I came back from Denver on Tuesday evening, but it’s taken this long to begin my return to life as I know it. Actually, there is no coming back completely.

Two-pages of obituaries for my dad in Vestnik Herald newspaper

It’s not about high drama or some pseudo-elevation-via-tragedy, however, facts are facts: I’m different. Though I have no intention of sharing overgenerous amounts of personal details or ineffable epiphanies, I do think that saying something about my father’s death is in order, because so many of you offered words of support, and because death is a part of life we all have to face, sooner or later, one way or another. Maybe this will help someone, sometime.

Dad, second from left, and his band, Tin Soldiers [Olovyanniye Soldatiki]

Truth is, my father died suddenly, at 60, seemingly without a preceding illness. Those around him may have seen it coming, but I certainly did not. We hadn’t lived in the same state in over a decade, and I wasn’t aware of his declining health because no one, including him, told me. To me, his death was a complete shock.

Dad singing with Tin Soldiers

I have come to accept death and am not especially phased by it, usually. I’ve lost my grandfathers, several friends and former lovers under various circumstances, some natural, some not, and have handled each instance with sober understanding. However, this news resulted in a bona fide collapse. After years of a fairly distant and strange, though tender, relationship with my father, I had to face not only the relationship itself, but his entire life, as well as the qualities I’ve inherited and the mistakes I must never make. A lifetime of rarely accessed, but hardwired information, suddenly flooding every circuit.

Dad during training at the Soviet Military Academy

Coming to Denver for the funeral and staying in my father’s home meant being immersed in his world and Facing Stuff, head on. This was my pilgrimage to make and my shit to deal with, which is exactly what I did. As surreal, unhinging, and devastating as it was, the trip turned into one of the most valuable experiences of my life. In addition to undergoing the vast cognitive journey in regards to my father and myself, I, completely unexpectedly, reconnected with my no-longer-little stepbrother, my half-brother, and my closest friend, none of whom I’d seen or spoken with in many years.

I have been describing this experience as “emotional boot-camp”, from which I returned with every bone broken and rebuilt from superior stuff. All of my muscles actually hurt by the time my boots touched LA soil again, the soil from my father’s grave still wet under my fingernails. I cried the last of my dad-tears that night, and woke up to a new reality the next morning.

Dad on the right, on a boat

Truth is, the two weeks since his death have felt like a gift, and that’s no hyperbole. A gift and a giant push toward that metamorphosis I keep talking about.

Thank you, to everyone who left a note here, or reached out in any way. Your support helped get me through these strange days and I am forever grateful.