Sunday, March 4, 2012

"It is good to remember"

Her e-mail awaited me when I got to work on Friday.
It was brief and in all caps, as is her style.
Buster and Jeanne, at home, in 1936.
My 81-year-old aunt, my father's oldest sister, had sent the following message:

"YOUR DAD WOULD BE 79 YEARS OLD TODAY. IT IS AMAZING HOW TIME GOES BY SO FAST."

I chastised myself for failing to recognize the significance of the day when I woke up that morning.

March 2nd. The day he was born in 1933.

Not a day passes that I don't think of him in some way.

How I bear a closer physical resemblance to him than my two brothers - the same body frame, the same thick hands with short fingers, the curl of hair in the center of a receding hairline.

I think of him when I proudly watch my children on soccer fields and basketball courts. When I fumble in my attempts to help my son build his Pinewood Derby car - as he similarly fumbled with mine 35 years ago.

I long for the bear hugs he used to give as I offer the same to my children.

And yet, despite all this, I forgot his birthday.

Perhaps actual dates become less important with the passage of time; I don't know. It doesn't mean I love him less. Quite the opposite is true.

In the 16 years he's been gone, I've become a father three times and have watched my children grow with the same love and admiration for them as he had for his. I've experienced with my wife the challenges of balancing time and energy with a band of children who need and long for both.

What I'm sure of is that I have become, at 43, much more appreciative of who he was and who I strive to emulate.

And I am thankful for my Aunt Jeanne's thoughtful reminder because I know, through her message, that she is missing him too.

Despite the cancer that took him 16 years ago, my father is still very much alive in Jeanne's heart and that of his other sisters Camilla and Rachel. That is unspeakably important to me...and to them.

I responded to Jeanne's message Friday morning, which led to a brief e-mail dialogue.

I commented that Friday's bright sunshine over newly fallen snow reminded me of the day we buried my father - a brilliant day that offered the warmth and sunshine he so desperately sought from his hospital bed during the last month of his life.

She agreed...and reminded me of how plans were made that day for her, my mother and Rachel to visit Camilla in Georgia that spring - a wonderful trip that offered all of them a chance to adjust to their loss and celebrate life and time together.

Her message ended with a simple yet profound sentence: "IT IS GOOD TO REMEMBER."

Yes, Aunt Jeanne, it most certainly is...and thank you.

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