It’s been difficult to write much of late. I’ve mostly stared at blank pages on my laptop wondering what to write next. I’ve dibbled and dabbled with scenes, blog posts, and general musings with very little to show for it. I have a list of ideas that I keep, but nothing gets me fired up or excited. In the moments when I’m not stressing over work or contingency plans, I find I’d rather sleep than spend time writing. This past weekend, I took more naps than I normally do. The dreary weather on Sunday didn’t help.
My general mood calls my dad to mind. It will soon be five years since he passed. His picture hangs on my office wall, so I look at him every morning, frozen in a serious pose just before the cancer crippled him. I wonder what he’d think about what’s happening now. I wonder what he’d say. Would we still talk about baseball as we’d normally do at this time of year or would we muse about the chaotic state of things instead? Like most people alive today, I doubt he’d have any experience to draw on. He was 15 during the 1957 epidemic, but it was nothing on the scale of what we are seeing today.
Had Dad survived pancreatic cancer, he would have turned 78 this year, which would have put him right in the demographic with the most at risk in the face of the Coronavirus, but one thing Dad was good at was self-isolation. He practically spent his entire adult life in isolation. He retired from his job in 1999 and rarely left the house until he passed in 2015. My brothers and I managed to get him out of the house on a few occasions (e.g. weddings, births, etc.), but for the most part, he holed up in his house like some entrenched war veteran who still thought some imaginary war was raging.
In many ways, it was a war. Thinking back over the years, I can clearly see it. Dad suffered from a life-long battle with depression. Men in his generation didn’t cop to feelings or vulnerabilities. Instead, they found other ways to cope. Dad’s coping involved sleeping pills or pain killers. For most of my childhood, Dad hid away in his bedroom sleeping away his worries. When things got scary, he disappeared.
When my brothers and I recall moments in our collective childhood, we often talk about Dad and his endless naps. He routinely took the first two weeks of July off work every year, but we never went anywhere on vacation. Instead, Dad spent most of that time napping. Our mom would shoo us outside so we wouldn’t wake him, and since he slept so much, we practically lived in the woods behind our house.
That was how Dad dealt with things. I wish I had had the courage to ask him why, to get a better understanding of him, but I never did. It’s hard to question those we love without feeling like we’re betraying them. The reality is that we often don’t understand ourselves very well, or at least, we can’t articulate it in a logical way, so it’s doubtful any questions I had would have been answered in a satisfying way. I’m just left to speculate and wonder if he’d react any differently to the current events than he did to anything else in my lifetime with him. Probably not, and that’s okay because I still love and miss him everyday.