This post was originally published in 2006 on my Blogger blog. When I migrated to WordPress, I lost the first six months of my Blogger posts, some of which mean an awful lot to me. For this reason, I will be republishing a few of those posts over the course of the next year. This one is especially poignant to me today, on this eighth anniversary of my father’s passing.
Two years ago, on December 22, 2004 , my father never woke up from his night’s sleep. He had been suffering from cancer and, yes, suffering is the operative word. By the end, cancer had robbed him of his ability to walk, eat, drink and even lie comfortably, but it never did rob him of his mind. Indeed, the day before he died, as he felt his eyesight and hearing fading, he told my mother that he thought he was ‘shutting down’. He was aware of it all, and for that I am grateful because I never really lost the essence of my father, my daddy, my children’s Opa.
After he died, I felt like he was gone. Yes, his ashes were in a box on my mother’s dresser and his voice on her answering machine, but he was gone. I would never see him again watching Speedvision; I would never be able to argue/joke with him about politics; I’d never see the way his eyes shown when they looked at one of my three children, his grandchildren. Two years later, the knowledge that he is gone can take my breath away, make my eyes fill with tears and make my voice catch. It seems unbelievable that it can be true.
And while I can accept that his physical self is gone, I am beginning to think that maybe he isn’t really gone. There have been little things. Like, the time I was about to listen to a liberal call-in radio show, and the show suddenly went to static (that was him protesting my political leanings). Or, when we went up to an inn in Vermont with my mom and my sister’s family and found a Fleetwood Mac CD in the stereo. As corny and superstitious as it sounds, I know he had some part in it being there, Stevie Nicks fan that he was.
Then, there are other, more subtle ways in which I can feel my father’s presence. In fact, if I pay attention, I see that he is everywhere.
I see his gait–straight-legged and stiff–in the way my son walks across the floor.
I see his craftmanship and attention to detail in my husband’s work around the house. I imagine that he is standing by his son-in-law, providing the same quiet guidance he offered during his life.
The taste of a fresh tomato, a just-picked zucchini or a crunchy pole bean remind me of the garden he tended year after year in my youth.
I hear the synthesized plinkings of Mannheim Steamroller on the radio, groan and then think of how much he liked that Christmas music, even though his musical tastes were normally much better than that.
Red Sox games on the radio, kielbasa cooking on the grill, the roar of lawn equipment and the murmer of late-night television—these are the sounds of my youth that remind me of my father.
When Belly tickles my feet, I remember how he laughed from his hospital bed as she tickled his toes and warmed his heart. When Jilly leans over to kiss me, I remember how she took turns kissing him and then me, over and over, when she was nearly one year old. And when D does anything sweet, a hundred times a day, I feel the warmth in my heart that my dad must have felt the day we appeared in his hospital room holding his three-day old grandson.
A lot of people have said to me that it must be hard to have my father’s “deathiversary” fall so close to Christmas. In many ways this is true. That first Christmas was a blur of strong emotion. Now, though, I feel like this time of year, when we are all trying to spend as much time with family as we can, when we are remembering to be a little kinder to each other, when we are reliving traditions and celebrations of years past, this may be the best time for me to stop, pay attention to his presence all around me and just remember.