My father would have loved the internet. But by the time the rest of us were crafting our first AIM names and building GeoCities fan pages he was on his way out. Ron was a chronic cataloger of records, tapes, and CDs. The storage area of his condo had wall to wall shelves full of perfectly organized VHS tapes. Shows he’d recorded off of television, movies, things he thought I might like. The entirety of the Disney Vault. Every Bette Davis film. And that Bank of Hawaii commercial. Nothing went unarchived.
Ron traveled to Egypt just before he lost his eyesight, a few years before AIDS claimed him. He wrote a journal there in the form of letters to me. As an overindulged only child with a lot of free time and access to cassette tapes, I thought I’d return the favor when my mothers and I went on a cross-country road trip. I created an elaborate diary of our journey, recording hot takes on mundane rest stop drama and reviewing motels with my Panasonic tape deck
. In my mind was as good as floating down the Nile.
Ron’s birthday is October 17th. I’m never sure how to word that properly. When someone dies does their birthday exist in the past tense? Can someone who was once very much alive “used to have a birthday?” Important and odd things tend to happen to me on that day, probably because I ascribe more meaning to them than I ought to. The year after he died I went to my first homecoming dance and fell in love with a boy who would change my life for better and for worse. Last year I completed doula training, which I’m sure he would have mocked in the most endearing way possible. The year prior a friend convinced me to attend a dinner held in complete darkness and led by blind servers. Halfway through pouring a steady stream of wine into my lap, I heard his name called from across the room. This year, my father’s oldest friend, the one who stood beside him in that yearbook photo, is visiting for the first time in over a decade.
My father was adopted and then returned and adopted again, the product of a wartime love affair that my grandmother kept secret until her death. I know that there are many people near Missoula, Montana that look like me, but I haven’t found the right way to break the news to them yet. I’m sure they’re all on Facebook.