Today marks the 6th anniversary of my dad’s sudden passing from heart failure. I have a fixation for dates and times, and over the next week I will find myself thinking often about how those events unfolded – the phone call, the surreal meeting at the funeral home, the memorial service, and the quiet time up at the lake with my Mom. It all exists in my head in stunning detail, a personal home movie that gets played out from time to time.
When you lose a parent, you become a member of a secret club, a club that I didn’t know existed until my dad died. You meet other people who have lost a parent and there’s a knowing nod, a quick exchange of the basic facts. “Heart attack. You?” “Cancer”. The club has subsets – those who lost a parent quickly and without warning, those who had too long to prepare for the inevitable end, those who lost a mom or a dad at an early age.
Of course, most people experience the loss of a parent at some point in their life – I just always imagined it happening much later. I’d be 60 years old, with grown children, and I’d call them to tell them Grandpa or Grandma had passed on after a long and happy life. I never expected that he would be gone before he had a chance to attend my wedding or meet his grandchildren. I see the boys with Grandpa Mike and Grandpa Doug, and wish they could have shared that same excitement with him.
There are times I think I see my dad, a glimpse of someone in a crowded mall, for example, and the momentary thrill of seeing him is quickly dashed by the realization that upon closer inspection, the stranger only bears a slight resemblance. It’s only happened a handful of times over the past 6 years, but each time I have the same urge – to grab hold of him, give him a hug, and not let go.