Today, I saw someone who reminded me of Dad. I was at a wrestling meet of my youngest son and as I glanced over at one of the coaches in the corner I saw my Dad. The same white hair and high cheekbones. The same white hair I am getting and the same high cheekbones my oldest boy has. Those cheekbones only showed up so hollow and defined after Dad lost weight during his bout with his cancer. I was so startled I almost called out and said, “Dad!” What are you doing?” I caugth myself. The man really looked nothing like my Dad when you started staring. So strange that I hadn’t done this for such a long time.
Dad has been gone 3 years and 6 months. Time passes so quickl

Life is moving by.  I am not forgetting Dad but time has helped to remove the pain of grieving.  We talk of Dad and things that he did or said.  We drive his truck on occasion.  There are seasonal flowers replaced at the gravesite.  Fall now, yellows, golds, reds.  Soon, we will replace them with Christmas flowers or greenery.

Lately I’ve been thinking of my own death.  I am dreaming that I am dying.  Actually it doesn’t feel as if I’m dreaming, just…half asleep half awake.  The episodes make wme wonder if I really am going to die soon.  Like, a foreshadowing, forewarning…etc…  Guess we won’t know until I wake up tomorrow.  If I do.

Today would have been my Dads 74th birthday.  Hard to believe another year gone by.  We will go up to the cematery and remove the Christmas wreath we placed there.  I don’t know what we’ll replace it with yet.  

We used Dad’s pickup to go to the wrestling meet yesterday and that was a bit strange.  

We are doing okay.  All of us.  

Life goes on and sometimes that feels like a betrayal.  

Life goes on and we must live while we can.

Dad’s birthday is coming up.  January 18th.  I can’t believe it going to be his second birthday gone.  Time is passing so quickly.  

Mark drove Dad’s pick up around a few days and it seemed weird to see it parked in our driveway.  I caught myself glancing up at it and remembering Dad sitting out there, cigarette in hand, waiting for the boys to come out, waiting for us to see him and come outside and visit with him, all the while smoking one of his “little friends“.   

In reality when I think of Dad, I think of cigarettes.  The two go hand in hand.  The smell, the sight, I can’t think of him without those damn cancer sticks.

I’ve been thinking about Dad lately.  I guess, around Thanksgiving was the time we found out he was carrying cancer cells.  Lung cancer.  Abnormal, freakish, squamous cells, non small cell in fact.  Death cells.

fucking cancer

I keep remembering the last day, the last hour, the last minute, the last time I saw Dad.  It kills me.  Makes me tear up and cry, clench the calves of my legs until they cramp up and hurt and twist my leg into a pretzel.  

Sadness.

I usually crowd these thoughts out and try not to think.

when it comes down to it.

Painful

I think often about my own mutating cancer cells.  I’m not diagnosed.  I just think it is invietable.  I will get cancer and I will die.  when?  I don’t know.  Probably sonner than later.  If not that then death by heart attack.  

That’s my body type, my destiny, my history, my future… me

Went up to Dad’s grave site like I usually do on Tuesdays.  I go right after I deliver a carafe of coffee and a “goodie” of the day, to a lady in the assisted living facility here in town.  The cematary is just up the hill and around the corner.  Dad’s grave site is in the “new” part.   His grave just about looks down into the valley where Mom and Dad’s house is.  Not far away from the headstone is a pasture fence with wild yucca growing in herds.  Pretty view really. Mom bought a yellow lab dog with a solar light lantern in it’s mouth and it sits guard in front of the headstone.  Lights up the dark night.  

Peaceful there.

I suppose you could call it a milestone. A marker of time going by. Another summer. The grass still needs mowing, the mosquitoes still biting madly as if they know their time is limited. Dad never got bit by mosquitoes…his skin probably tasted of pure Marlboro. I sometimes miss that scent. How odd, I often think, that I don’t smoke. Growing up in a cloud must have given me enough to last a lifetime. Don’t get me wrong – I tried it. I just didn’t like it. Sometimes I wish I did. Maybe my ass wouldn’t be so big. Lately I find myself wanting to smoke again. Maybe it’s because I’m preaching to the boys so much about NOT smoking. Too late for my daughter…she is smoking like her grandparents used to. It kills me, it really does. She doesn’t realize what she is doing to herself. She used to be such an athlete. I bet she couldn’t run a block now. When she was a baby she had terrible croup. Her lungs are already vulnerable and yet she seems to want to further damage herself. She is 19, an “adult” and in college. I have little influence over what she is doing day to day. I only hope she comes to the realization that smoking is a killer in our family.

(a poem I wrote in 2001 while decorating my grandparents graves. My youngest son was with me.

Mid afternoon at the cemetery
and two yellow butterflies were kissing
between the headstones
above the buffalo grass
beside my son and I

The Iris were blooming
petals of fragrant purple and white
the yucca were growing wild with delight
porcupines in disguise
and baby cactus littered the long and lonely isles

Every now and then a pinwheel fluttered
spinning beside some young ones grave
shining reminder of bits of the future
lost to heaven
at too early an age

Meadow larks sang in the cemetery trees
and someone had hung wind chimes up
OH what a beautiful melody they played
when nudged ever so softly by hand or by breeze
a pipe organ here in the trees!

We decorated the graves my son and I
and talked about life and death and
‘Why do bodies have to die Mommy. . . why?’
sorrow and tears springing to his eyes

Explanations of sickness and wear and tear
seemed to satisfy
and tears dried he turned thoughtful eyes to me
explaining that he would come back
as a rabbit when HIS body decided to die –
my heart lurched at this thought
and I hugged him close and we watched

butterflies between headstones
kiss one another goodbye – then FLY

Sheryl 2001

So hard to believe.  The year is up.  Tomorrow.  I find myself moved to tears lately.  Especially when gathering up and putting out to display the Fathers Day cards, the Fathers Day plaques and other knick knacks  at the shop.

How ironic that Fathers Day is one day after the 1 year Anniversary of my Fathers death.  Flag day, June 14th will be one year.  In some ways it seems longer, in others it seems just a few months ago.  There is no “blunting” of the pain, just a gradual acceptance.  No one can describe in full how it is to lose a parent.  I liken it to seeing a beautiful view of the mountains, getting your camera, and being unable to capture the moment.  There is no way to tell anyone else the full blood and guts truth of how you are doing, or how you are feeling.  But, the support of those around, is appreciated AND so very necessary.  Without a hug, or word of encouragement, one would simply dry up, shrivel into a shell, a husk of nerves.

I carry on…sigh…