Today I finished Stephen King’s Duma Key. It was easily one of the best King novels I’ve read. It’s easily in my Top 3. It’s right there with Bag of Bones and The Stand. In any event, I heard about this story last year sometime. A high school classmate of mine recommended it highly. I put it on my list of things to read and filed it away for later. This month became that later.
I have been missing Dad, naturally, but that didn’t play into my decision to read Duma Key at all. I had no idea it was set in Florida. In fact, it is set in Florida not too far from where my Dad lived. The first time the book mentioned Tamiami Trail, I smiled ear to ear and a tear may have crept up on me. Later in the book Bradenton is mentioned. My Dad had a doctor in Bradenton that he would visit.
This isn’t the best segue but this past weekend I took the kids up to the elementary school to play. It was the first time since last summer. The weather has been unseasonably warm, just how Dad would have liked it, and when we arrived at the school a white Malibu was sitting on the curb, just how Dad used to park when he’d come to see the kids on the playground. Dad drove a white Malibu. My heart broke a little when I saw that.
And there have been a lot of reminders of Dad lately. His birthday was March 4th, his car was up at the park where we used to watch the kids play and now his old stomping grounds are showing up in my Fiction. Him creeping into areas I wasn’t expecting him in has been a difficult. I’ve used these occurrences as a reminder to beat myself up or mourn but mostly it’s been a 50/50 split.
As I was relating the story to Cynthia she told me something that is usually such an empty platitude, at least to me, but for some reason it rang with truth. She said, “maybe you should think of it as a reminder that he’s still here with you.” I hadn’t thought of it that way. I only saw these instances as painful reminders of what was lost. I hadn’t thought of them as opportunities for growth. I didn’t allow them to bring me happiness. I only allowed them to bring me pain.
As I read Duma Key, and particularly as I was finishing it, I was thinking about how I wouldn’t be hearing anymore stories of Sun City, the Gulf of Mexico, or Bradenton. No more complaints of Tampa traffic or gripes about the snow birds – The snow bird complaints particularly ironic given the fact that he had become a snow bird himself, in his final years – but the fact that those stories are done will be missed more than they were ever appreciated in life.
I’m still learning what that fact means to me. Mostly it makes me heartsick. More broken than I would ever have expected, but the fact that I could see a ray or two of hope makes me believe that better days are ahead. And honestly, I knew they would be. I’m not some crazy depressive person who believes the best is behind him. But there have been a great many more grey days that I would have guessed there would be.
So I guess I find myself at the same place: at the end of two different stories. One fiction. One non-fiction. And I’ll miss them both. But I know too, that time has a way of working at the memory. Much like sandstorms work at old abandoned desert towns, eventually teaming with sun and wind to take them apart a piece at a time. Each story will fade. Thankfully though, never entirely.
But already time is at work.