An October anniversary prompts memories

I thought a good bit about my dad this past week.

Friday marked the 28th anniversary of his death on what was an October day in 1993 replete with sunshine, fall beauty, the potential for a beautiful day.

And for extreme surprise as it would turn out.

The call that’s something wrong came with what ultimately would be life-changing, family-altering ramifications.

The father I had seen only days earlier at the church’s administrative council meeting where he served as chair and I as recording secretary was gone. He was fine, as good as ever. How can that be?

Unknown to either of us, though, it was our last time together. I have since strained to recall, did we talk much afterward or before and if so, what about? Or was I in my usual hurry, impatient to wait my turn to talk to a dad who knew no stranger and talked to everybody all the time?

All I can really remember was his mention that the navy blue velour shirt he was wearing, which I had admired and commented on as being such a good color contrast for him with his pepper gray hair, had been a present from my sister Cathy.

Funny the things that go through our minds when we’re under duress.

I remember sitting in this room at the hospital with my mother and a preacher coming in, asking if my dad was or had ever talked about organ donation.

Organ donation? That seemed like an odd subject to broach, I remember thinking at the time, wondering why wasn’t I hearing words of comfort or compassion instead.

That’s end-of-life stuff, preacher man.

Maybe I was deaf to all that, hard pressed to process reality.

On the way home from the hospital, grasping what seemed so surreal, we stopped at the store to buy dog food at mom’s insistence. Paco the German Shepherd, after all, had no grub.

When you see the world continuing as usual when your world has stopped, it seemed more than a little strange to be engaging in canine consumerism.

But life does go on.

At the time, I mentioned this to my Uncle Dave, my mom’s brother, and we agreed — when someone so special to you dies, shouldn’t the world stop at least for one minute, that a bell would ring somewhere for everyone to hear, to respectfully acknowledge a loss?

This year the days of the week line up with the days of that week when dad died. Oct. 22, 1993, fell on a Friday as Oct. 22 has this year, too.

For some reason that seems to make the anniversary all the more real this year.

That first year after dad was gone, my siblings and I all did our best to cushion mom. Well-meaning children probably think they can bubble wrap a parent grieving the loss of a spouse and make all these changes in their lives big and small somehow easier to bear.

Sure, we’d go out for Sunday drives and dinner after church, true to the tradition that was mom and dad’s, but who were we kidding?

We were hardly a suitable substitute.

We all grieve differently.

Early on, my mom once apologized, commenting that her absence of tears was in no way a measure of her true grief.

I miss my dad, but I take heart in the hope I have as a believer that we’ll see each other again.

He probably won’t have that blue shirt, but he’ll be ready to have a talk and catch up.


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