We don't talk about what happened 3 summers ago. I guess that if we did, we'd have to talk about the year before that, and then we'd have to talk about every moment of your life that led up to what happened that evening in May. So instead, the framed photographs sit in cardboard boxes, too important to be thrown away, too insignificant to remain in sight, like our memory of you. I still have a photograph of us in front of the Grand Canyon up on my bookshelf, the only small rebellion I am capable of participating in, as if remembering you is a rebellion.
The years leading up to your passing were tainted in poor decision making on your part, and maybe that's the only part of you they can bear to remember. Because it's easier to be angry than to grieve. But I remember your barely conscious body on the kitchen floor, how you told me not to worry, it was just that the tiles felt nice and cold. I got a pillow from the living room and placed it under your head, and when I checked back later, you were asleep and the pillow was tossed aside. I remember the cans that I found months later in my room, bringing them up to my nose and sniffing them, trying to understand why.
I remember that autumn night when the rest of the family was asleep but we were up, so we went for a midnight swim in the pool. I remember the way the car smelled when we drove to yard sales around the neighborhood, the icecream you bought us from the Russian store, the morning you pulled over to chug a bottle of beer before getting back in the car to drive me to school, the sound of the ambulance arriving at 4 in the morning. I remember the way your voice sounded when you left a voicemail to wish me a happy birthday, the last I ever heard from you.
I remember going to school the day after she told us you were gone, wondering why everyone was carrying on as always, feeling like I should be more sad, only breaking down fully a few months later, and then again several months after that. I only regret that my childhood had less of you in it than it should have, that I didn't know you fully enough to know what you would think of who I am today, of how the world is today. I wonder how you went from being a person with your own world to merely a series of cells that exists within me. I miss you like something that I've lost and can't remember where I left. We don't talk about what happened 3 summers ago, but I miss you, dad.