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August 20, 2012
Earlier this month, Corbie Hill, wrote about Simon for The Independent, a weekly newspaper based in Durham. Corbie had been Simon’s stepson and his reflections on Simon’s passing touch on the subject of losing touch. It was hard, he wrote, to picture Simon dying in “landlocked Greenville.”
“No one deserves to go like he did. Yet of all the things, good and bad, I know about Simon, I never knew him capable of self-pity. I feel confident he faced the void with dignity and grace.
In one of the darkest corners of the human experience, dying alone in a strange place, I’d like to think Simon could find even the tiniest breeze. If anyone could do it, he could.”
Corbie, who grew up in Oriental and now lives near the Triangle, sent TownDock.net the following about Simon’s influence extending to what he would write about him after he had gone.It had been six years or so since I had seen Simon. So it was probably an exercise in irony when, several weeks ago, I found myself writing his obituary. It wasn’t your normal obituary, it lacked all the biographical and next-of-kin details, but ours wasn’t a normal relationship. He was my ex-stepfather. Take a minute to look at that clunker of a compound term: ex-stepfather. Our language isn’t even geared to handle that sort of weird, post-familial relationship.
Yet, when he passed, something came into focus that I’d never actually realized: he’d been married to my mom, Caroline Parham-Ramsey, for fifteen years – exactly half of my thirty. Six years of silence notwithstanding, he’d been a part of most of my life.
The least I could do was write something. Honestly, I’m not sure anyone else had written an obit. So I took it upon myself.
I was very careful at first to avoid things Simon loathed: sentimentality, useless poetics or clever word games, or the forced significance of a single “snapshot” that distills a lifetime to a single moment. Yet, as I wrote it, I realized these are things that I already avoid in my writing. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I’d taken from him. I don’t mean anything about me directly echoes Simon, but that I picked up a few quirks – some likes, dislikes; strengths, weaknesses – from him along the way.
When I heard the way he died, and when I realized that if I didn’t write about him, no one might, I worried that he might pass from the world, having left no mark. This obviously disturbed me deeply – for several days it left me in a creeping, nihilistic panic. With time, though, I realized the impact he made is more meaningful than something that could be reduced to a single moment – that maudlin “snapshot” he would have abhorred.
Snapshots fade, or get lost, or lose relevance. But personality is core. I can’t even trace the elements of myself that came from him, but I can say my kids will pick up on some of these. And that’s about as close to immortality as we puny mortals get.
So I’m a bit like him in more ways than I realized. And I’m nothing like him in others. I think he’d like the mix, honestly, and I think he’d like my kids. But he doesn’t get to see any of that and I don’t get to see him again. This column was the best I could do.
– Corbie Hill