My father died when I was 19 years old.
It was a Friday, and I was a sophomore at UPJ. On that particular evening I was attending a sorority party in the basement of our sorority house.
I happened to look toward the line of people waiting entry into the party when I spotted my sister’s face. I stopped cold, for I knew something had to be terribly wrong for her to be there.
I walked toward her and as we embraced her only words to me were, “He didn’t feel a thing.” As we staggered in shock back to my dorm, she shared the details of his massive heart attack. Despite the valiant efforts of several doctors and nurses having dinner at the club along with our parents, he was gone. My mother became a 42 year-old widow in between bites of corn and steak. (Little did we know that she would join him a mere 7 years later.)
I vaguely remember the events that followed, but will never forget how he felt as I reached to touch him one last time at the viewing.
I spent many, many years after that searching through crowds at airports, and large gatherings for a glimpse of someone who might resemble him. I can’t explain it- for it didn’t make sense – but I felt in my heart that perhaps he was just living somewhere else. That maybe the whole death thing was staged, and that I would find him if I kept looking. Perhaps he was living another life in another city with another family. I looked looked everywhere when I made a cross country trip after graduating from said university.
I felt similar feelings after losing my mother. I think the fact that we didn’t get to see her after her death (She was cremated) didn’t give me the closure that I needed to convince myself that SHE was gone.
I spent many years searching near and far for signs that my parents were still a part of this world. However, it’s during this time of year that I am reminded of where they really are.
I spend Thanksgiving Day rising well before my family, and begin the ritual of stuffing the turkey. I am wrapped in the memory of my mother as I carefully cut the celery and onions, and then mix together the ingredients that will fill our home with the smells that always yank me back to the days on Turnpike Avenue. I feel her spirit course through me as I work feverishly in the kitchen.
I spy my father’s gentle manner in the way that Matthew plays with the younger neighbor children in the backyard. I hear my mother’s laugh when I listen closely to Tori as she talks on the phone with a friend. I hear my father’s quick wit as Sarah and I banter during a break in the Macy’s Day parade.
Yep. It’s this day in particular that gives me pause each and every year.
I am thankful for the gifts that my parents have given me; a sense of humor, a tad bit of intelligence, a sprinkle of good sense and perhaps a tiny bit of talent. I am reminded each and every day that I needn’t have searched high and low for signs of their life. It was always deep inside my own heart.