Today is the 16th anniversary of my father’s death.
I read a blogger friend’s post recently where it was suggested to her to maybe not try to remember the anniversaries of her father’s death, to not mark the time of her own father’s death.
She cannot as I cannot.
For me, my life’s clock was reset the moment my dad was diagnosed. There is before cancer, during cancer, and after cancer. Usually I divide my life span simply into before his death and after. Now there is a new time frame in front of me. One I set for myself days after he died: “When you are 32, 16 years will have passed since he died. And the day after will be the beginning of a new era. You will have survived. You will have made it.” That may sound all weird and even a bit dramatic, but it is my truth. My truth as a 16-year-old and consciously and unconsciously I clung to that marker of time. I can’t say if this is right or wrong. It is what it is.
Today, I am on the cusp of something new. My clock is once again about to be reset. Time will begin again marking and ticking off its self in different ways…
In my time frame of before his death and after, I grouped people into two categories: Those who knew him and those who did not. How odd to be surrounded by friends and family who never knew my dad. It is strange indeed.
I wish everyone had the chance to know him.
He wasn’t perfect or epic.
No, instead he was solid and good. Words are inadequate, but there it is.
In a world of fakes and phonies, he shone brightly.
I am proud of my father. I am thankful for his heritage, his legacy. I see glimpses of him in my nephews and niece. My brother-in-laws tell me stories giving me another view of my dad I had not known previously.
Today I sit on the back porch smiling.
I tell my 16-year-old self we’ve made it.
I wonder at the mysteries of this life.
I wonder at the heartaches and joys each of us carry.
I am thankful that I don’t remember him as sick – as a man defined unwillingly by cancer.
I remember him on Sunday afternoons drawing on the chalkboard with me – showing me how to draw our home in pinks, yellows, and blues.
I remember late night tee-peeing, forking yards and spending time with my sisters and mom.
I remember him floating in the swimming pool and me trying to dunk him unsuccessfully.
I remember him being a dad-like presence for my friends.
I remember spring break trips and summer vacations and road trips.
I remember him sitting near the old worn highchair and feeding my oldest nephew as a baby. And him holding my niece.
I remember him sitting in that old blue recliner.
And me pretending to be asleep in his lap in that old blue recliner so I could catch an episode or two of MASH.
I remember him walking each of my sisters down the aisle at their weddings.
I remember Christmases and birthdays.
I remember laughter.
Mostly I remember love.
To know my family is to know his presence, his legacy, his love.
All of this is a mosaic –
a memory mosaic of life well-lived and well-loved.