Very soon now it will be the anniversary of my father's death. My mother, my husband and me, we all miss him. I guess that never leaves you. I've found that, over time, you keep the best memories. They are like my favorite string of beads; something quietly potent and richly hued that I wear every day until I hardly notice it. I only think of it now when I see people reacting to the way I look or smile or talk; my Dad's gift effects the way I live and the work I do and the joy and strength I feel whether I think about it or not.
This bead is the joy he found in traveling the world and encountering new cultures, this one is his love for dogs and cats (most of them rescues) and this one reminds me of the way he told stories. This one is his Celtic pride and this one is his love of learning. Unable to go to college (but making damn sure that his girls got that chance) he went to night school for years to get his degree, and never stopped reading or thinking. This bead is his work ethic, and this other one stands for all the times he helped out his neighbors and never looked for thanks. This bright one here reminds me of the way he could walk into any room, anywhere in the world and make new friends, something I'm still trying to learn. This amber bead here (and it's one of my favorites) is the one that always helped him tell truth to power. It's right next to the small, tactful bit of turquoise that I added years later on my own, and which had made my life much easier (and my work a lot more effective) ever since. A lot of what I like about my self, I get from Dad and on the really good days, I feel how the best parts of my father compliment what is unique and best in me. As any woman can tell you, a good string of beads does wonders.
When I think of my Dad, I feel a deep gratitude I can't express, not even to my closest and oldest friends, especially not to them, I guess, because many of them knew the "before" and Dad and I learn to live in the "after". I say after because Dad choose to get sober in his mid-60's. Because he went into rehab and did the hard, long work of recovery he allowed me to know my real Dad; a sweet, funny, supportive, humble, brilliant and (how lucky am I to be able to say this?) loving guy. With each year he recovered more and more of his true self, and became more centered, more peaceful and much happier. When I married, he found the son he never had (and could not, let us be honest here, ever have raised) in my husband and soul's partner. My partner, in turn, found the positive father figure that he himself had never known. Blessing abound in life. I count mine all the time.
My thoughts today are with Senator Obama and his grandmother, a lady Andrew Sullivan called "his last parent", as well as with all those remembering a loved one who has passed on. I remember, too, all those today who are sitting by the side of someone they love who is ill. I've been there. The grief is terrible, but it passes in time, it really does, and the blessings remain.
Coping with the Loss of a Parent
Care for Caregivers - Taking Care of You
Photo: Glow (Hawaiian Pink Ginger) by WitsEnd