Experiencing and anticipating all the anniversaries of my father’s death bring me both a sense of tenderness and pain. The tenderness is joyous, the pain striking.
It was in April that me and Mark went to church with Pop, worshiped with him for the first and only time. We drove down for the occasion and had planned to return within 24 hours.
We saw him serving as an usher. He was proud to stand at the door of the church, excited in his way to greet people who came to church. He was glad we were there, too. I remember how he dressed that morning, after a night of laughing at me because I couldn’t sleep with my brother’s loud snores. We didn’t eat breakfast because we were planning to see our friends at the Ole Saw Mill, a tradition for our dinners when we visited on short trips.
That was the morning my dad’s decline started as far as we could see. He fainted in church that morning, during a not-so-engaging sermon. My cousin called the paramedics, and they took a very long time to come. There had been an accident at the Food Lion and “all” the trucks (two of them) were occupied by the injured going to the small hospital. We didn’t eat at Saw Mill, not with dad. Instead, we went to the hospital, called our aunts who came from Little Rock that afternoon, and waited to hear what dad’s condition was.
When our relatives arrived, dressed in their Sunday’s best, we went to get socks and fast food for dad. Our aunts loved us, greeted us, checked in on their brother, and released us to go eat around 5pm that afternoon. Some time after we got back to the hospital, it was clear that we could leave, that dad was going to transfer to the hospital in Little Rock the next day, and that, looking back, everything was different. That was in April. May is dad’s birth month, the day being a week away. Now that he’s gone, I’m looking at it on the calendar like a day I don’t want to come.
It’s strange being so close, and so far, from one year ago. The whole world can change in such a short time.