Rex? Damn near killed ‘em.

View from on high, Nelson Bonestroo

In a situation unique but not unprecedented it may behoove the parties involved to look back for a better understanding of how to move forward. It’s said, often pithily, that those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it. That could be a thought on the cyclical nature of the human experience or a suggestion as to how to avoid repeating mistakes made. Regardless, it’s an imperfect rumination on the fates. Imperfect though it may be, Sophocles got it right when he wrote in a play, “It’s perfect justice: natures like yours are hardest on themselves.” I think about this when contemplating my father and me and our exiles.

We are walking together on an anniversary. This is the day my dad outlives his father. We walk with light weights, moving our arms oddly as we step. He sets the pace and he’s kicking my ass. When we stop, we talk, but he doesn’t find words, so I talk. I know it’s a complicated day, sad and not. He outlived his father. He outlived his son. He still has me. I point out he and his dad never got to be adults together. I point out there is no precedent from here, that we can be whatever we want. We are both going to have to learn some new ways to be. We have steak that night. We drink aged tequila together.

I’m in a weird place. I’m stuck on a narrative that has me dancing for the gods in hopes of golf claps. I know there is a futility to my pursuits but an outside chance I’ll succeed. I don’t know. I skilled up to compensate for failure and made something beautiful. I still don’t know if writing about gunmen is the way to get canonical. I don’t so much trust my predictions anymore. We both failed in our predictions. We didn’t so much fail in our actions, but somehow we won every battle and still lost my brother’s war.

My horse didn’t come in. That makes it a stretch to identify with a Homeric protagonist despite the vague similarities of our odysseys. It’s also a stretch to say I stole a woman and started a war, or that I led the defense in the siege my brother started, or that I beat the champion when we toe to toed despite my weakness of heel, or that I beat the other champion with a lucky shot to a weak point. It’s a stretch but not by much. In one’s own story they should be the hero. I guess I was Kafka’s roach too. I caught rye in a moveable feast as I looked for paradise lost. Heroes are abstracts both for the over literate and the between war soldier.

I wrote and my dad made pens. I helped him make something good better. It’s still his thing, but we worked together. The rebuild of my late brother’s car is more of a collaboration. Using the pieces they planned prior, we work together to make something both of us can enjoy. We talk it out as we tinker, how I want it for alpine picnics and he wants it for hunting. We high five when we say we’re both out for racks and my brother’s dog raises her head from the sunny concrete thinking she missed something. The dog wears my shirt for sun protection, one of many I’ve donated to the rebuild. It seems my dad only needs a hand when I have a nice shirt on. The dog decides she missed nothing and puts her head back down.

I didn’t take the chance I had to kill my father. I told him his son was dead at the dinner table, but not all I knew. Later, a neighbor checks on us and says what he knows. That’s when he dies, when he hears the man shot had kids. That’s when the year and a half of strain and struggle with his son’s mental illness hit him in the knees and he crumbles. My neighbor catches him. He’s too big for me. I can’t carry him. Within a few hours the sheriffs will have left and the press will be on their way and we will be gone. That’s when our exiles will start separately.

Years later at the dinner table I’ve been called to a meeting of friendlies. I think it as advocate for youth gone teenage troubled. It turns out to be about the book I wrote. Because I have been close about content but disclosed potential outcomes, there is much confusion. I wouldn’t be at the table for this. I’m here to help a kid I like, not to mollify conflated fears. When suffering an incorrect interpretation, I cut him off. “That isn’t what it is at all. Dad, stop, you don’t get to speak for me anymore. You’re not qualified.” He stops. Later he apologizes. I do too.

Later by months, we are actually eating at the table. We are nuclear and we are banterous and we are home. When my mom passes my dad something mid anecdote, he takes from the plate and passes it on remarking of the foolishness, “that’s something my stud son would do.” I take the plate and portion and say nothing but am smoldering. I want to point out my accomplishments romantic and otherwise make me the stud of his sons. I don’t. Instead, I remind myself as I chew that I’ve seduced in five languages and smile because I’ve only ever spoken three. It shouldn’t bother me but does. I say nothing with a private consolation that he just doesn’t know what words mean. We’ve all died at that dinner table, different ways for us all.

One of the ways he has changed since is he is less threatened by things not understood. He fears complexities. He fears his sons. He thought he understood the one and he didn’t. Every day he thinks about it. That threat has passed. He fears my book. I’ve been vague, so his mind has wandered. He also didn’t want to get in the way. This is my thing and he doesn’t understand. He trusts though. When it’s ready, he reads it in a day. “So that’s what you’ve been up to.” Its conclusion proves false and true. He hugs me and he is that proud.

Some morning later he’s out with the dog and his little weights lifting tons. I run past to the half point and catch back up. He and the dog run with me for a clip before the dog stops to smell. He breathes deep and smiles and I run on. For Mother’s day I cook a meal she makes but in my way. He likes the confited pork belly in the carbonara but doesn’t think much of the pea shoots. We aren’t all together on Father’s day either, but the day we celebrate we have steak from the grill for dinner and aged tequila for dessert. On the actual day I send him a picture of the drive taken with his dog and his jeep and his son. He says it’s good to be a dad.

These may seem insignificant in their moments but they mean just everything. We both came crashing down so hard. Building ourselves and each other back up seems one of the most important things to be done. I need him sturdy so I can stand on his shoulders again. The build up comes a moment at a time. I don’t know the precedence but there are guides. I know I don’t want to kill him. I may not often think beyond my member and may fall for pretty faced dark haired women in many ways smarter than me, but the world as I know it is far more Shakespeare than Freud. You have to revel in the comedies so you can weather the tragedies.

I’m on top of a mountain from whose heights I can see most of my formation. From on high I can see years. There are so many firsts here, so many bests, so many… I’m in Colorado but remembering Denmark and looking out over the strait to Sweden thinking, “I can see how Denmark’s a prison.” When I turn on the summit I can see so much. Boulder is called a bubble but it reminds me of a prison. Here, there is no leaving what happened. Not that it can be left, the whole world is a prison, and I’ve taken my sentence with me in the world. On the way down the thought occurs that the difference between a castle and a mansion is a dungeon. That I have a dungeon makes my mind a palace and that makes my inheritance regal.

I suppose my dad and me have spent some time pondering legacies. We both did well with our tragedy. We both try to do good. We both know the other did everything they could and more than they thought they were capable of. We both try to forgive ourselves our futility. It’s complicated because we weren’t always aligned and occasionally undermined the other’s efforts. Life is full of complex relationships and imperfect interactions and is occasionally defined by death. Both of us live still. We have found the capacity to laugh again. We will always cry. The tragic of his murderous suicide is in our every smile. It has us both pondering forevers. Neither of us know much about eternity, but we’ve talked about it. “If there’s an afterlife, I’ll be looking for him.” He says it, then he breaks. Him and me both.