It’s been five years since my Dad died. His was a rather sudden departure, and although it was traumatic for those who were with him, most of us agree that it was a pretty good way to die. He was comfortable in his living room chair, talking with Mom… and then he wasn’t.
It hasn’t been every year that we’ve celebrated his memory but somehow it seemed fitting to do it in 2020. Earlier in the week I had asked Mom if she wanted to do something special to help her get through the day. It was a couple days later that she said she’d thought of something we could do. She wanted us to remember Dad as we ate a bowl of his favorite ice cream – maple nut.
Dad ate a lot of ice cream. Dad shared a lot of ice cream with others. His ice cream legacy will be the story of one of his grandchildren finding him late at night, sitting on the steps inside the garage (where the freezer was), eating ice cream from the pail. Of course, she sat down and had some with him.
So we shared the plan with family members and asked them to join us, wherever they were, at a convenient time for them. “Get some maple nut ice cream, and remember Grandpa Owen as you eat it. Take a picture and post it.” Some were able to do it, and others who couldn’t will be able to enjoy the pictures. I’m 100% sure that Dad would have liked to be remembered this way.
That’s roughly how long it has been since my father died. November 16th, today, would have been the end of his 87th year.
There are many things I have enjoyed doing, and I plan or hope to do them again. And there are people I love and enjoy that I plan on seeing again. It’s possible I may not do those things, or see those people, but since I don’t know that, I don’t even think down that road. Death however, is different. As Mom put it, “you know he’s not coming back”. You know your experience of that person on earth is over. Final. Done. You know.
That sadness of missing someone is so much like wave action. It’s suddenly there with a force that catches me off guard. Since I wasn’t living close enough to see Dad on an every day basis, it’s not as bad for me. In fact, my days are very much like they were when he was alive. It’s when I look at the pictures of last Thanksgiving and other visits home that it’s very real to me. He’s right there, washing the dishes, watching the Packer game, sleeping in his recliner. This will be the first year without him and I know it will be a bit difficult.
But what have the last six months done for me?
I realize what a planner Dad was. He saved and set aside what was needed for Mom to continue without making drastic changes in her manner of living. It was a gift, and now we know what it is like to receive that blessing.
I realize that I’m not just missing the person Dad was the day before he died. I miss the entirety of his life and all that I remember about him.
I recognize the parts of him, the habits, the attitudes that I’m probably going to perpetuate in my own behavior and I have an oddly protective stance toward those parts.
I resolve to be mindful of my relationships and the time spent on them. I am so thankful for the extra visits home I was able to make the last couple of years. They were so worth it.
Lastly, I realize how much 60+ years of marriage can affect someone, and how much my Mom is missing Dad. I want to make sure that she knows others are remembering and missing him too. I want her not to feel alone.
I haven’t posted much lately. Everything I write sounds strange and awkward to me. I’ve decided it’s a stage and it will probably pass, so I’m not worried. But I couldn’t let November 16th pass without acknowledging Dad’s birthday. I might also add that any sorrow I have is purely earthly, not eternal.
They were walking together holding hands, this lady and the child with the long, blonde pony tail. They were heading toward a row of seats in the front. I often sit in the back and watch as people filter in. Something about this pair caught my attention and held it. The small one, probably about seven or eight years old, was looking up at the older woman who presumably was her mother.
They were talking and the little one kept smiling and was so focused on her mom’s face, so expectant of something good. Neither of them were unusually attractive but together they were magnetic and beautiful. I couldn’t stop watching. They found two chairs in the fourth row and the girl laid her books down on the chair next to her, still turning to dialogue with mom, her face open, trusting, excited, hopeful.
Is it because I have daughters of my own that this simple familial scene made me suddenly feel like I might cry? I don’t even know what I was thinking – but it was kind of like nostalgia, maybe a bit of envy, a lot of sadness, mother angst.
My daughters are grown and it’s been while since I’ve walked hand in hand with either one of them. I don’t know if we would have had that same dynamic when they were seven and accompanying me to an event. It’s hard to remember what we were like, but I want that. I want that memory.
That mom, I wish I had taken a picture to give to her, I’m just hoping she is marveling at what she has, hoping her memory will be better than mine.