The summer after you died, I went through the attic. I was not looking for your things. Honestly, I was looking for vintage clothes from Mom’s old wardrobe. I’m not ashamed of that, because the skeletal mounds of your things around the house were suffocating. Shirts and pants and underwear, and Mom couldn’t get rid of them, even though she had tried. When I was poking around in the attic I was not looking for you. Of course, as grief seems to go, when you finally stop looking for your deceased love one on the street, you come face to face with their doppelganger.
I came across some of your older clothes, and I was reminded of a younger Roy. A Roy who lifted me up on the way to elementary school, stayed up all night and had jet-black hair. Sometimes remembering my childhood is tough, but it’s hard to isolate why. It could be that you were there, and now you’re not. It could be the omnipresent pain of growing older, and getting closer to more death. Certainly, there is an aspect of self-pity. I think about a little Caitlin with banana curls and a Rugrats sweatshirt, and I wonder what I could say to her. How would 5 year-old me feel if someone told her that she was going to experience unfathomable pain a decade later? Self-pity has contaminated most of my nostalgia, but what I found next in the attic was not of this nature.
I found your graduation cap and gown from Fordham. No fancy velvet, just modest robes of a modest man who had the courage to go to college in his 30s. When I first thought about your death, I always thought of it in terms of losing a father. I was so angry and devastated, all I could think about was no longer mine. As time went by, I could think about what others had lost as well. I was angry for Mom, for your brothers, and even briefly angry for your parents; because we had all had been robbed. Even now, the phrase that dominates my mind when I sob at night is “you don’t know what I lost.” No one who has not experienced it can imagine what it was like to lose you, to keep on living without you.
Coming across the graduation cap was the first time I thought about what you had lost. I thought about a very 90’s Roy Dorman with full facial hair walking on stage to accept a diploma. Out of all the moments in time, that is one that I truly would have liked to witness. I cannot express how proud I am of you. I beam with pride when I tell my friends about how my father dropped out of college at 18, and started from scratch in his early thirties. I also am proud that you majored in philosophy, because it is one of the coolest and least practical majors out there, and I am glad that you followed your heart.
I think about all of your ambitions, and the wall of pictures you had in your office of Jolie and me. You were unanimously considered to be a wonderful father, because you made your family the center of your life. In my few moments of wisdom, I understand how much it hurt to leave that behind.
I often find myself wondering how you felt about dying when the time came. I know that your first response to hearing that the battle was over: “what about the girls?” I wonder how much you held on for the family, and how your illness would have been different if you were alone. All of this is trivial in some sense, because mostly I don’t wonder these things. Mostly, I just miss you terribly and wish that you would come home. I still have the graduation cap in my room.