Thursday, November 9, 2017

If He Were Still Alive He'd Be Dead

My father’s birthday was believed to be November 6. At least that’s the day he claimed for himself. Years ago his sister, my Aunt Cassie, recalled to me that they couldn’t remember the exact date on which he was born. Time, apparently, easily slipped away in the not quite a town of Klondike hidden in Arizona’s rugged, often inaccessible Aravaipa Canyon. The thought of navigating out of that canyon to get to a hospital for childbirth was, at the time, patently absurd and so my father, like all of his siblings, was born at home. At some point my grandfather, my grandmother, and my aunt Cassie realized they had no idea when baby Ira had been born so they tried to reconstruct the events. The only thing they could remember about the birth was the storm. “It was a terrible, terrible storm. We thought the house would blow down.” Cassie told me. To their best reckoning the storm happened on November 6. And so it was that my father celebrated his birthday on the sixth day of November. Sadly, he didn’t have a chance to celebrate many of those birthdays. When he was fifty-eight years old, he died. Every year on his birthday I calculated how old he would be if he were still alive and every year those annual calculations didn’t seem to make him old enough to be dead. “He’d be sixty if he were still alive. He’d be seventy if he were still alive. He’d be eighty if he were still alive. He’d be ninety if he were still alive. He’d be a hundred if he were still alive.” Even a hundred seemed within the realm of possibility. Lots of people now make it to a hundred. So even at a hundred he might possibly still be alive. This year on his birthday I did my usual calculations and finally, after all these decades of speculation, I realized that my father was now, officially, old enough to be dead. That realization brought with it a new sadness and also a new comfort. The sadness because his death seemed like a new loss. The comfort because he was finally old enough to die. At least in my mind my father was able to live a long life. Comfort is not always or necessarily logical. We just take it where we can find it and hope for the best.