Fragments of finality

I received the death certificate last Thursday.  It should have arrived a day earlier, but there was a mix-up at UPS.

Well, my father died four months ago, what’s another day to wait?


Last week, I discovered – right around Father’s Day Weekend – that my biological father, Robert Miller, had passed away in February.  To say that my father and I were close would be like saying that Hawaii and Greenland are close.  He had moved on with his life and as far as he was concerned, I was a part of his life that he wished had never happened.

But I wanted to know what had happened to him.  Was there a hereditary disease – cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s – that caused his death?  Was it some sort of accident?  Was he hit by a car?  Did he slip on a banana peel and break his skull?  Was he driving behind a truck and a scene from Final Destination 2 just magically appeared?

I needed to know what had happened.

Thus … the death certificate.  One ornately printed page, complete with a seal from the State of Utah.

The cause of death was listed as End Stage Renal Disease, due to a previous kidney transplant.  He also had Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease, which although he was listed as being a non-smoker on the death certificate, I remembered him as a three-pack-a-day man – Raleighs were his smoke of choice.  Maybe he did kick the habit.  But that cardiovascular disease may have been in him for years.

No autopsy was performed, and he was cremated on February 8.  I’m still surprised that he was cremated – it’s not common for Jewish people to accept cremation for burial – it is to closely associated with the concentration camps of World War II.

The death certificate also listed his wife’s name and mailing address.

For the past few days, I’ve thought about what to do with that information.  I could contact his widow.  The address is there.

But what would I say?

“Hi, you don’t know me, but I’m his son from someone he was involved with before you came into the picture.  By the way, is there any sort of will or probate out there so I can take my fair cut of what was left?”

Okay, now that I’ve squeezed out the sarcasm…

Let’s face it.  No amount of money would heal what I went through.  There’s no Band-Aid that could cover the decades of pain and hurt.

But through it all, I’ve found ways to break as much of the vicious cycle as I can.  I stay in touch with my son, even though he’s on the other side of the continent.  I don’t want to ever have Kris think that I would treat him the way my father treated me.  As far as I’m concerned, Kris was a blessing upon birth and a blessing every day.

I have to tell all of you, though, that it’s hard to let this go.  I can’t just scrub this out of my mind as if it never happened.  And every Father’s Day this will come back in my memory, like an unwanted moment of anguish.

I’ve also taken comfort in the comments – both in my blog and through personal correspondence – that have kept my spirits up.  One of my friends from college reminded me that on the day he died, I was enjoying activities that brought me pleasure – i.e., competitive team trivia and the Albany Patroons basketball team.  And that for all the times I felt like he never wanted me in his existence, I was still able to carve out something positive through this.  And that if things had been different – my life and journey would certainly have been different.  We can’t see the path beyond the horizon.  Not at least until we get there.

Still … I went back and forth between what to do with this death certificate.

In the end, I decided it belonged in an area I call the Black File.

The Black File is a cardboard banker’s box that I keep in a dusty area of my closet.  Anything I place in the Black File are reminders of pain and hurt and torment and trouble.  And then I’ll just put the lid back on that banker’s box, and cram the box back into the closet.

I can’t keep thinking about this.  But if I ever DO need to think about this – at least it’s in a place where I can retrieve it if necessary.

Because, for 55 years, Robert Miller didn’t need to keep me in his life.

Maybe it’s finally time to understand that I was too good to be in his.