It's Memorial Day, Dad. My birthday was yesterday; Mom's was a week ago, the same day you died. I drove by your gravesite today, too sleepy to stop, and thought again of you.
You didn't fall in uniform but I think you fell in battle, fighting your balky, unreliable body and a mind gone hazy in patches, so much so you did your best to be affable to visitors, even your kids; hid the worry away for only Mom to see. We knew you were still in there, the agile, quick-witted Dad; still there, looking out, stuck.
Mom says she made you morels the night before you died. One good thing, one last joy; she says you did enjoy the treat, too, present in the moment.
You slipped away before you left, a little at a time. We'd spoke the week before and you were....distant. Friendly but as if talking into a wind, facing a too-bright sunset, unsure who it was on the other end of the line. I missed you then.
I miss you now. Did I ever really know you? I knew my Dad: bigger than life, looming over the horizon of my life. Maybe that's all of their parents children ever know. By the time we meet as peers, we're not who we were.
But Dad? You are remembered. All of you I ever knew, from the Daddy who guided my steps to the father whose steps I guided: the memories are still there.
That much is left.
Tomorrow, I'll stop by.
(My Dad served in the U.S. Naval Reserve, originally in the gunpowder section of a battleship turret, where he hurt his back pretty badly. Ended up his hitch as ship's librarian and -- as near as I can figure -- studying for radioman. When I was little, he said it was "a powder room accident," and wouldn't explain. I thought he'd slipped in the shower! Of course, he also claimed the job of the USNR was to collect, sort and safely store the nation's reserve supply of bellybuttons and darned near had me convinced, too.)
T. R. MCELROY'S STREAMLINED TELEGRAPH KEYS
9 months ago