Sunday, October 16, 2011
It's been a year since my father died, a year that brought a kind of growing and change. My mother used to tell me that you weren't fully an adult until you had children. There's some truth to that, but now I think you are not fully aware of life until you lose a parent. Losing a father or a mother means losing the best cheering squad you'll ever have, the only two people on this earth -- spouses and children included -- who will actually care about the tiniest details of your life. My father, for instance, fretted about my getting the a-level seating on Southwest airlines, as if that mattered. It mattered to him. (and for the record, this last time i got in the a seating and a front row seat-- success!) He was the one who insisted I carry a flashlight when I walked the block and a half in the dark to my brother's house, and to carry a high-pitched device to keep dogs away on my runs in the countryside. You lose those moments and you lose the feeling of having a safety net, no matter how many other loving and caring people surround you. Life is riskier, chances have deeper consequences, and the person who served as a steady and practical sounding board is quiet. Victories now have a hollowness to them -- the joy of calling dad to tell him of triumphs and achievements snatched away. Worries are more worrisome because that one person who could suggest solutions or express anger at injustices is silent. He's still around us in memories, in the faces of his brothers, in the slanted lefty handwriting next to the computer, in the baseball caps on the hook in the basement, and in my mother's reaction to baseball games. Today, after church in Athens ("Rock of Ages," "Jacob's Ladder,") we visited his grave, where the grass over it was a lush green but empty, as we wait for a headstone. And we tell ourselves that we were lucky to have him for 80 years. But dammit, we all could have used a little more time.