off the cuff: my father is all around me

Driving across the midlands in Sweden, I think constantly of my father. My father is always all around me. I think of how he would like to see a moose. I think of childhood camping trips and the sticker from a national park in Maine or Canada. There was, i think, a moose sticker near the little coat closet. When I am renovating the shop, when I am taking down the ceiling, when I am cleaning out the tiles into a big dumpster, I think of him watching me. I think of wishing he were there to help me, or to ask him something. I think of him proud of me for doing some work alone and for figuring out the strange language of renovations, like hiring a dumpster, when the language of German is already foreign.

When I am driving across this wide land I think if him pulling over near a lake just to look at it. I think of how he would appreciate funny signs, or just, the sight of Swedish men eating sausages at the gas station out of doors. My father is all around me. When I am at the shop I am cleaning out the dust and I take down my mask to wipe my face and I just remember how my father cleaned the closet of asbestos and made a new cedar closet on daniel street. It is sometimes strange to have German male friends helping me, or to listen to them talking in the front seat; they do not realize how much they remind me of the mannerisms of my father and have become somehow other fathers to me.

When i am in the gas station on the highway in Sweden looking at the Armoral, i catch myself staring at it for a long time … and then at the WD40, staring at the cans for too long. I remember the last days I was with my father. We chose easy projects for ourselves, like how to put down the bike seat that hadn’t been moved in 20 years. It was so simple in those days; I had the feeling that only one thing had to be planned for a day, the sole task being to buy the wd40. Then we’d go to the Clifton general store and buy the wd40 and come home triumphant, to try to move the damn seat down. Unsuccessful. The next day was another task–we took it together in the pickup to the bike store for the healthy men to move it down, and even they couldn’t do it. But that was our project and it made us feel good.

I think I associate this with maleness; there is no multitasking involved and the accomplishment feels so final. As opposed to femaleness which is many different projects with no beginnings and no endings. Is this fair? Do I miss my father for this straight forward order?

This is how i sometimes feel in the new shop when I am trying to capture all the dust from the cement walls and the more I wipe the more that just keeps coming. Which leaves one a futile kind of feeling, that it never ends. And one begins to think, for what, why, when I can’t stop it, can’t stop illness and death from coming, not from my father or myself, it goes on, ad infinim.

The hardest moments we cannot predict, like when your heart swells looking at a can of armorol in the gas station, and it is predicated on your strange surroundings. What can you do, if it happens then? And what about the birch bark canoe you made as a child, the book about the boat that traveled all if the great lakes? What can you do when you remember this in the car with your bandmates and you have tears in your eyes. Little childhood memories like the fight about Cindy Lauper being a lesbian or not, and me remembering that she was hulk hogan’s girlfriend. When I ride the ferry, any ferry, my heart swells but tears don’t come any more. It is the force of the water and the memory of his joy at water, at boats. For months after my father died I had my daily cry. Then I could let it go. Now it is pent up again. I haven’t cried really cried for my father in months.

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