Dad's One Year Orbit...

Today marked the one year anniversary of Dad's death. I suppose I've spent a lot of energy thinking about what this day would feel like...an entire year without my best friend and mentor. I've talked with a couple of friends and with The Unnamed Ones about it as well as my brother. We all came up with the same adjective...


It feels weird. Not like a year, longer than a year, as if it were yesterday, as if it had been forever ago...but when you get right down to it...it feels weird.

Now, it didn't take Freud or Jung to convince me there are no accidents in life...that many times the things we do "accidentally" are but bubbles bursting forth from our unconscious and rising to the surface, signaling our unresolved issues...

Whatever. I just know that my lunch today was no "accident." It was me, dealing with me.

Originally, I'd planned to spend the day alone, thinking or whatever. But at the last minute, I scheduled myself to go meet with a woman who is hosting a talk I'm supposed to give to a church group a couple of weeks from now.

She originally contacted me after hearing me read some of my essays about nursing home life. She thought the fact that I was both an author and a psychotherapist would interest her women's group. She thinks I'm entertaining and funny...but after hearing me read about Cookie, she thought I'd be good for her church lady group.

That was months ago. And I haven't felt at all funny in ages. In fact, lately all I've really felt is...you guessed it, weird.

Still, you do what you gotta do. You put one foot in front of the other and hope the disconnected part of yourself returns one day. You act "as if" your missing appendage was indeed, still there and functioning.

So I went to lunch. I year and 30 minutes after Dad died, I slid into my seat, ready to hear what these ladies might be interested in hearing from me.

Donna takes a moment to consider how to describe her group and I, in turn, study her. She is a very chic woman in her 60s with just the right blend of funk and Talbots to be noticed without being thought eccentric. The kind of woman you want to follow around because they have the art of arranging things and themselves effortlessly. A class act and a very quick study.

"Well," she says thoughtfully. "They're kind of into that spiritual journey stuff." And then she hastens to add, "But they drink wine."

I smile and nod my understanding. "You know what they used to say," I remind her. "Behind every four Episcopalians there's a fifth! I can say that," I add. "I'm an Episcopalian minister's kid.


Donna stares at me through her terribly hip glasses. "Your father died recently, didn't he? About a year ago?"

I nod. "A year ago today," I answer.

She asks what he had and frowns sympathetically when I say Pulmonary Fibrosis.

"That's such an awful disease." She tells me she has lost 3 dear friends this year and then says. "After watching that, I can tell you, wherever they are now is better than where they were before they died."

This is so true. I tell her how lucky I was to have that year with Dad before he died, how much I learned, how much fun we had...because yes, we did have fun.

It was scary, awful, heart-breaking and just a hell of a lot of fun, all rolled up into a big whopping finale to a huge, incredible life.

I tell Donna about my sister trying to sell Dad on her version of Heaven. "You see," my sister told him. "There are special occasion angels and regular everyday angels. The special occasion ones are bigger and they have nicer clothes."

I tell her about Dad's uncertainty that that sort of Heaven really existed. "Maybe we're all part of some sort of collective unconscious," he'd wondered. Either one was okay with him, but in the end it seemed the Special Occasion angels were winning out.

I tell Donna about telling my father I hadn't learned enough from him yet, that I didn't know the meaning of life and his attempt to answer the question. "Always follow the questions instead of the answers," he'd said. "It's the questions people ask that tell you about their interests and worries, not the answers they give. The answers are the dead limbs of the tree. But the questions, those are the new growth. "

"I learned so much from my Dad that last year," I tell Donna. "Now I find myself wondering what this life of ours is all about."

Donna says, "Me too. I think about that a lot, about who will miss me when I'm gone."

I think this is the theme of our 50s and 60s. Who will remember us and how will they do it? Did we even matter at all?

I tell Donna about Dad saying he saw himself continuing on in me and my kids, saw his own father in himself and said it all made sense to him then...we are on a continuum, a common, shared strand that flows from generation to generation.

"I am realizing it's not what we do in our lives that makes us memorable," I say. "It's who we are to the important people in our lives. I don't miss the things my father did," I say. "I miss his unconditional love, his laugh, his wisdom...just the way he was."

Donna says Pavaroti died last week. "And the next day he was forgotten because somebody else died!"

At the time, the question "Who will remember me?" echoed too loudly for me to hear the answer. But now, as I write this, I am thinking maybe it doesn't matter who will remember me, so much as it does that someone remembers me.

Pavarotti had a huge fan base. Well so did Dad. He had me.*

*In the interest of not being killed by my family...My father had plenty of fans who miss and remember him every day... my sister and my brother and my mom and hordes of others.I'm just saying, you don't need to be loved by legions to be remembered.


Sara Thacker said...

My mother passed away 6 years ago this week. My grandmother passed away 1 year ago this week. We held the funeral for my grandmother on the day my mother passed away. Unfortunatly they set the service up so I was sitting on my mother's grave during my grandmothers funeral. It was very strange.
As long as I make this world a better place, I don't care who remembers me because for me it's not about me being remembered, but that someone elses life was made better because I lived.

Marsha said...

My Mom died of pulmonary fibrosis in June 2001. It was a painful, yet somehow, loving time for our family. I think my father, brother, and myself learned a lot about Mom and about each other. I know for a fact she is in a better place- dancing and singing with the angels. Perhaps even having a "toddy" once in a while.
My heart is with you- Marsha Proctor