My Father is Dead

Mon, 14 Jun 2021

My father died at home yesterday after struggling for roughly seven months with pancreatic cancer. At least, that’s what will most likely go on his death certificate. But after sustaining two head injuries in early April and knowing that he was never the same afterward, I can’t help but feel that my father died then and that his body didn’t finally give up until yesterday.

I thought this would hurt more, but I wonder if I’ve been grieving for the man since I first learned of his diagnosis in December. Maybe it’ll hit me later, but right now I’m glad his suffering is over, and that my mother isn’t suffering alongside him. She cared for him with help from me, my wife, and my brother since he came home from the hospital in early May. The last time he spoke to me was last Thursday. I was giving him his medicine and had put on Renaissance’s Prologue album. He thought I was one of the home hospice nurses.

Before the COVID-19 lockdown started, we were going to see Dweezil Zappa in concert, performing his father Frank’s music. That was how we bonded; we’d go to rock concerts together and see the bands he grew up with and passed down to me. I’ll never get to see another concert with him. I’ll never get to share another prog album that I’ve discovered with him.

I never got to share Albert Bouchard’s Re Imaginos with him to show him the weird, proggy side of the Blue Öyster Cult that he never got to experience because excessive airplay of hits like “Godzilla” and “Don’t Fear the Reaper” ruined the BÖC for him. I never got to share Hiromi Uehara with him. I had Arjen Lucassen’s Guilt Machine album from 2009 playing yesterday as I drove down to make sure my mother was all right and help plan her next steps. It was called On This Perfect Day, and I don’t remember if I ever told my dad about it.

Likewise with John Carpenter’s Lost Themes albums. I don’t know if he would have gotten into them, but since they were synth-heavy instrumental albums I think he would. Besides, when I was 10 he took a night off from his bartending job to take my brother and me to the movies to see They Live. My brother wasn’t into horror movies, but he was into pro wrestling and Rowdy Roddy Piper was his favorite heel. I was a horror fan and I had recently seen The Thing and Christine, so I knew what I was getting into.

There’s a lot I won’t get to share with him now that he’s gone. I feel like I should have drank with him more. I feel like I should have smoked with him when he offered, instead of being uptight and turning him down because I had to drive later or because I had to work tomorrow. But at the same time, he told me time and time again not to make the same mistakes he made.

I feel like I never really got to know my father. He never talked much about his own feelings or what was on his mind, and for better or worse I learned how to be a man from his own example. I suspect he did my brother and me a disservice in that regard, but it’s hard to blame him considering the examples from which he learned. So I try to do better. It’s too late to do anything else now. He’s just tears in the rain, a ghost haunting the memories of those who knew him.

When I was born, he sat outside the delivery room reading The Lord of the Rings. As he lay dying I read it to him. I didn’t know what else I could do for him besides try to close the circle.

His name was James Albert Graybosch and he died at 63. He was a truck driver, a locksmith, a detective, a bartender, a clam digger, a boatbuilder, a programmer, an investor, a guitarist, a father, and a husband. He did right by my mother, and he did the best he could to be a better father to me and my brother than his father was to him. He spent his entire life hustling so that his family never had to do without, and he didn’t even get to retire. My father deserved a better life and a better death than he got.

Note

This originally appeared on The Well on 15 June 2021, the day after my father’s passing. I’m posting this here and back-dating it because my father deserves some public acknowledgement of his death.