Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Five Years

I didn't want to go to sleep last night.

I knew I would wake up and my social media feeds would be inundated by all of the memories posted over the past five years, since my father died. I even woke up early, in the wee hours, like I did that day, when I got that call.

Some days I love social media and the memories it delivers. Some days, it's just painful.

I've been moving in a bit of a cloud. I have been attributing that to the Listen To Your Mother post-show exhale, and that might be part of it. Part of it might also be that thing that happens when you're working at something really hard and your body knows you don't have time to slow down. There's a lot of that right now. But part of it is also Dad.

Everything is a reminder. The wind blowing, something my son says. The lush undergrowth in the woods behind the house, the small patches of clover where I search for a four-leaf, just like the ones I found for us before, the one buried with him and the one I hold onto today. It's stuck to the back of his driver's license. My Mom told me he carried it with him, she knew I'd want it. I still say I'm going to get this as my next tattoo.

A shirt in my closet, a song on the radio, the way Daryl on the Walking Dead bites his lip when he's forced to face big, emotional things, just like my Dad would worry his false teeth. I never really saw that one until I conjured up an image of my dad, standing at the kitchen counter in the wee hours of the morning as was his way.

The sound of pocket change clinking together. Who even carries change anymore? But he always carried coins in his pocket, two Eisenhower silver dollars and a JFK fifty cent piece, all from 1976, the Bicentennial versions. You can hardly tell the dates anymore, so many years of fidgeting them around, smoothing them with his rough fingertips, leaving behind a soft idea of what these coins once were.

The birds in the trees. As I type this, the front yard cardinal is at the feeder. I know when I go to the back window, the back yard cardinal will be there and when I leave the house, no fewer than three of the red birds will cross my path. It's how it's been since we've moved out of the suburbs.

I'm struck by how hard it is to lose a parent. A grown woman with a family, responsibilities, I was reduced to a kid by this loss I knew was coming. Lung cancer isn't fast or easy as it steals a life. It had been years, ebbing and flowing, good days and bad.

About a month before it happened, I went to Wisconsin, by myself, not as a wife and mother but as a daughter. Dad was in good humor; the days I was there were good days, and the time was spent with family, loving and being loved.

It was hard to come home again, to detach from my childhood. Within days, there were phone calls as his health deteriorated.

I was far away. I was spared the worst of it. My brother, my sisters, their husbands, these are the people who were there, standing and supporting as my Mom was forced to stand up when I'm sure she only wanted to crumble.

Time heals. It softens. But there are moments when loss pierces you like an arrow, even when you think you aren't going to be susceptible that something like that happening. Even when it was five years ago. But mostly, time is kind to grief. It takes loss and life and uses rough fingerprints to worry away the sharp details, leaving a soft impression of what was.

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