Tuesday, October 03, 2017

To Dad, on your birthday

Dear Dad,

Today is your birthday. You've been gone almost eight and a half years.

When I forget how long it's been, I think of Jordan's age, and add three months. I initially wrote subtract, but I think I mean add. Because you left three months before he was born.

He turned eight in August.

He's amazing. He has to read in Spanish every night, and do math in Spanish. I know you'd happily do both with him. You'd love it. You'd love him so much.

And India, my India. She's charming and fabulous and enraging. She'd captivate you.

One day we were driving, and in a hurry. I was complaining about the car ahead of us. From the back seat she said, "I hope that guy in front of us keeps driving really slow."

I said, "What?"

And she said, "Like when we're on your bike and you say, 'Oh, I'm so GLAD that car is parked in the bike lane in front of us,' and you don't mean glad."

Oooh. She's five! Imagine.

We sometimes talk about ghosts, and I hope you are here with us.

Time is both straightforward and confusing and time is weird and time is an artificial construct but time is helpful. Eight years hurts less than five or six or seven.

But it still hurt. It still hurts.

You know this year I joined a team for my Overnight walk. I'm in the  discussion group on Facebook. Facebook wasn't much of a thing when you were still alive.

Anyway. People ask for support on birthdays, and on anniversaries.

One can have time and distance and understanding, and these dates still knock the wind out of a person. It's not just me.

I've learned that you have to respect that these days are significant, and they will be hard, and give yourself permission to grieve.

Mama turned 80 in September.

She was in the hospital three times this summer. I wanted to say "thrice" but I always get teased for the word. I don't remember if you teased me about it. You were more focused on my grammar. And my use of profanity.

Anyway, she kept losing blood and getting extremely anemic, to the point that she was having transfusions. This happened right before her birthday.

Sarah was in the US, and came to stay with us for a few days, and she came to Sibley with me. We asked the doctor if he couldn't just keep pumping Betty full of blood, like you fill up a gas tank.

Apparently it doesn't work like that. They haven't solved the problem but she's doing better now.

Leading up to her birthday, I asked her if she'd like to have a big party, to celebrate this milestone of 80. And she looked so sad.

She said, "Most of my people are gone."

I knew it, because I know who we've lost. I just hadn't thought about it this way.

When you add everyone up, it could be a grand ghost party. You'd be playing piano, like you did throughout my childhood, no matter the country.

You know all of this. Maybe you're all even hanging out. I hope you are.

I'm just saying it out loud because it makes me feel better.

So we planned a little dinner. And Shannon gifted Phil a bushel of crabs for his birthday, so we had a double party and he brought them. Do you know how huge a bushel of crabs is?

I didn't, but now I do. Boy, were the kids impressed with the crabs.

Meg and her family came over to celebrate. You don't know them, but you'd love them. You'd all  swap Peace Corps stories.

Jack is still going strong, and so is Donna. Sometimes Donna sends me snippets of memories. I love it. 

Connie told me Grandpa John had a sauna in the basement. I don't remember that. I do know I got my sauna pronunciation from them.

One of these days I'll go back to Duluth. I want to see my cousins. I want to see that bridge that lifts up, the one we used to stand under, and I was afraid it would come down on our heads.

And I want to see if I can find some of Aunt Jo's art.

The world feels very dark and scary right now. I don't trust that our government is working to keep us safe.

My kids have lock down drills at school, in case there's a shooter. This idea makes me so sad and angry and powerless all at the same time.

So many bad things have happened since you died.

You were already gone, but there was a terrible tsunami and earthquake in Japan, and thousands of people died. It was heartbreaking.

The year before, a man in that community had bought a phone booth and set it out in his garden, so that he could talk to his cousin, who had died. He called it the Wind Phone.

So people go there to talk to their lost loved ones.

I suppose I use these letters like a wind phone.

Japan is rather far. I wish there were one nearby. I'd drive a long distance for it. I thought about getting one, but it's not like we have a large, rambling, beautiful garden.

Nick would never go for a phone booth in our 3x5 outdoor patch of rose bushes.

Plus, it's DC. We might wind up with someone living in it. I wouldn't begrudge a homeless person a wind phone conversation, but I can't have one living in my rose bushes.

You'd happily talk to them, though. I know you would. You talked to everyone.

I love you and I miss you. I always will.

Happy birthday.

Love,

Lisa

6 comments:

  1. Love, Love and more Love to you. Now all in caps, LOVE.

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    1. Thank you, AR! LOVE back to you!

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  2. Granted I'm pregnant and hormonal, but I'm sobbing at my desk at work. My brother died when I was 21 - 15 years ago. Although I no longer have regular dreams about him, I feel so sad that he never got to meet my son. He would absolutely adore him. They are SO similar in personality, and they would have been best buds. There is something about our loved ones never meeting our children that just punches me right in the mama gut.

    I heard that TAL about the phone booth. It was hauntingly sad.

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    1. Big hugs and much love, Tia. It feels both beautiful and terrible, seeing similarities between your kids and your loved one, and wishing they'd known each other. It's a hard thing to live with.

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  3. I just realized your dad and I share a birthday. After reading you for all these years it suddenly made it more special to me.
    My dad's been gone for 11 years now, he also never met my kids... and I still get sad, and I still miss him, and I still automatically light a candle for him whenever I step into a church (even though I'm not a practicing catholic). Some things never go away. And I'm kind of glad they don't. Lots of love to you.

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    1. Oh my gosh! I hope you had a wonderful birthday.

      It is so sad, someone so important to you who would've loved your kids.

      I do the same. I was never a Catholic, though we went to Mass for a few years, but I still light a candle for him every time I'm in a church. He was Catholic, and I love the ritual of lighting a candle and praying, honestly.

      Much love to you, too.

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