Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day When the Father is Dead

Today was Father's Day Sunday in the U.S.  I lost my own father when I was a teenager,  and my son lost his,  at the same age. Our fathers were both 52 at death.  We were both 18.   Today we were both without our fathers,  and I was thinking of my son's father,  my husband,  who vanished  in 2006:  He was cut down in his prime.

Death is not a popular subject in these times.  To ponder dead fathers on Father's Day runs counter to the retail ads where it's "all about Dad".  But I do recall a feeling of delight I had in my early 20s,  when  coming upon a passage in The Journals of Soren Kierkegaard,  in which he mused on his own dead father.  "I am saved by one dead"  said the melancholy Dane,  "but I cannot imagine being saved by one living. . .  And so I am happy in my unhappiness.".  That is akin to my own stance,  past and present.   Secret communion with the dead is anti-postmodern.  Its thinking  belongs to the age of the Romantic.  It is transcendent in a sense that America lost with the Civil War era:  No Emersonian sentiments mar our current cultural landscape.

Yet there is something Daemonic in the classical sense, in looking away from the glare,  and down into the depths.  Hamlet was obsessed with his dead father:  In this sense,  Denmark "became a prison":  No longer could the young prince find delight in the realm of sunlight:  "I have been too much in the sun",  he told the new King.    Through the dead father,  Hamlet found new well springs for his being.  The dead keep us rooted in wholeness.  I miss my husband,  but he is not lost to me in the most profound sense.  Happy Father's Day,  Andy.

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