I want to say goodbye to Zorca, our gypsy neighbor who's put down roots in the townhouse on the corner of Travis and Stuart: Our psychic friend, our comrade. I will miss her. She has this amazing voice, amazing. It sounds exactly what a crazy old lady's voice should sound like, shrieking and urgent, near-hysterical, yet wise beyond its whelps.
This house we're leaving, it is haunted; we said goodbye to the ghosts. We'd heard about one ghost from a previous tenant who stopped by one evening with his lover because they'd been walking on the sidewalk in front of the house and run into David who was taking out the trash. The previous tenant came upstairs to look around the old place, and he told us the story of the ghost who hurled one of his floor lamps across the room, or something equally catastrophic, when he'd lived here.
We had no episodes like that one. But in fact, we had not-so-subtle catastrophes that could not be attributed per se to ghosts. Like the time the fleas infested, or the time it poured buckets of rain down through the attic door into our bedroom on Memorial Day two years ago. Like the lead paint, the nails sticking out of the warping hardwoods, the general decay everpresent -- from the shedding shingles of white paint adorning the outside, to the squirrel corpses that, while they rot, infuse the air we've had to breathe with the pungent, unmistakable odor of death. Hard to escape that smell; it creeps into everything. Both times our children were just home from being born, an animal rotted beneath the floorboards under the bed I nursed them in.
My father still lies in a drug-induced coma in Mission Hospital in California. They, the doctors, are afraid to allow his brain any stimulation. His brain needs rest, they say. Yes, we say to one another; he needs rest. And he does. My father needs a lot of rest. He has lived hard the past 71 years, a charmed life, as my brother Marco dubs it. He deserves to die a hero in his own mind, my father, which is what he worked his whole life to be: a hero in his own mind.
Is he big enough to be a hero in my mind? If you know more than a little about my father, more than a little about me, you know that the decision for me to consider my father a hero is one that must be made with the purest love, because my father and I? We fought. Always and consistently: to the death. We fought so hard, we actually hated one another truly and purely at times. But always within that hatred lived the ghost of love, bright love, true love. Real love, no matter what shape it chose to show up in. And I don't even feel bad about romanticizing my father because, in fact, he is a hero in my mind. He lived up to me, to the largeness I required of him. That is no small feat. I'm proud of him.
What I miss most right now is his voice -- the boom and bust of it, his whimsy, his self-satisfied delight in his own observations. In the last five years, most every time I called him (and it was only maybe three times a month), I'd catch him potting his plants, his flowers specifically, around his patio overlooking San Clemente and the Pacific Ocean. He'd tell me what he was doing, and what a perfect day it was. "It's another perfect day here in Southern California," he'd say accusingly.
"It's hot here," I'd say. Or "it's raining," or "it's sorta cold here."
"I don't know why anyone would choose to live in fucking Houston," he'd say. "I live in Paradise."
"It's complicated," I would say sometimes, although rarely. Mostly, I'd just say, "Yeah...."
I wish I had a recording of my father's voice. I have a recording of my brother Marco imitating him, and it's scary, the verisimilitude Marco can capture. He knows how to dramatize my father's gross humanity with expertly observed examples. He's genius, my brother, and I'm grateful for him.
Today, while talking to Marco on the phone, I could hear the ghost of my father in him, and I realized that the ghost of my father has been there, here, with us forever; and therefore, he will be with us forever. And that is enough.