Thursday, March 22, 2012
Here is a picture of my dad, my mom, my sister and me. My dad would have been about the age I am now.
And here is a picture of my dad as a child, the one standing somewhat defiantly off to the side, the youngest, the rebel. He is showing you something: a handful of walnuts he plucked from the ground around the big tree in the backyard. It wasn't his backyard: it was his grandparents' backyard. Later his father--my grandfather--moved back to the home of his childhood to care for his ailing father. After my great-grandfather died it became his and Grandma Joan's, the place my sister Rachel and I visited every summer, the backyard littered with those same painful walnuts underfoot.
My grandfather died a few weeks before Frances was born. The house was sold shortly after her first birthday. But strangely, before all that, my father died. March 22, 1996. We were together when it happened, after a long walk with cancer. Sometimes on the anniversary my mind - without my permission - goes back over the events of that day. They have formed a peculiar rut in my mind. I relive it all, moment by moment, the terrible realization, the friends who came, the sight of my mother, the global, penetrating disorientation. The strangeness of a world without him.
It is still strange. It is especially strange that he and my children don't know each other, at least not directly. There is no doubt that he is their grandpa. I look at this little boy and I see Gabriel, pretending to be a knight, intent on seriousness and independence.
I never know what to do, how to mark this day. This year I wasn't compelled to relive it all; instead I simply felt sad, empty, a bit lost. This is the sixteenth time I've lived the anniversary and I still haven't figured out a satisfying way to commemorate his passing. But tonight I think I did the best thing I possibly could: I sat in the hallway, talking with my mom and watching the kids in the bathtub. Then after they and my sweet niece were in bed I talked with my sister who lives 930 miles away. We each poured ourselves a generous drink and chatted for a long, long time.
Lost no longer. In a world without end.