My father would have turned 93 today. I miss him. In fact, I miss him more now than I did when he died — nearly 9 months ago. Back then, grief was tempered by the gratitude that he was granted a mercifully peaceful death — still himself, still optimistic, in the company of family. The alternatives, had he lived, would have been much grimmer. Back then, there were papers to be signed, logistics to be managed, things that had to get done. Plus, I was used to him and my mother being out of state for several months of the year, so the rhythm of him being gone still felt almost normal.
I thought that I was doing a pretty good job of managing grief and accepting realities. My frequent tears felt appropriately cathartic and I learned how to manage the timing so that I could still function well. My thoughts of him were (and are) happy ones, for the most part.
There are unexpected moments. I flip through the cable guide and for last month, the movie His Gal Friday (Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell) seems to be playing daily — sometimes several times a day. I encounter the listing and I think of my father and smile. It is the last movie we watched together, at the rehab facility, just hours before the crisis that led to his death. We enjoyed that movie — talked about it, laughed quite a bit. It’s a good memory. When the movie was over, he said he was going to get some sleep. I kissed him good-night, turned out the light, and settled into the recliner. It was nice. So seeing that movie listing is a bit of unexpected contact. It makes me happy. I can’t actually watch the movie, but sometimes I flip on the guide and hunt around until I find the listing.
So the grieving is going well, as these things go. I’m working hard at it, with reasonable success.
Except that now I want the pay-off. I want my father back. He’s been gone long enough. I have come to terms with everything about his death except the permanence. I realize I’ve been looking about two feet in front of me and taking measured steps toward a destination I never really visualized. But now, I can make out its dim outlines and my father isn’t in it. Never means never.
Today is my father’s birthday and I don’t get to share it with him. I am not okay with this. Somebody needs to come up with a better plan.