I have a compulsion to know everything. My mother always cast it in a favorable light, calling it a “voracious love of knowledge,” but it can (and often does) veer into unhealthy compulsion territory at times. Reading encyclopedias for fun is useful. Memorizing people’s middle names and social security numbers for fun, somewhat less so. Meanwhile, I have glaring blind spots of willful ignorance on certain issues – my epilepsy, the grocery budget, the circumstances surrounding my father’s death.
At the request of my mother, Chastity (my oldest sister) told me the details once of what he was doing the night before, who found him and when and how, and all of the players involved. I don’t remember a shred of it. There is so much I don’t know about him. Which is why, on a whim, I got a copy of his autopsy report.
I still don’t know what he was doing that night, if he thought about me – if he thought about any of us – but I know his brain was normally configured and symmetric. I don’t know if he every really loved me, but I know his heart weighed 340 grams. I don’t know his favorite food, but I know he died with 125 ml of bloody-appearing fluid in his stomach. His left lung weighed more than his right. His thyroid gland was maroonish. He still had his appendix. His liver was well on its way to being trashed. Although toxicology was clean for a laundry list of drugs, I know that “punctate area of discoloration in right antecubital fossa” is fancy talk for track marks. I can appreciate the poetry of his blood alcohol level being the same as his age. He always said he’d never make it to 40. 0.39 appeared to be his limit in other ways as well.
I had hoped the report would detail his hands. I wanted to know how long his nails were. I can’t remember. Did he have callouses on his fingers from playing guitar? Did the medical examiner know he was an exceptionally gifted musician? That the “body clothed in sneakers, grey pants, and a yellow tee shirt” could almost heal those he hurt, with just a few well-progressed chords on his Fender?
For some reason, my brain equates extensive knowledge with love. This is the most I will ever directly know about him. And even though I worried this endeavor was a bit morbid on my part, I don’t regret learning all that I now know. Because on the inside, what he really was made of was music.
Happy birthday, Sparky. I decoupaged a wine bottle with your autopsy report and filled it with Fender guitar strings. I’m one of your weirder daughters, but I think you’d be proud of me anyway.