Without fail, February 20 shows up every year. Some years, it just sneaks up on me, unexpected.
Maybe it is because the blizzards of the centuries have had me literally and figuratively under the weather this week. Maybe because like every single goddamn February since 1985, the month has contained news of loved ones being hospitalized, of the Grim Reaper sitting in the waiting room, snatching people away one by one.
Twenty five years. A quarter century, for goodness sakes. It seems like somewhat of a morbid milestone. Like we should be doing something to commemorate this. We’re not, and that is more than OK. It’s a typical Saturday with Boo on the Wii, Betty downstairs playing with her dollhouse, me on the blog, The Dean at work. We had our typical Saturday lunch (leftover pizza from last night) and in a couple of hours, Betty and I will be
hawking selling Girl Scout Cookies outside of Lowes. This is OK, this is the circle of life, this is the way it should be and the way my Dad would want it to be.
In these 25 living years, someone gone a quarter century is a loss that just is, accepted and assimilated long ago into the stuff of the everyday. It’s not always acknowledged, and those of us now-adults who have lost a parent as a young child are in a funky kind of club, one where phrases like, “So where do your parents live?” or “What does your father do?” or the mention of a surprise birthday party for a father’s 50th birthday (or retirement party, or a golden anniversary) still have the power decades later to render one temporarily mute.
And yet it happens sometimes, especially in hazy weeks brushed in Kodachrome like this, when a moment grabs you and takes you hostage. It happened on Thursday night, as I closed down my computer but not before seeing a link to a newspaper story about Philadelphia area survivors of heart transplants. And that was all I needed for the tears that had been held at bay all week, because that was our story 25 years ago (albeit, of course, with a different ending) when in less than a week, my Dad went from a healthy, nonsmoking, active 44-year old father of two to number 4 on the university hospital’s heart transplant recipient list.
Betty asked why I was crying, and I told her that something reminded me of my dad, her grandfather, and made me sad.
“I wish I could see him,” she said, reducing me to mush.
“I know what you mean, baby girl,” I said. “I know what you mean.”
Me and my Dad. (Not the best photo, thanks to no photo scanner, but maybe the blurriness fits after all.) This is Christmas 1970, and I am not quite 2 years old. I’ll be an only child for just a couple months more, with only 14 more Christmases with my Dad.