Sometimes things sneak up on you.

Fourteen years ago and one day ago if you had asked me if I would ever forget what happened on August 23 and August 26, 1993 I’d have laughed at you. I’d have told you that I would never, ever forget what anniversary fell on those dates. I obviously would have been wrong. For it wasn’t until about 3:00 today that I realized I had forgotten.
You see, on August 23, 1993 my Father died. He finally lost his fight with the cancer that had attacked so suddenly and had ravaged his body that spring and summer. None of us should have been surprised he had cancer; among other things he was a three pack a day smoker and drank to much. I know some cancer patients fight the disease for years, but Dad’s illness came on so quick, and spread so fast it was only four months from his first indication of illness until the day he died. A relatively short time, I know. I should be glad it didn’t drag out over years. Etc. Etc. I know that, I really do, but fact is, at the time it felt like the period lasted somewhat over twenty years.
His memorial service was held on August 26th. Since my family is fundamentally unable to do anything in a traditional matter, it was not a traditional funeral. There was no “viewing”, because Dad had been cremated. A couple of months later his ashes were spread in the Gulf Of Mexico, over the reef where he had caught the biggest fish he had ever caught. The Gulf was his favorite place on Earth. The cremation, and the ash dispersal were what he wanted. He made sure we (Mom, Kris, and I) knew that before he went into the hospital for the last time. The rest of his family, his parents and sister’s didn’t like it, but in a rare display of common sense they were not stupid enough to argue with the three of us.
The memorial service was led by three Episcopalian priests: The priest of the church my sister was actively part of at Auburn, Father Bargetzi. He didn’t know Dad at all, but he came up from Auburn at Kris’s request. Then there was Father ….Hell, I’ve forgotten his name. He was the Priest at Mom and Dad’s church in Decatur, where we were living at the time. I was not active in the church with them, I had …other issues I was dealing with at the time and had not been going to church for years. Then there was Father Masters. We had only known him for the last month or so. He had gone to seminary with the Priest from Decatur, and was the main priest at a church in Nashville (Dad was in Vanderbilt Med Center in Nashville when he died). He had visited Dad many times in the hospital, at the request of his old friend from Seminary. Father Masters was a good man. He cared more for Mom, Kris, and I, than he did for Dad. I think he knew that Dad wasn’t going to make it, so he saw his job as taking care of us. We spent a LOT of time in that hospital that last month. He was not a typical priest in a lot of ways. He had a bit of a …..I can’t think of any other way to say it, but he was a bit of a smart ass. A good man, certainly, but a smart ass. Can you guess which of the three was my favorite? I thought you could.
I remember the first anniversary. I was afraid of that day. I thought it would be horrendous, and in some ways it was. I knew Dad wouldn’t want all of us to spend time feeling bad, etc, but I did any way. We all did. Each year after that first anniversary, the approach of those two days got a bit easier. I was less afraid of them. In the last three or four years I tend to spend August 23 and August 26 remembering the good times with Dad. And despite the fact that prior to his illness he and I had gone through a kind of rough period in our relationship, the good times, the good memories far out number the bad times. So, my feelings about those days, has changed, but I had always remembered them. I always made sure I called my mom and sister, to make sure they are dealing with the day ok.
This year, I just plain forgot the anniversary of the day he died, and of the memorial service. When I realized on Sunday I had forgotten, I called my Mom. I was feeling truly awful about not remembering. I was feeling guilty. I expected a major guilt trip from Mom, but that wonderful lady, a lady I make fun of a lot, simply said, “Hell! Do you think wherever He is this weekend He’s spending time remembering those days? He’s not, he’s enjoying himself, and expecting you, me, and your sister to do the same. “. I thought about that for a couple of hours and realized she was right. Dad’s soul is off fishing the Cosmic Ocean. I truly believe that, and someday, if you ask, I’ll tell you why. He would not have wanted any of us to dwell on those particular days. So I’m not going to feel bad about it.
I am, however, going to ask you to join me in a toast….

/raises a glass of diet coke….

Wherever you are, old man, I hope the fishing is good, and know that I think of you often. I miss you, and the fun we had together. I know I didn’t turn out the way you wanted. I didn’t follow the plan you had for my life, but I was able to chart my own path because you raised me to think for myself, and to have the courage to live the life I wanted, not what other’s wanted for me. You did a good job. You were a good parent, and I love you Dad.


One Response

  1. That’s a lovely, lovely post, friend.

    Sounds to me like you’re a pretty good son, too.

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