Tuesday, October 16, 2012

How to Remember

One year ago today was my father's last day of life.  We didn't know it.  We had no idea we were even close.  Definitely as my parents have aged, I had thought a bit about losing them.  But that was supposed to be 10, 15 years away.   But it wasn't.

Tomorrow morning at 8:30am or so will mark one year since I spoke to my father for the last time.  I called him on my way to volunteer at my daughter's school (drive times were always the best time to catch up with dad).  His regular booming voice greeted me and we chatted about the fact that he had figured out how to get a rebate on the washer and dryer he'd purchased a year before (these were the little victories that he loved), and he thanked me for emailing over a bunch of pumpkin patch pictures of my kids.  I remember him saying "they are so cute," which was always funny coming from my dad.  He told me all about the great weekend he and mom had celebrating her birthday, going to the folk festival and then to the fish fry at church. It had been a beautiful, jam-packed weekend of fun. Then he gave the phone over to my mom so that we could have our quick catch-up time too.  And that was it.  About five hours later, my dad was gone.
My dad & my daughter, Rainey.

These last few days have been painful.  A day hasn't gone by in the last year that I don't think about him and still feel some sort of disbelief that he died.  But the pain at this year-mark is more about the fact that his memory is one year old now.  I don't have anything in 2012 of him.  My sadness is in losing the sound of that last conversation the further away I get from it.  I'm worried that I will forget.

When he was alive, I didn't need to call up his laugh, his gait, or the way he chatted up the clerk at Home Depot.  Now it seems like I'm grasping at what to remember.  As if I need to grab anything my memory will allow and stuff it down somewhere safe.  It's a hard transition to learn that your parents' memory just becomes a part of you. I had forty years to know my father.  It would be impossible for him to vanish.  I look at my mother who has never forgotten either of her parents and their presence in her life.  The funny stories, the integrity, the familial love.  I'm sure she can still see her mother's hands and the way she did certain things.

It's the newness of this loss for me.  Or maybe the first anniversary.  The process is still, well, a process.  I'm figuring out how to move forward and hold on at the same time.  To grieve and celebrate.  To enjoy sitting with the memories of my father, knowing that these will not escape me and that, most likely, he is still impacting the person that I am becoming. I'm slowly understanding that it may not be about what I remember, every last detail.  But it may be more about how I remember my dad, and how I fold his memory into my days.  And these will be good days.

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