My dad died 25 years ago today in a nursing facility on Martin Luther King Jr. Way, not far from where I now live. I was there with him on that dark, remarkably stormy afternoon as it turned into darker evening. The lights in his room were dimmed but his bed was by the window and muted, gray November light leaked in on him as my mom and brother and I kept vigil.
It had been a long road to that point. My dad had been ill but undiagnosed for many years; then diagnosed and ill for many more. There were many frightening, frustrating, bewildering, embarrassing, and sad moments and experiences leading up to his death from Huntington’s disease. I’d say it’s safe to say that many of us (family & friends alike) had complicated relationships with him throughout his adult life, largely due to the impact of his illness.
But my dad was authentically who he was through and through and for many of us, there were good memories, as well. What I’ve found is that over the years, those are the ones that stay with me the most indelibly. Also with some distance, we’re better able to laugh at some of the not-so-good memories. That’s not how it is for everyone, I get that. I wish it could be.
One of my good memories is that of one of Dad’s after-work rituals. He was like me (or I like him, in more precise terms), I think—an extroverted introvert. He needed some down time after a day packed with people and planning, so he’d come home and gather his glass of sherry and his Blue Diamond Almonds and he’d hole up in his office (which was technically our family room). He’d get out his baton (he was neither a director nor a musician), turn KING FM up as loud as he could on our very average sound system, and he’d direct the heck out of classical piece after piece. Witnessing him in action was a joy to behold, when we did. He looked happy, invigorated, and free of all cares in the world.
Tonight I did the same in his honor, on this, his deathiversary. All these years later, I believe that he’s still listening and that he’s happy, invigorated, and free of all the cares in the world.
A few other readings about death anniversaries:
Long ago I was an English major. Though some may say my degree has been under-utilized, my love for the written word remains, and sometimes my words turn out okay.