Good Afternoon, everyone.
Today is a sad anniversary for my family – the anniversary of the day my dad left this world. But, it’s not without hope! Read on, to feel our pain and see our triumph!
March 10, 1980 was a Monday. I don’t remember if I went to school that day. What I do remember is that I was with a very special family who had been friends to my mom and dad for years. We had taco nights alternating from our house to theirs; Clothes were handed down from their oldest daughter to me, back to their second daughter and back to my little sister. I learned how to ride a bike at their house. And, this day, this horrible, sad, Monday, they babysat my sister and me while my mother went to the hospital to visit my dad.
My dad was never angry. He seemed to always be happy. I can literally never once remember him being cross.
He had a hammock which he strung between 2 trees in our backyard and his 6 foot 4 inch body would sway back and forth in it on lazy Georgia days from May to September.
One summer, a tree in the corner of our yard was infested with thousands of caterpillars. Dad knew they would kill the tree; but he still shared my fascination of them all.
He played trumpet in the Army. He practiced every night. He played guitar and piano too. He wrote beautiful marches for his band. Our house was always filled with music.
He let me copy my handprint in the copy machine at work. I wish we had thought to keep one.
When I had my tonsils out, he built a snowman with my mom outside my window because I was too sick to play. He also bought me a giant stuffed blue elephant.
I loved him very, very much. It seems that most people who knew him loved him too.
In 1980, I was in the second grade. Between first and second grade, my mother had taken us all to a small tourist town in Upper Michigan for a vacation. My dad had loved it. It was a different world. Everything moved at a different pace compared to the city of Atlanta.
Once we returned from vacation, as near as I can figure out, dad must have started to feel sick. He visited the doctor in October of 1979. Surely, everyone thought he would treat this cancer aggressively and win.
Unfortunately, by Christmas, things were looking grim.
My mother insisted that my sister and I would be allowed to visit him in the hospital. She was pregnant with my brother and home health care would have been impractical, and was far from the usual mainstream idea it is today. So, we would drive from our home to the hospital several times a week.
I remember stopping and playing at the Burger King play area.
I remember scooping up the rare fresh snow that fell one day to bring in to dad – and then eating it!
I remember coloring in special coloring books that were kept at the hospital. My sister and I sat on the floor and colored, my mother knitted and talked with dad. My dad laid there, tubes everywhere; not lounging in a hammock, not laughing and happy. Just existing. Barely.
That day in March so many years ago, my mother went to the hospital alone. She had been doing so for about a week. Even at 7, I knew things were probably bad. And so, that Monday, before she even came to pick us up, I knew. How long did it take us to get home? Was our Pastor already there? I don’t know.
My mother and the Pastor sat with me on the couch and my mother’s words will never leave my mind: “You know I have always been open and honest about your father and his sickness.” I think I must have nodded before she continued. “Today, your father died.”
I was on a merry-go-round that was spinning too fast. Everything was a blur. I was crying. My mother was crying. My sister was watching something on Nickelodeon. She turned and asked why we were crying. My mother told her.
Died? My dad had DIED?!
How could this be true? But it was.
Days later we would have to say goodbye. I walked up to the casket. I wanted to touch his hand one last time. It was so cold and hard. It wasn’t the same hand that played trumpet and piano and guitar. Not the same hand I held to cross the street. Couldn’t be the same hand that tickled me into fits of laughter.
We went to the cemetery. A long line of black sadness following us. It was a very cold, rainy day. It was as if all of the world knew our heartbreak and cried with us. Someone spoke of my dad’s life. A speech about what a loss he was. Then, somewhere far away a bugler played taps and a second one shook with its sad echo. The American Flag was folded and given to my mother.
And we left him there. He was gone.
And yet…….if we had never lost my father, I doubt we would ever have moved to Michigan. I would never have met my husband, had my children. Sure, I would have met someone and would have had children….but not THIS husband, and not THESE kids. I know that sounds crazy; but I believe my life would have been very different if my father had lived. Happier? Maybe. But maybe the agony of losing a father is what makes me the compassionate and loyal friend and person that I am.
I think that my father would be proud that I choose to be a happy person. Sure, I have my days when I’m down. That’s only natural. But, I’m not down and out! Just down…but never count me out!
I miss dad every day. I know his friends miss him. He had many. I know my mom misses him too. But, we’re all ok. And that, my friends, is the hope for today!
I hope you’re all “ok” today as well.
Happy Friday! 🙂