It's April 6th 2002. The 8th anniversary of my father's suicide. The day my life was pulled out from under me and I was tossed headfirst onto the cold hard concrete to try to make heads or tails of what to do next.
This is a day I've chosen to reflect on a bunch of stuff that I've known for a long time but never really put down in a coherent form. I might ramble a bit about my dad too.
Before my father died he instilled in me several characteristics which are fundemental parts of my personality. One is a sense of absolute ethics. I believe that there ARE real standards of right and wrong that people should make every effort not to violate. That's not to say there aren't any gray areas, there are lots of them, but the gray areas can mostly be defined due to lack of knowledge/differences in values and opinion. They are not caused by a lack of "true" right and wrong.
Another thing my father instilled in me was an intense respect for self discipline. He would wake up at 5 AM every morning to work, he never seemed to take days off due to illness, and when he started to gain weight he would eliminate chocolate (his biggest weakness) from the house and buckle down. He tried to instill this discipline in me, making sure I got a lot more exercise than I wanted, trying to get me to play with science kits instead of GI Joe. It didn't really help me build up my self discipline, instead discipline was imposed from without, but it instilled in me a DESIRE for self discipline. I think I am finally starting to achieve some of my goals in terms of that. But the desire alone did many things for me, such as preventing me from using drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes and from becoming a true delinquent.
My father nurtured my academic abilities in ways that have served me very well. Not only did he pass on at least some of his genes for intellect but he ground into my head certain basics of logic, reading, writing, math, and other subjects which give me an immense academic advantage. Critical thinking and arithmatic come naturally for me since I did them when I was very young and my mind developed in such a way as to put them at the core of who I am. A lot of this was thanks to my father. I will see in the future what those abilities end up yielding me, but they are definitly abilities I prize and that I thank him for.
My father taught me to appreciate nature in ways I didn't even understand until I aged. He forced me against my will to go on walks in the woods and give up the TV for the beauty of a mountain top. This has allowed me to appreciate the natural world in a way that I don't think I could if he hadn't pushed it on me. It has given me perspective and a lot of other intangibles. It is part of who I am
My father gave me my vision of masculinity. Strength, intelligence, compassion, self discipline, ethical behavior, self suficiency and achievement. I think it's a very good view of masculinity to have
Those are some of the good traits that my father gave me. Some of the more problematic ones were perfectionism, powerfully coercive ambition, and aloofness/arrogance. He also taught me to take personal responsibility for things that weren't neccesarily entirely, or even mostly, my fault. To believe that even if you don't have direct control over something you still have a responsibility to make sure it turns out well. This is a problematic way of thinking. All of these are traits I still posses and a lot of them can be traced back to the way my father raised me. They weren't neccesarily instilled intentionally but they are still, at least partially, a result of his being the dominant figure in my life and my desire to be like him.
Those are the things my father taught me while he was alive. His death educated me in other ways. I learned from it that
You can't rely on anybody. No matter how much you think someone cares about you, no matter how much they've done for you, no matter how close you think you are, you can never really know another person and never truly understand what goes on in their head. Relying on other people is a fool's game. It's like walking across a rotting rickety bridge. Only a matter of time before it collapses.
Intimacy=pain. It will always be torn away or used against you so it's just not worth having. The only thing that can match the fulfillment of being truly close to another person is the pain when it's twisted away from you.
In the end all that remains are your achievements. I've seen so many people forget my father and our family over the years that I firmly believe that one achieves immortality only through the impression you leave on the world, not the people in it. Everyone else moved on quickly after his death. I'm the only one who seems to still actively mourn it. He had so many friends and admirers but as his life passed he just became part of the past for them. All that remains are the awards he won, the books he wrote, and the scholarship and lecture series founded in his name because of all he did during the course of his life. Well I won't forget him, I won't let him fade into the background of MY life, but I will also learn a lesson from the way others shed their feelings towards him like inconvenient overcoats after he passed. No less than four other people looked up to him as a father figure, Malik even used to call him dad, but I'm the only one left who seems to remember what he was like and what he meant to me. People are fickel and base creatures, all they can remember is what you've done for them lately. Your achievements live on and remind them of what you did. Personal connections are forgotten as soon as they are no longer convenient. I will not make the mistake of seeking immortality in the minds and hearts of other people. That's a fool's game.
Love is not enough. It just isn't. It can't sustain you.
In the end all you have is yourself and you have to protect that with all your strength. After he died I spent a long time searching for someone else to provide me with the sort of closeness and care that he did. I didn't know that was what I was doing but I couldn't comprehend what it was to be without a father. It seemed as alien to me as being without a head or a body. I even slipped up and called several male teachers "dad" when speaking to them so profound was my despair. Eventually I learned, though, that the only person who would take care of my emotions and my well being was myself. The only person who would push me, fight for me, nurture me, and comfort me when I felt like ending my life was me. My father taught me that nobody else is going to take responsibility for your well being and happiness. That is very much a personal responsibility.
You are, however, obligated to take care of other people even though nobody will take care of you. My mother basically collasped after he died. I've had to deal with many of her emotional issues while shoving my own deep inside and digesting them myself. Just because the world won't look out for you doesn't mean you can not look out for the world. Good people are the people who can take care of others without being taken care of themselves. They are a net reduction in pain and loneliness upon the world.
All these propositions are part of my basic personality. I realize not all of them seem, or even are, entirely logical but they form the base of my belief system about the world and human relations within it, and whenever I find myself straying from one or another of these propositions I always end up beliving in it again. They are the precepts with which my experience is consistant. They form the core of my belief system, along with other ideas like that there is no god and that women are just not for me. My father remains the center of my emotional, and in some ways my intellectual, life. I hope that that will remain. I don't want to forget. I don't want to heal all the way up and move on like he never lived. I have recently been trying to figure out who I am and who I want to be. I realized that I have drifted away from my father in my growth and I want that to stop. I WILL not forget. I will not move on. I will not complete the betrayel of his memory and all that he was as a person. I will hold on for as long as I can. I can grow up and succeed without letting go of him. When I was younger I used to fast from time to time, whenever I felt the need to. I don't know, maybe it was due in part to my feelings about being husky. But regardless I'm renewing the practise. I will fast every year on the day of my father's death and I will remember the emptyness I felt back then and the fullness of the man who used to fill that space.
Here's to you dad. Here's to never forgetting where we come from and the people who made us who we are. And here's to learning from our mistakes.