If I had said, “It’s OK, we will be alright,” would that have made it easier for him to let go?
The plane went down. And he was alone.
I wasn’t there. And yet, it’s so present in my mind. He felt the force of the nosedive press his back against his seat. Or was that his arms, pushing down on the armrests, throwing his back into the musty blue seat? He tries to keep far away from the nose of the plane, diving into the night-lit ocean. Only an inch did his arms push his back into the chair. Only an inch further away from the nose of the plane. He knows he’s going to die. And he starts thinking.
None of us were there with him. No wife. No son, no daughter. Does he love anyone else that wasn’t there? Dying with a bunch of strangers, thinking of his family. When he thinks of us, does he think of us in the present? Am I a little girl when he thinks of me? Were those the best days? When I reached out and grabbed his finger with my whole hand as a newborn.
I think his eyes are wide, but they’re always wide. Was he scared? For us? Of course we will be upset. But the worst part, perhaps, is not the loss, but knowing his mental tumult before his death. That we weren’t there until the end.
Once my father and I got into an argument. He left the house angrily, and I didn’t follow. He was right to be angry. My mother got upset and told me never to leave in the middle of a fight, or let someone leave in the middle of a fight. Because they might not come back. There might be an accident, and the last things I will have said will be words of anger.
We were in an airport once, waiting to board a plane. A man in army fatigues came up to us and told my father that he could see how much I loved him, just by the way we interacted. I was young, and we were playing. No toys, no games. Just my father and me, sitting on a chair in an airport. If it was crowded, I didn’t notice.
As I got older, I used to joke that I’d still sit on my father’s lap after dinner when I’m 16. Sixteen is far passed now. I don’t remember when I stopped. I wish I hadn’t.
I wish I could have told him we would be alright. I wish he didn’t feel guilty about dying and leaving us all behind. Did he?
I wish there hadn’t been things unspoken that should have been said. Things like “I’m sorry,” and “I love you,” and “I don’t know how to live without you,” and “We will be OK.” But, is there anything that could really have been said that would have made the moments before his death a little more peaceful? Is it really leaving in the middle of angry words that shouldn’t be done, or is it leaving in the middle of unspoken words?
Perhaps he was happy that we weren’t there, that we would go on living. How selfless does one become in the face of death?
His heart beats faster. My father, a god. A god who is always right, always has a solution–the strongest, the smartest, the undefeatable–helpless.
We haven’t always had an easy time communicating, my father and I.
It’s because we are the same person.
If I could have been there in those last moments before his death, as he sat alone, knowing he would never see us again–knowing he would be eternally alone, and that we would forever be without him–I would have told him not to worry. He did everything right. I would have held his hand and said, “I’m sorry, I forgive you, and I know you forgive me.”
But I wasn’t there. He was alone on the plane, with unspoken words. With unnecessary fears and guilt and regrets. I know. I know everything that was never said.
If only I’d had more time to say it. I had years.
If only I’d had the words to say it. I had books.
If only, if only. I would have said:
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