A son left behind after his father’s suicide reflects on the life choices he’s made in an attempt to understand and considers how his father’s death has shaped not only him as a person but also his approach to life and parenthood.
Because of his illness, my father lost control of his body. But by killing himself, he regained control of it. In doing so, he took control of his fate, which changed my fate. Maybe that was how it was supposed to be all along. I often wonder if his death was meant to be—if everything that came after it depended on his suicide, including my decisions to become a journalist, to head off to war, to teach others about what I have learned, and to become a father.
“‘Rescue Me’ on repeat.”
“I don’t control anything in the real world. But in my dollhouse, I own everything. I make the horrors happen. I am the one.”
“Where I am from it is like this: We rebuild after hurricanes as it has always been done. We know we will do it again. As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be: work without end.”
“He sits on the edge of the bed to compose and work through songs, facing an amp, while I curl into his velvet-lined guitar case and listen…I have called up this memory so many times I feel the gauze of fiction starting to overlay its details. But it is a memory so dear, I reanimate it against the heaviness of the present—my father, full of promise and possibility, years before the shell he would become, now shut away in my childhood bedroom in the graying light of ever-closed blinds.”
Amanda Petrusich on blueswoman Bessie Smith: “She got what she wanted by working hard at it, finding new ways to profit from a cultivated skill. Some of the notes she hits are so robust, so fixed and powerful, listening to them feels like walking directly into a sliding glass door. You are stunned and embarrassed, looking around to see who else saw. Her forcefulness just sneaks up like that.”
At Oxford American, as part of their Southern Music Issue, Rosanne Cash celebrates the life and career of electric guitar pioneer Sister Rosetta Tharpe, an American singer and guitarist who influenced Elvis, Keith Richards, and Johnny Cash. “She traveled the world and left it scorched with her fearlessness and musical originality, inspired fierce devotion from an audience who thrilled to her enormous gifts and her personal excesses, and shook the celestial rafters with the force of her artistic character.”
Alice Driver shares the story of her dad’s wish to build his own tomb on his own land. “He wanted his death, like his life, to be a work of art—a tomb he designed and filled with ceramics—and one that would allow him to define death on his own terms.”
In Houston, Texas, Bryan Washington explores what it means to be a regular at a restaurant — and how this type of relationship has evolved during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Today, I venture proudly and safely into the straight world outside the confines of bars and clubs once designated specifically as ‘gay’ spaces. I can be free. This wouldn’t have been the case a generation ago.”