Monday, June 20, 2011

Father’s Day more significant to me this year on account of my mother’s passing

It was a surprising turn of events for me. But Father’s Day this year came and went with a bit more personal significance – particularly after having it come but one week after a memorial service for my mother.

My father and step-mother, along with my brother and I, at our mother's memorial service that made me appreciate  all the more the fact that I could celebrate this year's Father's Day with him. Below is the container with my mother's cremated remains, along with a photograph of herself that she always particularly liked. Photographs provided by Christine Yates, a Minnesota-based aunt who is a favorite -- even though there are times I don't tell her that.

Perhaps I am fortunate. I’m 45 years old, and I still have my father alive and well. I can chat with him any time I want by picking up a telephone. A short 10-minute drive by car, and I can visit him.

SO IT WASN’T that difficult for my brother and I to spend Sunday with our father and step-mother, along with other assorted relatives. It was a low-key holiday celebration befitting what is one of the lesser holidays (a new study says we value Mother’s Day more).

Yet I will have to plead guilty to not fully appreciating these facts until just a couple of months ago. Because until about one week before Thanksgiving of last year, I was a 45-year-old man who still had both of my biological parents alive.

It was then that I lost my mother, and I still find myself at odd moments thinking of her and saying aloud “I miss you, mom.”

Now my mother came from a family of eight kids, and she was only the second of them to pass away. Because most of her sisters and brother now live in other states, we didn’t do much of a formal funeral service.

WE WAITED UNTIL her what would have been her birthday anniversary earlier this month to have a memorial service in her honor. Which is why last Sunday, my brother and I were nervous wrecks (although I think my brother was hit harder) as our aunts and uncle, along with assorted cousins and friends of my mother and some of the more distant relatives of the family, all convened to pay tribute to my mother’s memory.

As I tried to tell people in as optimistic a manner as possible, my brother, Chris, and I were not mourning our mother’s memory. We were celebrating her birthday one last time, with her family and friends on hand to join us.

Anyway, that memorial service went well. Thus far, we have heard from many relatives who were pleased with the way we handled the event – which fell just one day short of the seven-month “anniversary” of the date of her death.

The most intensive grieving was already past. We were able to look upon her life more optimistically and think of the good times we had with her.

I’M CERTAINLY NOT engaging in any outbursts such as one that occurred four days after my mother died, when I nearly burst into tears at the sight of a young woman who was doting over her young son (maybe about 3 years old) in a way that I remember my mother fawning over me at that age.

All of this means that I have come to appreciate the fragility of life in a way that I understood intellectually before, but didn’t really sense until now.

It also means I approached this year’s Father’s Day as being more a reason to try to spend some time with “Dear Ol’ Dad” and not just view the family get-together as an ordeal that would take up some time on my Sunday afternoon.

Although in all honesty, the only thing I HAD to do on that particular day was write this commentary, along with a piece for this site’s sister weblog – The South Chicagoan.

I ONLY HOPE I didn’t have my father thinking I was being all morbid during our time together. Although if I had, I’m fairly sure he would have told me so, and added some sort of admonition to, “knock it off.”

For I suppose the reality of life is that I am now counting down the days that I will have my father with me – although his health, while not ideal, is far better than that of my mother. She spent the last decade of her life dealing with all kinds of ailments related to diabetes.

Lupus and Parkinson’s Disease were just some of the issues she dealt with that often left her physically weakened.

I only hope I adequately let my father know how much I appreciate still having him around – even when his nit-picky temperament turns him into an overbearing crank. I’m sure in later years I will remember his fits as aspects that made him a colorful character.

AND I’M ALSO hoping that I’ll be able to wish him a “Happy Birthday” (the end of July) and a happy Father’s Day for several years to come – although one of the things that has been beaten into my brain from years of being a reporter-type person is that death can come for anyone at any time. There’s nothing “fair” about it.

There is one humorous aspect to these two weekends. My brother and I arranged for catered food for our mother’s memorial service, and we had a freezer filled with leftovers – so much so that my brother defrosted them Sunday and took them with us for a Father’s Day feast that the family seemed to appreciate.

Two celebratory “feasts” for the cost of one. Although it means I don’t want to see a piece of fried chicken, a plate of mostaccioli or an Italian sausage sandwich anywhere near me for a very long time.


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