Today would have been my father’s 92nd birthday. We lost him (literally) almost four years ago, in June 2010. If you’re new to this blog and you don’t know the part of my story that prompted me to start writing seriously, you can read about what happened here, here, here, here, here and here. During the time we were searching, and after we found him, and during the funeral and everything after that (going through the house, getting his affects from the police, packing up the house and selling it, closing out the estate), I learned the very important lesson that grief is not something you get over. It’s something you get through. The road can be very twisty, and doubles back on itself, and takes you through places you thought you passed through already, but here you are again, and the journey will take just as long as it takes, and it may never be completely over.
When I was working the editorial part of this calendar project, I very deliberately selected the quote above for my dad’s birthday. The five of us, and our spouses, and the grandchildren, and our extended family of friends and caretakers and searchers all did our/their duty; but the motivation for our/their diligence was not duty, but love. Love of our dad, to be sure, but also love of each other, filial love, the love of friends for each other, even the love of the stranger for the person in need of help and comfort. We were the recipients of so much kindness and care. We were truly blessed during our time of trouble.
If someone had told me on my dad’s birthday in 2010, four years ago today, that my sister Barbara, her daughter Alyssa and I would spend the next three months tag-teaming three times a week to make sure that our dad got the physical therapy he needed to deal with his Parkinson’s, I would have said “I can’t do that. I work every day in Manhattan. I live in Queens. Barb works, Alyssa is a senior. We can’t do it.” But when we found out less than a week later that we would have to do just that for our dad to maintain his mobility, we did what we had to do, with joy.
It is by doing our duty that we learn to do it.”
That duty fell to us because we were the only ones who lived close enough to even try. Our other sibs and their spouses and kids took on other responsibilities, and offered to come to New Jersey and help if we needed a respite. Instead of the crisis pulling us apart, as so often happens in large families, the crisis pulled us closer together. And when the worst happened, when dad went missing before his daytime caregiver came to his home on a beautiful June morning, we searched/worried/prayed/grieved together, joined by the friends and strangers who offered to help.
I learned that you never know what you are capable of doing until you are called upon to do it. I felt I was given strength I didn’t have before, because the situation called for it. Maybe it was always there in me and channeled into other things, I don’t know. But when I look back at that entire year, that 2010, I don’t know how we got through it, much less how we ended it even stronger than we began.
I still miss my father very, very much. He had a great sense of humor. He was a deep thinker. He loved us, and he loved our mother. Shortly after she died, he told me that the best thing he ever did was ask Mom to marry him…
“Because if I hadn’t married your mother, I’d have turned out a bum.”
I don’t think that ever would have been the case.
I miss you, Dad, and I love you.
Happy birthday, and give my love to Mom.
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