Pink Floyd has a wonderful song with this title, and though I’ve always loved it, it has taken on new meaning for me recently. December 16 was the second anniversary of my dad’s death. January 12 will be the second anniversary of the extravaganza that was his memorial service. He would have hated it. I know I hated most of it, but my opinion on the subject was most thoroughly ignored by his wife. She decided that nothing less spectacular than a variety show of morose and melodramatic qualities would be fitting.
Dad had been in poor health for years, but his passing caught us all off guard. He had always been like a fabled cat, springing back from death again and again. This time, he just ran out of tricks. I had spoken with him earlier that day, and he was promising me that he would feel well enough to take me to brunch the next morning for a belated celebration of my birthday. That evening, my husband and I joined friends for a holiday party. The weather turned nasty and we drove home in a blizzard, arriving just before 11:00 p.m. at 11:05 the phone rang, much to our surprise. On the end of the line was a Salt Lake County Sheriff’s deputy, telling me my father had passed. My husband says I let out a scream, but I don’t remember doing so. I do remember falling on the floor and sobbing, handing my husband the phone. I remember calling my mother, asking her to please come and take care of my kids. I remember driving in that damned blizzard for nearly an hour to get to my father’s home – a trip that normally would have taken 20 minutes – where his current wife could say fewer than three words to me, though she talked kindly and with great affection to my sister.
I climbed the stairs to see my sister rocking back and forth, holding my father’s cold hand, stroking his face, and sobbing. I sat beside him, well aware that my daddy wasn’t there anymore. I put my hand on his bluish cheek, desperately searching his face for any evidence he might still be around, then quickly realizing that he had already crossed over and left my sister and I without our daddy.
Two years seems an ample time to heal from the loss of a parent, but I find I miss my dad as much today as ever. I don’t ache with constant grief as I did in those first few weeks, but I notice his absence, I feel that hollow place where he should be for moments of importance in my life and the lives of my family. He wasn’t there to spoil his first granddaughter when she graduated high school. He wasn’t there for the youngest granddaughter’s flute recital. He wasn’t there to see his only grandson go undefeated in basketball. He won’t be there for the release of my second novel, set in his home state of North Carolina.
Dad and I had a very strained relationship sometimes. There was a point, when I was first married to my ex-husband, where I didn’t speak to my dad for over a year. It took a long time to repair that relationship, but we did repair it. By the last few years of his life, my dad and I were closer than we had been most of my life. We were each able to put the pain and the harsh words we had exchanged behind us, and instead focus on the fact that we truly loved each other as people – not because we had to as parent and child, but because of who we were.
Yeah – I believe his spirit, his life force, his energy (insert the new age term of your choice here) continues, and that he is present at some, or all, of these things in his own way. He and I speak regularly in my dreams, and I have no doubt that there is a life beyond this one though I don’t profess to have all the details. But it isn’t the same thing. I want my dad here. I want to go to lunch and listen to his silly jokes; I want to tickle his neck and listen to his high-pitched giggle, I want to breathe in his cologne when I hug him and know that the scent will linger on my cheek for hours.
It gets easier, each day and week, and I find that sometimes I can even talk about my dad and not get emotional. So I find that Pink Floyd’s lyrics speak to my heart. I know many readers will see this as an odd connection, but it rings so true to me and so real to me that they might just as well have written this song about my dad and I. The final verse says:
No more turning away
From the weak and the weary
No more turning away
From the coldness inside
Just a world that we all must share
It’s not enough just to stand and stare
Is it only a dream that there’ll be
No more turning away?
I hear this, not with melancholy or sadness, but with reassurance and forgiveness. I’m hoping I can continue to carry this feeling forward to apply to other strained relationships in my life, and remember it for those times when I may be tempted to turn away.