Excerpt from Why I Talked to My Dead Father by Lisa Romeo


The following essay appears in our upcoming Fall/Winter 2020 issue. Subscribe today to receive the issue once available and read the rest of Lisa’s story and more!

I talked to my father more in the three years after he died than in the five years before, and it wasn’t just because we had lived 2700 miles apart. Of course, in those post-death conversations, he had no choice but to listen to me.

I chose to listen to him.

      We talked because I needed those conversations, and because it took me that long to figure out what I needed to understand about him, about us. Talking to my dead dad wasn’t about wanting to “move on” (whatever that means) or find “closure” (another word I don’t understand—and I work with words every day), or “make peace” (there was never any big fight or estrangement).

What I was after was an opening only possible for me in the aftermath of the death of this parent whom for decades, I had mistakenly thought was so unlike me and therefore so difficult to know. The joke, it turned out, was on me. In fact, we were only too alike in life, but it was only in his gone, talkative presence that I understood this.

You’d think I’d have a sense of this being “too little, too late,” but the opposite was true. In the early post-death years, as my father and I talked, I came to understand that relationships don’t end with the death of a loved one. That it was still possible to get to know someone better. The only disturbing part of this was to realize that he had, all along, known me better and more deeply than I would have ever guessed.

LISA ROMEO is the author of the memoir Starting With Goodbye (University of Nevada Press). Her nonfiction is listed in Best American Essays 2018 and 2016, and has appeared in the New York Times, Longreads, Brevity, and other places. Lisa teaches in an MFA program and is a freelance editor.

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