My father passed away suddenly at the age of 40 from Leukemia. He was diagnosed and two weeks later, he was gone. My parents were divorced and my brothers and I were achingly young so information was thoughtfully and carefully filtered down for us. I had no idea he was sick sick. My idea of sick at the age of 11 was a stomach ache or a broken leg. Everyone who knew what was going on was expecting him to bounce back with a full recovery. He was a young, athletic, hard-working man who had a positive attitude toward life and his cancer diagnosis. I don't think anyone was prepared for his death. To not tell us the whole gritty scope of what was going on was just to protect my brothers and I and prepare us over time for what everyone thought was going to be a long but victorious battle with Leukemia. I'm not even sure anyone really knew how severe his Leukemia was or how short of a time he would be with us.
When I write I was in disbelief when I overhead my dad passed, I truly mean it. I know it was my brain's way of protecting itself. It was a hot, July day and I was in my mom's room. I loved crawling on her bed and opening up her big window. There was no screen so I could smell the flowers and the big oak tree in our backyard. It's those intangible magical things about summer you always cling to. The happy yellow of a daffodil, the smell of honeysuckle and rose. My mind always searches for the pretty, magical thing. I noticed my mom acting and strange and being a noisy little 1 1 year old, I had to listen. There, on my moms huge bed I overheard her on the phone crying "Paul's dead??!" I sat there, shocked. I didn't even cry. I wouldn't let those words register. How could this be? Wasn't he in the hospital for something minor? I had no clue it was cancer or anything serious. How did I just see him and now he's gone? I thought, It can't be. It's just a mistake. How was I alone finding out my dad was dead? There was just no way this could be true.
When my mom called her friend Laverne and gathered my brothers and I to go to my grandparents' house I kept thinking: My dad will be there. He will be in a wheelchair because his leg is broken and this is why my mom is acting so weird. My dad will be there, he probably just broke his leg from running. He's going to be there. It might be awkward because he broke his leg and he's in a wheelchair but we still love and support him. When we arrived at my grandparent's - all my family was there. All my family's friends were there, too. I desperately scanned the room for my dad - but he wasn't there. I knew, then, what I overheard in my mom's room all alone, comforted by the smell of the big oak tree and her blankets, was the truth. When the whole family sat my brothers and I down on my grandparents' elegant couch to tell us the news, I just cried. My brother Paul went outside and paced over my grandparent's amazing landscaped front yard of beautiful rocks and daffodils. Connor was so young. So achingly young yet even he registered that grief with a wail and tears I'll never, ever forget. I wanted to help both my younger brothers but all I could do was watch them and try to regain balance.
Months turned into years and years have turned into what feels like forever. Grief changes over time. It takes on different forms and comes in waves and spirals. But it's still there. My memory has faded over time. It seems like a lifetime ago when my father was alive.
I miss him, all his funny impersonations, his poetry, his art, his love for running and movies, how he always made me feel special. I miss my dad and always will. Today would be his birthday. This whole entry was about his death but there's so much he did with 40 years of living. He was an amazing friend, brother, son and father. He was a hard-working lawyer. He ran marathons and was big on volunteering - especially for Special Olympics. He even found a poem they used for their motto. Everyone loved him and was charmed with his easy smile and hearty, Irish laugh. He had big blue eyes and blonde hair. He made everyone laugh. His presence is always missed. He was one of those people that stories are written about. Stories about great men that die too young and leave behind family and friends with grieving hearts and the best memories but everything is underscored with the question "Why? Why him? Why then?"
On this day I remember his life and all that he accomplished. It's inspiring. The blue in my eyes I get from him, my love for The Beach Boys, summer days and nights, the magic of being by the shore, my love for swimming and telling jokes and laughing and making others laugh all come from him. And I. I am so thankful. For those 11 years.