You never forget the day a parent dies. No matter how many years go by, as the calendar moves into August, the date looms up at me, as if written in a font big enough to emblazon in the sky.
A child takes a parent for granted. Everyone knows it. My toddler loves me to death, smothering me with hugs, kisses, and random, "I love you, Mommy" 's. But like his brothers before him, he will move into the stage where I am a loved one in the background of his life, taking care of the details, nagging about chores, organizing the order of his existence. That phase lasts about 20 or 30 years, until he has children of his own, and learns to appreciate that his own parents did not ship him off to military school at age 7.
But what if this whole cycle gets interrupted? What if in the "parents-as-background-noise" stage, one of those parents gets taken away? Suddenly, the whole order, the whole balance of things is thrown off. Nothing makes sense anymore.
This was not supposed to happen. Dads don't die in the middle of a summer afternoon. Dads don't leave for work and never return. Daughters don't fight with their fathers and refuse to say good-night, and then pay for that sin for the rest of their lives.
But sometimes it does happen.
My father has been gone 26 years this day. I know I am no longer the 10-yr-old-about-to turn-11 girl I was then. But it blows my mind that much time has passed. The feelings are still strong, still raw, even if they are no longer in the forefront of my mind.
Have I made peace with it all? Yes. Have I gotten over it? Never. A child never gets over losing a parent, because the world can never be quite the same again.
I talk to him every day. I tell him about all his grandkids, I talk to him about my life. I wonder aloud to him what things would be like if he were here. My mom was laughing the other day, as we discussed something like this, saying that he would be a 67-year-old man, grey-haired and with a paunch. It is a funny thought, and made us giggle, because it is true. In our minds, he is still the vital 42-year-old man with a full head of curly dark hair, and that will not change.
I love you, Daddy.
George Allen Nichols
- Eternal rest, grant unto him, O Lord,
- and let perpetual light shine upon him.
- May he rest in peace!