I try to see the world through my father’s eyes, his sense that everything looked like science fiction.
After my mother died, my father spent his days wandering through discount department stores, fixated on tracking down the correct size, exact model, or shade of color for something he thought he needed, usually a household item for the little apartment he rented after selling the house. Non-slip adhesives for the bathtub shaped like starfish. Mechanical pencils. A childlike table for his car keys that required hours spent cursing over a tiny wrench. He carried a small notepad in the back pocket of his khakis, diligently making lists with items like living room lampshade needs repair and oil bathroom door hinges and eggs are good for protein.
My father died four years ago today. Lately I’ve been thinking about his quiet notepads. They feel like a balm against these days when everything seems to be happening at once. Institutional decay. Angry weather. Homegrown terror. The energies of war. I click and scroll even though I know it’s trashing my mind, all of this information commingling with fury, opinion, and performance. Our screens have mangled the decent impulse to bear witness.
I try to see the world through my father’s eyes, his sense that everything looked like science fiction: people dressed like children and swerving into one another while staring at little handheld pieces of glass. He didn’t understand how the world had become so interlinked, how all of its information could live on a screen. It felt like an optical illusion, a cheap bit of sleight-of-hand. Information was supposed to be earned through experience, through a combination of tough luck and scribbling into your notepad. Information required effort and my father craved the human contact required to get it. The sales clerks would check their stock and make calls to other locations for a linen drum lampshade or a pair of loafers with tassels. He’d eventually find the item but he would not purchase it, deciding he didn’t need it after all.