My father passed away suddenly at the age of 40 from Leukemia. He was diagnosed and two weeks later, he was gone. My parents were divorced and my brothers and I were achingly young so information was thoughtfully and carefully filtered down for us. I had no idea he was sick sick. My idea of sick at the age of 11 was a stomach ache or a broken leg. Everyone who knew what was going was expecting him to bounce back. He was a young, athletic, hard-working man who had a positive attitude toward life and his cancer diagnosis. I don't think anyone was prepared for his death. To not tell us the whole gritty scope of what was going on was just to protect my brothers and I and prepare us over time for what everyone thought was going to be a long but victorious battle with Leukemia.
When I write I was in disbelief when I overhead my dad passed, I truly mean it. I know it was my brain's way of protecting itself. It was a hot, July day and I was in my mom's room. I loved crawling on her bed and opening up her big window and smelling the flowers and the big oak tree in our backyard. It's those intangible magical things about summer I cling to despite how that one Summer left me so cold and changed forever. My mind searches for the pretty, magical things to balance out the sadness I felt and often feel. I overheard her on the phone crying "Paul's dead??!" I just sat there, shocked. I didn't even cry. I wouldn't let those words register. How could this be? Wasn't he in the hospital for something minor? I had no clue it was cancer or anything serious. How did I just see him and now he's gone? I thought, It can't be. It's just a mistake.
When my mom called her friend Laverne and gathered my brothers and I to go to my grandparents' house I kept thinking: My dad will be there. He will be in a wheelchair because his leg is broken and this is why my mom is acting so weird. My dad will be there, he probably just broke his leg from running. He's going to be there. When we arrived at my grandparent's - all my family was there. All my family's friends even were there. I desperately scanned the room for my dad, but he wasn't there. I knew, then, what I overheard in my mom's room comforting by the smell of the big oak tree and her blankets, was the truth. When the whole family sat my brothers and I down to tell us the news, I just cried. My brother Paul went outside and paced over my grandparent's amazing landscaped front yard of beautiful rocks and daffodils and tiny little ponds. I wanted to help him but all I could do was watch him.
Months turned into years and years have turned into what feels like forever. Grief changes over time. It takes on different forms and comes in waves and spirals. But it's still there. My memory has faded over time. It seems like a lifetime ago when my father was alive.
I miss him, all his funny impersonations, his poetry, his love for running and movies, how he always made me feel special. I miss my dad and always will. Today would be his birthday. This whole entry was about his death but there's so much he did with 40 years of living. He was an amazing friend, brother, son and father. He was a hard-working lawyer. He ran marathons and was big on volunteering - especially for Special Olympics. He even found a poem they used for their motto. Everyone loved him and was charmed with his easy smile and hearty, Irish laugh. He had big blue eyes and blonde hair. My brother Paul looks so much like him. He made everyone laugh. His presence is always missed. He was one of those people that stories are written about. Stories about great men that die too young and leave behind family and friends with grieving hearts and the best memories but everything is underscored with the question "Why? Why him? Why then?"
On this day I remember his life and all that he accomplished. It's inspiring. I stumbled through my teen years and my 20s but if I can be half the person my dad was I'd die a happy woman. Here's to you dad, I miss you.