Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Day the Music Died

On a Wednesday morning, 11 years ago today, my father died.  He'd been inexplicibly hemmorhaging on and off the the previous ten days, so was in an ICU unit, but even there, the doctors were at a loss as to the cause, how to stop it, what to say to us when they failed.  I remember a fresh-faced young man who was the physician on duty that morning standing by the nurses' station, crying as we walked past to say goodbye to Dad's empty body.  They were the first of many strangers' tears I saw in relation to my father's life.  Dad had that impact on people.  I guess I've shared that enough here. Obviously.
So when I was thinking about what I wanted to share today, I thought of the emails my siblings and I sent in a round-robin last year, on the 10th anniversary of his death.  They all agreed I could post them here, so here they are, in the order they were written, with the title of this blog the subject line my sister wrote in the first email of the morning. 

 From L:
Dear Ruth and Carolyn and Dave and Rich,

 10 years, can you believe it?

I'm with Mom, I can't think of any suitable ways to commemorate the day, except think about Dad, which I have been a lot.  We thought about him a lot on the hike!  You can't go hiking and not think of Dad.  I keep singing this song (see above); it's weird how sometimes that happens, my subconscious starts a song before I realize why.  (In this case the connection's pretty obvious.)  I think Dad was amazing in that we were each special and important to him individually, and we felt it.

I suppose if he were alive now he would be in bad shape, knees, hips, kidneys, and who knows what else.  But I still miss him and wish I could talk to him sometimes.

What should I make - Joe Froggers?  Something with molasses and spices, I think.  A raisin pie - that's the mourning pie.


From C:
I remember.  Not just that morning--I really hate(!) remembering that morning actually--the tramping up the hill, Rich in his 'BIg Dog' t-shirt waiting for us outside the elevator, being ushered into that windowless room to wait while they futilely tried to save his life.  The little nun, the phone calls, going down the hall--you saying, "Let's at least hold hands!"  His open mouth and hand still warm when I touched it to remove his wedding ring. The cafeteria afterwards--all those blasted people.  And the waiting for Ruth on the bench on the corner where we could look up at the tall building where his body was still cooling.  The driving around Pullman together in the van, opening the windows to scream, "SHIT!"
 But what I really think of is him.  Sometimes it's like a toothache.  I can bring up the real essence of Dad and it's so pungent I can't believe he won't come walking into this house where he's never even been.  He's that solid--His face, his hairy freckly arms with the patches of scaley skin on the elbows he was always scratching; the odd bump in the middle of his forehead; his lop-sided gait and the swish of his slippers on the floor as he walked down the hall at home; his voice--sometimes raised; his laugh--sometimes loud, sometimes silent; his grunt as he rose from chairs and couches too low; his bent back as he stood at sinks--his, ours, camping pots--washing dishes; his plaid woolen shirts.
Make a spice cake with caramel frosting.  Definitely something with raisins.  More heavy cake.  I can imagine that you thought of him on the hike.  Great that you did that the August of the tenth summer after he died.  A way to commemorate, for sure.  Stephanie was just telling me the other day that she remembers me being sad for a really long time when he died.  Eight years old and what she has from that is my sadness and a dollhouse.  I guess that's something.
Love to all of you this day.

From RW: 
Thanks for making me cry at work (I mean it, thanks). You two are more eloquent than I, must be the preponderance of engineer in me, so I enjoy your writing and try not to let the tears drip on my keyboard.
It does seem like 10 years to me in the sense that I don't think about him every day. I do miss him at specific times. When I'm hiking, when I have exciting things happen at work, when I want to brag about my engineer sons. I don't have the specific remembrances like you Carolyn, which makes me a little sad. I miss him more in the things I want to share with him. I believe he sees and knows about our lives, I just want to be around him in the sharing.
I am thankful every day that God put me in this family. And it's more than Dad - it's also all of you.
Heavy cake is the thing. I'm going to the Mariners tonight and I'll think about wanting to share that with him.

From RE:
I miss him when I work with Mom, I miss him when I look in the mirror, at Whidbey this summer, when things go on at the university, when the kids do things; I think of him almost every day in some fashion.
We all have our memories, yucky though they are of the morning/day, that weekend, that whole summer.  The weather today is much like it was ten years ago, bright, breezy and summer! Sarah said that there was a Relay for Life this past weekend in Manhattan, which is what she and I were doing that weekend ten years ago. So many memories but the greatest are of him loving us!  Carolyn - "Spend the money!"

From D:
Hey sibs,

Ruth, you'd mentioned the weather there, but I remember when Rich phoned me with the news - I was at
work, had only been there an hour or so, and it was grey, dark and raining. I was standing up in the
cubicle-ville at National Semiconductor and the news dropped me to my chair. Lucky I didn't hit the floor.
I felt like I was in a movie and the camera was zooming out to show the sea of people I was in, of
whom I knew none for more than a month or so. I was alone there. In the middle of all those people.  They
had amazing compassion, and in little time I had my tickets to come be with my family. My people. 

Ten years. He had only met Kim just once.  But seeing you all at Ruth's, she and I weren't together. I had
barely moved to Maine. Hadn't started working with Troop 1 yet, he would have loved me doing that, and I
had to call Charlie Gaskins to ask about tarps, where you'd get them, how they had rigged them up with
flaps, etc.  Charlie was in Australia.  He missed my classic April fools gag, losing my job as an engineer,
and getting into teaching. That would have floored him, I bet he would have been more excited that I'd
gotten into education. I REALLY wish I could have had conversations with him about trying new approaches to teaching, mixing things up with the curriculum, getting kids to see things new ways. That would have
been the best.        
 Buying a house, starting new in Massachusetts, thinking about going overseas to teach, building docks and a retaining wall. Getting one more Dad Porch.

I don't think he and I ever talked about my birthparents. I don't remember if we did. 
I miss his practical wisdom: me: "Dad, do you think it would be
alright if I got a motorcycle?" 
Dad:(pause) "Well, you'd better wear a helmet." 
me: "Dad, what do you think about ..."
Serving others, keeping my ego in check, leaving a place cleaner that I found it.  Those are the
characteristics I see most from him in me.

I'm sad I didn't get up to Camp Grizzly with you 10 years ago. Every step I take in the woods and
mountains is me trying to find him to ask him his thoughts.


No comments: