I was only five when my father told me he was going to die. He looked me in the eyes – without a tear, without a smile, without anything – and said in an English accent pregnant with sternness beyond its years and a hint of pending sadness, “What’s done is done.”
He had been raised on the phrase. Life to him was a tumbling stone atop of a hill. As he saw it, some people descended down a steep slope, unable to control any aspect of their lives. For others, it was but a bump; an existence that was short, yet so, so sweet. This latter case unfolds because one could not be deluded into believing that life was bubbling with grandeur whilst they reigned momentarily on top of the hill. In reality, there is no grandeur in life. All that lay at the bottom of the hill is an end. A dead end, to be exact.
To this day, I am not sure which type of hill my father was on. If I were to guess, I’d say neither. His life wasn’t tumbling down some slope nor was it shortly lived. He was thirty-six, neither old nor young. He was an immigrant, neither in control nor free. Instead, he was on the crawling expanse of a field. In front him there lay only endlessness. Behind him told very much the same story. He could not tell where he was, or where he was going. There was no escape.
Like a Catholic counting down the seconds to Heaven, my father was forced to wait for his salvation. What that meant, he wasn’t exactly sure. He was at a loss with the skein of his existence. Some days, however, when he toiled around with his thumbs or pushed buttons through his shirt in amazement, he said, “See the wonders of the world? This is why we are here.” In truth, he had an unworldly button collection and admittedly his thumbs were quite nice. Perhaps I may be so inclined to call them wonders of the world.
It wasn’t always as such though. Sadness is precluded by happiness in most instances. This, however, is not always the case. There did exist a once upon a time when his positive outlook was unrivaled. Even the sun seemed to balk at his glow. Despite the troubles that burdened his life; from an abusive, drunken father to a relentless struggle to find daily food, he always looked at me and said, “Believe, son. It’s all anyone can do.” His lips quivered as he said it.
He then went on to tell me how his dad never believed in him. The belt his father hit him with did though. Nothing is a greater testament of belief than leather lapping itself little by little onto a bare back. Look at Jesus. He was whipped for his belief. My dad too. Unlike Jesus, though, my dad thought he could only resurrect while still alive. In short, he believed he could become someone.
My father told that he wouldn’t have had it any other way. Communist Poland was one of the few places left to dream in the world. Instead of having wealth, people imagined it, and thus, it took all different forms. Imagine believing that to have a bed was tantamount to having untold riches. Most would be laughed at. But that was just one dream my father had, and the most important one too for my father wanted a place to rest his other dreams on.
Luckily, he got that bed, and hundreds of others too. He also became someone. He became a father, a brother, a boyfriend, a lover, a husband, a colleague, an enemy, an athlete, a layabout, a saint, a sinner, a hero, a coward, a scholar, an idiot, a comedian, a tragedian, a child, an adult, a winner, a loser, a hunter, a forager, an inventor, an explorer, a creator, a destroyer, a king, a peasant, and my best friend. Now, he is all those things and more. On top of that, he is alive, not dead. I suppose than one thing he is not is done. For him, “what’s done isn’t done.” Yet, at least.