feel like life is generally back to normal — yes, it’s overcast with occasional rain, but by and large I’m able to work and to be a husband and a father and to be an approximation of a normal, functioning member of society. (I can’t stop thinking, by the way, how infinitely harder this would all be if it had been my wife or one of my children.)

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