Sunday, June 19, 2016
My Father's Eyes
My father was a good man, and for that reason, opaque to me. We had been close when I was a child, but when I was nine years old, we went our separate ways, emotionally; the fault was mine. And although, in his later years, I did what I could to gain some understanding of his inner life, something within me always blocked the way.
In 2004, he died suddenly and horribly on his living room sofa; my face was the last thing he saw.
After his death, I inherited his computer. One day, by accident, I found a series of digital photographs he had taken just a few months before he died. I recognized their purpose right away: he had formed a partnership with several other people to bring wireless, high-bandwidth internet service to the community, and he had mentioned to me that he needed "line of sight" information on locations where the mountains would not interfere with signals. For that perspective, he had taken these photos from one of the highest hills in the region.
I had climbed this hill many times. Even without snow, the possible ways up were never easy. My father had been a university athlete, but in his old age, he suffered from several ailments and a bone chip under one of his kneecaps. This made walking hard for him, to the point where he avoided the icy, unpaved roads all around us. Yet somehow, despite the ice, the snow, the jagged rocks, and the wind, he had climbed that mountain and taken the photos he needed.
I often think of him standing up there, in pain, with only three months left to live, doing what he had to do for the sake of his project and for the people who relied on him. From that height, he would have seen a landscape that I loved and that still reveals itself in dreams, but what he might have thought, or how he might have felt, are beyond my capacity to know.