|Selfie with my Dad|
I've quoted these lines from Donald Hall's "Distressed Haiku" before, and they are no less relevant now.
"You think that theirToday would have been my father's 96th birthday. He died 2 years ago, next month and I still miss him keenly.
dying is the worst
thing that could happen.
Then they stay dead."
It's funny - for all that the characters in my novels have fraught relationships with their parents, I had a loving and nurturing family. My relationship with my father, especially, deepened and strengthened in the last years of his life and for that I am utterly grateful.
He died, on his own terms, after over 8 years on dialysis. He was able to die at home, with hospice support, surrounded by his children and grandchildren, after a long and fulfilling life. In those last months, he and I had many true conversations about life, mortality, love, disappointment, and joy. In the end, we left no unfinished business.
All lives end. We know this. Yet, no matter how old someone you love is when they die, it is a shock. A loss that can hollow us out.
In the first few months of this year, two friends lost their spouses to unexpected sudden death heart attacks. They are both reeling from their grief and struggling to live with profound loss.
There is no security, no technology that protects us from this.
I miss my dad.
My mom died several years before him, of complications of dementia. My grief for her is a distant pain - my mother had vanished years before her death, her memories and personality warped by the disease. We had unfinished business that could not be reconciled before her death. I had to come to terms with that and her loss at the same time.
My grief for my father is less complicated. Sharper. More present. My memories of him are sharper, too. I still think to pick up the phone to chat with him at the start of the baseball season, or in response to something I've heard on NPR. Perhaps that's a way our minds trick us into keeping the dead present.
Today, my thoughts are filled with memories of my dad. They are bittersweet.