I originally wrote this post on February 26 of this year, and have now polished it up and want to share it, as it’s foundational to a lot of the other scraps I’ve written up and will post over the next few weeks and months.
T-Plus 16 Days
As I was walking down the street from the new development where I had gone to grab dinner tonight—the same place I took Mom and Dad for dinner in September 2014 when they came to visit after I first moved to this neighborhood—the sky was dusk-colored with a darker layer of clouds over it.
I started thinking: where is Dad?
I get that he’s not here in DC. He’s not supposed to be in DC, at least not regularly. But…he’s not in Michigan? He’s not in his chair? Or at yoga, maybe?
Mom read me a card that she got today from one of his yoga instructors, a woman named Julie. Julie wrote that Dad always got there early and had the room set up for her because he knew that she had to drop her children off before yoga class. (Actually, he got up early to set up for all the different teachers, but I’m sure he knew it made a big difference to Julie.) Sometimes Dad would be the only student in Julie’s drop-in class, she said. He would take time to ask Julie about her practice or tell her something he had learned. Maybe he told her some things he learned in a book I got him from a bookstore in downtown Ann Arbor a few years back, when I was in grad school. It was called Yoga Beyond Belief, and he loved it.
Dad’s not there? Is he somewhere far away, then?
The wind was blowing down the near-deserted DC city street. It was cold. It struck me then: There is nowhere on Earth I can go to see my dad.
Death is something that is easy to understand until it happens. Dad—at least, I’m pretty sure it was Dad; it’s the sort of thing he would have known about and shared—once told me about an attempt to design an artificial intelligence (AI) program that passed the Turing test—i.e., could not be distinguished from a human in conversation. The computer was asking its programmer questions in an effort to build its understanding of the world. It asked about Abraham Lincoln. The programmer mentioned that Abraham Lincoln was dead.
The computer wanted to know, “Will he remain dead?”
Ha ha! Silly computer! Everyone knows that when you are dead, you remain dead.
Except the bereaved. I guess I couldn’t pass the Turing test right now myself.
I get that Dad is dead right now. But…will he remain dead?
This simple concept now demands mental prodding. It’s like my mind has been injected with Novacaine, and I am now smacking myself repeatedly and not feeling anything, and wondering what that strange lumpish thing below my nose is.
Dad’s not anywhere.
Not at Photo 3D club? Not at a MUG meeting? He spent his birthday evening, the last evening of his life, at a MUG meeting. I called him to wish him happy birthday, and he was on his way home, so he called me back a bit later and told me about High Performance Computing.
The sky over DC looked so big.
It was an awful lot of space for Dad not to be in any of it.