So as I lay me down to sleep, I found myself rethinking and remembering what I could about the events of 36 years ago. And sort of reconstructing what I knew and experienced around the facts.
I know dad was buried on September 4, which was a Wednesday, the first day of school, which we missed because my mom didn't want the funeral on my sister's birthday, which was the third, a Tuesday.
For the longest time, I thought my father died on August 28, but the mass card said the 29th. The 28th was a Wednesday; my Uncle drove me up from Long Beach Island that day, for reasons I wasn't entirely clear about. My sibs minus my youngest and mom were at Beach Haven with my cousins. My younger sister, homesick, wanted to be home with mom, so left after a week.
I didn't understand why I was in the car with my uncle. I had been having a good time and wanted to stay the rest of the week with everyone else.
I talked about everything we did down at the shore, what fun it was, and my uncle said little.
I can't remember what my reunion with mom was like, only that I went to the carnival that evening with neighbors and rode the ferris wheel for the first time. And that our neighbor was at our house, watching me and my younger sisters. while my mom was at the hospital.
I remember waking up at one point and going to the top of the stairs. The Tonight Show was on, and our neighbor watched, smoking a cigarette, apparently unaware of me peering down at her.
Instead of going back to my room, I went to my parents room and fell asleep in their bed.
This was a big deal and major offense. My parents' room door was always closed. This was THEIR territory. But that night, I opened the door, went into their room, curled up in the middle of their bed and fell asleep.
So the first thing I saw the next morning was the sun streaming in on my mother's exhausted face. She was smiling, but the sadness in her face was bottomless.
"Daddy went to heaven last night," she told me.
Outside of my repeated "What do you mean? What are you talking about?" I don't remember much. There's so much I want to say to the bewildered child I was, not that it necessarily would have helped. I hadn't KNOWN that my father was sick, let alone terminally ill--no one ever said anything to me. And I wish some one did. Because I literally have no idea when the last time I saw my father alive was.
I never got to say goodbye.
So I sit here typing these scattered thoughts, 36 years later. Today, as of this day, my father is dead longer than he was alive. Hubby pointed out that this is true of us all, eventually.
But even so, all those memories of going to church with him, his steadfast faith, his odd but endearing sense of humor, all these things I share with my boys, who know their grandpop in ways I missed when I was younger. Well, I didn't miss it if I am living it, but there was much I didn't understand.
But I like to think that I am living the life he would have wanted for me, in the way he would have wanted me to live it. A lot of his beliefs and values inform the way I roll.
So, in a very real way, he continues to be with me, and with my family.
The irony, of course, is that he would have gotten my boys in a way few do, because they-particularly my Nic, who shares his birthday-are a lot like him.
His last words to my mom were about me, because he understood me in a way no one else could--or ever would. And he knew how hard it would be for me.
That I am still here is probably the strongest testament to the fact that I have ALWAYS had some one to watch over me.
And as my boys grow up, I know they have some one to watch over them, too.