I am not one to commemorate things. I forget birthdays and anniversaries (including my own). I have no cloth-covered boxes full of trinkets that jog my memory about precious moments from days gone by. The pictures of family and friends that I do have – and there aren’t many – are strewn haphazardly in boxes in the garage with books and papers that I haven’t gone through in two or three moves from one house to another.
It’s not that I don’t value memories. I just tend to hold onto them in stories rather than in keepsakes and deliberate celebrations.
That said, I’m beginning to recognize that here in New York, the barrenness of late winter and promise of spring fall into sync not only with lenten sacrifice and Easter renewal. The transition from winter to spring also corresponds with the deaths of my parents in a way that demands my attention.
I have to admit that, while I knew calendar was inching in that direction, I did not recall the exact date until I received a note from my cousin yesterday sending thoughts and prayers on the second anniversary of my father’s death in 2008.
While some might feel guilty for such a transgression, I was not surprised.
I have to count on my hands or do math to recall when exactly I got sober, how many years its been since I got married or whether it was daytime or night when I gave birth to my children. Yet I can recall a dozen stories about each of the events as if they happened yesterday.
The same goes for the loss of my parents…
The last time I saw my 67 year old father when he was conscious, he was in the kitchen of my parent’s house playing with a toy helicopter. Always interested in the dynamics of flight and what makes things tick, I am sure he was both playing and contemplating how it was that wireless remote in his hand could possibly cause that plastic helicopter to hover in the center of the room or dart from corner to corner. He’d gone to Brooklyn Tech as a teen before becoming a New York City fireman which lay the groundwork for him to become McGyver before there was a McGyver. Against all logic (and reasonable advice), he moved our family of seven from the stability and predictability of the Brooklyn neighborhood where he and my mother had grown up. They must have been in their late 20s when they took the leap – modeling for each of us that with great risk comes great reward.
My last day with my mother came a few short weeks later. At 65, she was weak from cancer and medicine but still took the time to be impeccably dressed and accessorized for her trips to the clinic for treatment. That day my sister-in-law Katie and I took the drive, stopping for Mexican food after the appointment and swinging into a little French country furniture shop where my mother loved to browse. She picked out two red candlestick lamps that she thought would look nice on either side of the couch in her living room and considered some linens which she decided against. We tried to get her in for a salon appointment on the fly, but were told we’d have to wait until the next week. We made an appointment that she did not live to keep.
I suppose a good blog post would wrap all this together into a fine and thought-provoking bow, but I still have more questions than answers about the lives and deaths of my parents. Now that I think about it – the same can be said for the mystery of Holy Week and Easter…