I am in my Dad's old neighborhood. I took a drive around his hometown in Massachusetts. I wasn't raised there, nor anywhere close. I only ever visited the area as a very occasional visitor - mostly at family reunions. But seeing this area has brought to mind events I have tried not to think about for awhile now.
My father died while I was at war, about four years ago now. I spoke to him from a satellite phone from Fallujah as he lay in his death bed. I don't remember much of what was said. He was having traouble speaking. He managed to get out, "I love you," and something about being proud. I couldn't make it all out clearly.
When I said goodbye and hung up the phone, I was paralyzed for several minutes; very still and alone in the middle of a vast desert stillness. I had said goodbye for the last time. I got on a helicopter to Taqqadum, a base where I would catch a plane to Kuwait, then a long flight back to the world.
At Taqqadum, I slept for a few hours, awaiting the next flight south. When I woke I called my brother from a green phone at the field air terminal and found out from my brother that Dad was dead.
I wanted to be mad at God, but I found that I didn't any longer think there was one. As fantastical and crazy as it sounds to say that this is all a big accident, this world, this universe, this precarious life, is an accident, it is the only thing that made sense to me.
The misery I saw in Iraq, in Haiti, in Afghanistan, and a dozen other miserable countries; the deep, deep sorrow that was gripping me; the sheer madness of this healthy, pious, non-smoking, non-drinking, 68 year-old tri-athlete dying of lung cancer - it seemed to me that all of it could only be excused, if we are all indeed just products of chance, because if there is a God, he has a lot to answer for.