“And so castles made of sand slip into the sea, eventually…”
- ‘Castles Made of Sand’ – Jimi Hendrix Experience
Father’s Day is today, evidently, which is so damn exciting. It crept up on me this year– what with a pandemic and social revolution and all– but it’s not a day I could let slip through the cracks. I mean, really, what could be more fun than the prospect of getting together with Dad on this Hallmark-approved, cookie-cutter holiday, and celebrating the patriarchs of our families? Maybe dousing myself in gasoline and sparking a match, for starters, since my father is dead, dead, dead.
Was that too much? Did I lean too far into the pitch black abyss just now like I always do with the intrusion from Sad Sack McGee? Maybe– maybe— it could be argued that I went a bit dark right there, but what the fuck else would you expect from little orphan Adam? My entire existence is defined by the eternally looming ghosts of my departed parents, because I can’t get over the fact that Patty Biggar and Dave Swierk did the one thing we’re guaranteed to do in life: die. Their bodies did exactly what they were designed for, and my parents did the only thing they could reasonably be expected to have done the moment they were born.
Jesus Christ, how morbid can one man be? I realize that I think, talk, and write about death incessantly, but still: couldn’t I be a bit more lively about it all? It’s like, come on, the topic of our preordained mortality doesn’t need to be so morose, Adam. It’s just a natural part of life– a never yielding locomotive barrelling down the tracks at full speed, coming for us all one way or another– so maybe I could focus on the positive side here and stop dwelling on the negative?
Truth be told, I’m not even filled with much venom or rage this year as the fifth– FIFTH!— Father’s Day commences since Dave Swierk got steamrolled by some dumbass who didn’t know how to stay on the right side of a yellow double line. Sure, that instinctual impulse to lash out at the world– and thrash wildly in raw pain with a reckless abandon– is still strong, but it has drastically tempered through the years. Mostly now, a dull, throbbing sadness just festers (rots?) inside me when I think about the unlucky circumstances that pushed my sister and I into charter membership of the Dead Dads Club.
I guess I never know what the fuck I’m supposed to do today, so I tend to default to narcissistic ramblings about the universe’s inequities. I never realized how intensely self-involved clinical depression can make a person– my therapist had to point this out to me recently– but good golly is there a ton of truth in that. Seriously, I’m sitting here tapping away at my laptop attempting to craft an essay about Father’s Day and my late dad…with nary a mention of the man I’m purportedly honoring. All I do is rant sarcastically about myself, and my sadness, and my bitter recrimination, like I’m Ruth Fisher in Six Feet Under, proclaiming, “God is an asshole!”
Maybe I should do something to honor his memory, like shots of Crown Royal while I listen to Steely Dan, looking through old photographs while the tears pour out. Would that be fitting? Would it make him proud if I took today to focus on bettering myself– mentally, physically, emotionally– and demonstrating a tangible effort towards personal growth, which he always insisted was his greatest hope for me? Maybe I could do what he would likely do in my shoes: put on an air of begrudging acquiescence, act like the mature adult I’ve been imitating for years, and stoically accept that it simply is what is.
There’s no right or wrong answer, really, because grief is too intensely personal to dictate an outcome to anyone else. But after five years of misery, I can’t deal with the bullshit anymore. For me– only me– as the son of David Swierk who can never see him in the flesh again, I say this year: fuck sadness, and fuck the pain. He may be gone, and it may have been the cruelest death imaginable, but I’m still here. And I can flip the script and use that as a reason to embrace joy, light and life, rather than the thought of a sad, eternal darkness. I’m a lucky bastard because I am alive, and what’s a little pain compared to that?
Fuck sadness this year, and fuck the part of me that refuses to let go of that grief. My parents died because everyone will; isn’t it about time I use that past torment– and future inevitability– to live the life I want to live? A promise to live life to the fullest: now that’s a present my father would love.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad, wherever the hell you are.