Sometimes my sister, Ann, and I will sit around and talk about how long Dad's been gone. It usually starts with the same question. Was Dad there when.......?
Then we start ticking off the the things that have happened that he wasn't around to see. Weddings, weddings and more weddings. Babies being born, babies growing up, babies graduating from college. Funerals for dear friends and relatives - his little brother last year. The Hawks winning the Stanley Cup and the White Sox the World Series, but no such luck for his hapless Cubs.
At some point the conversation will trail off to nothingness because there's only so much you can scoop from the well of absence.
Now we're past the two decade mark. Decades? Really?
I remember watching t.v. with him the year before he died. The Berlin Wall was coming down and there was live coverage of it with Peter Jennings. "Well I'll be, Kate," he said. "In a million years I never thought I'd live to see that." The dashing network correspondent would die as well, and do kids these days even know what the Berlin Wall was for?
The day after he died Ann and I drove to the mall. Since Mark and I had only planned a four day trip home that would stretch to two weeks, I had nothing to wear to the funeral. We took note of the clouds along the way. Fat, huge, fluffy clouds and we both wondered if Dad was "there."
I ponder the there a lot.
Mark and I were lucky to have Mom and Dad be our first visitors a few months after we moved to Maryland. They were going to a convention with friends and stopped to spend a few days with us. While Mark stayed behind to work at his new job, Maggie and I went with them to Mt. Vernon, Annapolis, Williamsburg and Monticello. Being #4 of six, it was the first time I had my parents to myself and I loved it.
A few weeks later I got one of Dad's long hand-written letters thanking Mark and I for our hospitality. He wrote, "A good home can surely be an elusive thing. It should have an air of calmness and tranquility about it. It should convey a spirit that projects an understanding of what is most important and worthy in our lives. It is our observation, Kath, that you understand those ingredients very well and are weaving them into your home life."
For a guy with only one good eye he noticed a lot.
When I look at my own kids, two of whom weren't even born when he died, I see pieces of him. The smile, the eyes, the gentle touch with strangers. They are inordinately kind and their dad and I can't take all the credit for that. It was their grandfather that walked the walk.
The Mister and I have a rather spotty record in that regard.
After decades of pondering as if I had a say in the matter, I would like my soul to resemble a sparkler on its exit. I hope "there" is where Dad landed - in everybody he loved and who seek to understand that which is worthy. That the pieces of light fall far and wide and are scooped up and saved for the babies of the next generation. That what is no longer needed finds a calm and tranquil home. That a tiny flame stays lit to guide the way.......
And that life goes on.
And life goes on.
And life goes on