I didn’t imagine, when I started to write the story of my father’s life, that his skeleton would start a conversation, or how quickly I’d be drawn into it. It seemed only natural the first time he popped up to give me mild shit about something I’d written. He often had a problem with things I wrote, even as he usually approved of the style. I have to say, though, since his fairly sudden death, and our chat the last night of his life, he’s become milder than when he was alive and kicking.
The skeleton’s personality is the essence of Irv as he always was, and also, my father as he would have been, had we had more talks along the lines of that conversation the last night of his life. The skeleton has the enhanced self-awareness that comes from thinking about his life in quiet contemplation for the eleven years since his death. He has much more perspective than he did when he was alive. This is only natural.
There is some irony in the changes to his personality since he became a skeleton, He always argued that people cannot change themselves or their lives in any fundamental way. He seemed quite changed to me that last night of his life, expressing regrets, admitting he’d been foolish, wrong, apologizing for the first time in his life. I know I was changed, thankfully, and just in time to be mild, and patient– to hear his confession and help him make his exit from this world.
The skeleton of my father, who first popped up to heckle me, became an equal partner in the telling of this story of his life. He supplements, argues, clarifies, proposes alternate scenarios in ways that sometimes surprised me, even though I wrote his words for him. He sometimes chafed at this arrangement, me writing all his lines, but he generally found it easier to just go along. Another sign of how much he mellowed and matured since his death.
What choice does he have, anyway, if he wants his story to be told?