The road unknown...
This is going to sound really bad but I beg you to hold your collective gasps of judgment until the conclusion of this short piece.
10 years ago, almost to this very day, my mother took her last breath, fading out of this life. It was sad, yes, but it felt more exhausting than anything. Exhausting because now came the chore of readying everything for the memorial and by “everything” I mean preparing my dad. A day to honor the mother of six children, wife of 42 years, sister of 64 all while trying to keep dad from throwing himself on the ground in my kids school parking lot kicking and screaming, “Why God, WHY!?”(He’s Italian, we tend to be emotionally animated). He walked in a daze everywhere, stopping every so often to show a grocery attendant or bank teller a photo of my deceased mother, not a picture of her dead. It was a photo from 1970 when she taught 3rd grade at a local elementary school. She had a head of thick, red hair that complimented a smart, grey suit and of course, she was smiling that big, beautiful smile. Each time he would show the picture, he would begin to weep. This made everyone uncomfortable...except for dad.
Dad would never be the same again. And I get it, I really do. But when he would say something to the effect of, “I wish it was me and not her” over and over I couldn’t help but think, “ME TOO! Geez! You are worse than my eight month old.” It was like losing both parents and I really disliked my dad for that. I thought of how different it would be if he passed away first. Life would have been easier for all of us. I was closer to mom. Dad was the stern disciplinarian who made me wear a lifejacket to the swimming pool until I was in eighth grade, grounded me for C’s, and made me work in the family JANITORIAL business, ALL THE TIME! Mom always cut us slack. She forgave our friends after we were over hating them. To this day my dad talks about exacting revenge on a news reporter who criticized my first demo tape. Every so often declaring, “Funny I don’t see him on the station any longer. Probably living under a bridge. That’s what happens when you’re mean to my kids.”
Two years ago things changed. After months of tests, opinions and second opinions, we got the news. Dad’s memory was slowly leaving and the pieces he had lost, and would continue to lose, wouldn’t be coming back. He’s doing well, though. We know it’s not going to get better, so we’ve chosen to enjoy the now. I don’t worry about getting home late if he’s in the middle of a story that I’ve heard countless times before. When he calls I stay on the phone longer to listen to how much he loves Greek yogurt. I’ll hem his favorite shorts (even though I hate them) and I won’t ever roll my eyes again when he tells the story about how he met my mom.
A few weeks ago, dad and I were going through old photo albums (for you youngins’, photo albums is what we used before Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) and IT hit me. What if my dad DID die before mom? I wouldn’t be sitting here, laughing and slowing down long enough to look at pictures I never noticed but were always there. I wouldn’t know my dad, like I do now. So now...I get it.