June 29, 2012: Remembrance of Dad
I held your hand in the driveway, right where you fell.
The same hand that had once changed my diapers, given me a bottle, taught me how to ride a bike and drive a car, that fed me my first (and last) piece of liver, that cut my hair into a pixie, that held onto me when I crossed a road, that gave me away in marriage, that slipped me money at the beginning of every month, that signed the checks for oh-so-many years of education, that taught me the importance of giving…
I held your hand in the driveway, right where you fell. In disbelief.
That Friday morning, ready to leave for work, the phone rang. Dad probably couldn’t wait until my Bluetooth call while I was on my way to work; he must have had something important to tell me that happened on this date, from the calendar he kept with all family events (big and little) catalogued.
Something very important. My sister’s voice – hysterical, sobbing – “Dad’s dead.”
I calmly called Michael, who told me to wait until he got home from the office; he didn’t trust me to drive. On our way there – on our way “home” – I knew it would take at least an hour – I prayed that you would still be there when I got to the house.
How could I have prayed for what I saw when I arrived? The State Trooper was just leaving as I flew out of the passenger seat and ran across the lawn – the same lawn that you mowed on your John Deere, a special handle screwed into its casing so you could drive your grandsons around with you 30 years ago – to the figure half-hidden by the hedge, covered with a thin white blanket.
I heard someone wail in anguish and didn’t know it was me – your baby of 58 years.
Where was the dignity in this? Dad – my father – a World War II veteran – lying in his driveway, in the sunshine. (Thank goodness for your being covered; lupus doesn’t like sunshine, remember?)
I held your hand in the driveway.
It was right where I had seen Mom standing at your side, oh-so-many years ago after she died, as Steve, Alex and I pulled out of your driveway; by the flowering tree Mom loved that nestled the bird feeders you kept filled for the songbirds and squirrels.
The diamonds in Mom’s ring sparkled in the sunshine as my fingers entwined with yours, your strong hands, nails neatly trimmed, relaxed…at peace. My tears fell onto our hands, a baptism, a cleansing of our relationship, joined with Mom in a bond not unlike diamonds that would only strengthen with the weight of time passed.
There was a dignity in this, of a sort…a communion, a joining, rather than a separation… A quietness…a birth…an arrival upon the heels of a departure.
You were already being greeted by the God whom you so loved, along with Grammie and Grandpop, who sang the words of Matthew 3:17: “This is My Son, in Whom I am well pleased.”
A trembling voice echoed off the walls of my broken heart: “This is my Father, in Whom I am well pleased.”