August 20, 1985 was the day my dad died. He was 60 years old, and died of lung cancer. It was a drawn out and debilitating death and he was magnificent through it all. When he died, he was cremated and had his ashes scattered at Shelter Cove, in Northern California, one of his favorite places on this planet. I have this little fantasy in my head when I think of him being gone all these years, that like DB Cooper, he jumped out of that plane and landed on the beach and is sitting there in a chaise lounge, drink in hand, watching the surf roll in and out.
It's funny, even after all these years--26 now-- that I don't always consciously remember this date, but my body and my psyche does. It's cell memory, and for a couple of days now I have been very emotional and exhausted and wondering why I started crying today watching Extreme Home Makeover. It wasn't until about an hour ago, reading my Facebook page where a friend was saying it was the anniversary of his mom's death, and then reading that they have named my newest great-nephew (who was born yesterday) after my father, that it hit me that today is the day he died.
My stepmom had called and asked me if there was a chance I could get down to see him anytime soon, and I was too busy and couldn't get away just then. My visits with him were getting more and more difficult (for me) as I was watching him deteriorate and having to face the cold hard facts that I was about to lose him. He and I had pretty much said everything that needed saying and he had made a couple of requests of me and it seemed like all I could ever do was cry when I was with him. It is so hard to watch someone you love die. I was so scared and so angry and nothing in my world made sense. I got a call at 5 o'clock in the morning, telling me he had died in his sleep and that she would keep him at home until I got there to tell him goodbye. I lived 4 hours away at the time. In a daze, I packed a bag and left. My husband didn't go with me, and so I had to make the drive by myself. I probably never forgave him for that... I don't even know how I got there.
The loss of a parent is something we all have to deal with sooner or later, and for me it was sooner all the way around. My mother had died 5 years earlier, and it didn't have near the immediate impact that this did. In time, as I have learned, a person gets to experience all the things you missed or refused to deal with when it comes to this emotional stuff. Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly...
Now I am old. I am amazed still at the nature of grief...the power of that soul chewing sense of loss. There has been a lot of loss in my life, and that's what happens when you live long enough, I guess. I am sure that it has affected my personality and hope that it has made me a more compassionate and mindful person.
And now, this tiny little man has come into the world to carry on my father's name. He is beautiful and healthy and weighed in at 8lbs 4oz.
I once suggested naming my son after my dad, and he offered to beat me with a skillet if I EVER did that. lol He went by a nickname all his life and most people never knew him by anything else. His name was Oscar. No middle name. I don't know who he was named after, if somewhere in the family tree there was another Oscar that can be blamed for my fathers misfortune, or if it just pleased my granny. All I know is that everyone who knew him called him Brownie. My brother just told his son that--that there was a reason everyone called him Brownie. And I know he would have hated it, but would have been so proud at the same time.
So, here I sit, amazed at the circle of life, even though I sometimes feel beat up by it as well. Missing my dad, excited about seeing the newest member of our family, and relieved that my emotional rollercoaster isn't just a glitch in my aging brain. There's a reason I'm feeling sad and even if my addled brain didn't remember, the rest of me did, and so it is. I want to lay my head on my desk and cry...cry for all the things he missed by dying so young. Cry because he never got to see any of his great grandchildren. Cry because he never got to see his own children grow into relatively happy and healthy adults. He never got to see me get sober and he never got to meet my Irishman and he'll never get to see my gardens or my little home in the country.
He would have loved it all. He really, really would have.