Curran on Making Sense of His Father’s Death With Baudelaire

Andy Curran

Andy Curran

Andrew Curran, professor of French, William Armstrong Professor of the Humanities, wrote a moving piece in The New York Times about the life-changing experience of his father’s sudden death.

Among other things, Curran describes the experience of seeing his father’s body for the last time and saying goodbye. He also recounts the trip to his parents’ house in North Carolina as a “chronology-less blur of grief and purifying laughter.”

He writes:

I still dream quite often about my father. He generally makes an appearance toward 2 or 3 in the morning, sometimes waving to me from his car (he loved taking extraordinarily long car trips) or, on other occasions, sitting just out of listening range at a crowded dinner party.

A psychologist might say these silent visits (we never speak in the dreams) reflect the imperious muteness of the deceased.

But I am mostly frustrated by the cruel joke that my mind continues to play on itself: In each of these dreams, I invariably have a family-related story on the tip of my tongue that I am unable to convey. One time I wanted to tell him about my daughter’s latest crew race, another time about something I had finally managed to publish.

This deep-seated need to crow to one’s parents is something that I had not really understood before the bailiff came slinking into my life. Mothers and fathers are irreplaceable sources of affection, to be sure, but they are also the most important audiences for our victories, be they great or small.