Our minds often provide photo albums. My mind is doing that today.
Last year, on this day, we were seeing DaddyO—my father-in-law Stan Oliver, Sr.—in the hospital and very sick. After a surprising stroke, he spent five days there before he entered his new home. We spent those days there with him—watching and praying and talking and waiting.
My mind’s movie clips dash from hearing DaddyO struggle to communicate his final days, to hearing his voice sing “Sweet Little Jesus Boy,” to when he drove his vehicle very fast, to when he drove very slowly, to when he firmly disagreed with umpires’ strike zones, to hearing his voice answer the phone with his unique “Hello,” to hearing that laugh that made everyone else laugh. My brain turns pages rapidly, revealing a variety of moods—family together for Christmas, gatherings when our sons were so young, a swimming pool keeping us cool in the Florida heat, more meals, more ball games, more songs.
Death doesn’t guarantee giving advance warnings. The final five days with DaddyO weren’t originally on our calendars. Hearing his voice struggle to state his desire for “onion rings” when we told our plans to pick up food at the Varsity. Seeing, and feeling, his battle to breathe. Remembering a funeral, revisiting a life, reflecting on a deluge of memories shifting suddenly in my mind on this Saturday.
This day, one year later? I miss DaddyO. Occasionally I listen to messages and read texts still on my phone. They aren’t deleted. I saved them, just as I am saving the mental scenes I’m seeing in today’s cinema in my mind.
I’m also staring at scenery of the life and death of Pops—my dad. Seven weeks ago, on a Saturday like today, I woke with plans. With a schedule. With an agenda. Not included was to find that Pops had passed away during the night.
This day, seven weeks later? I miss Pops. I also listen to messages and read texts still on my phone. They aren’t deleted either. I saved them, just as I am saving the mental scenes I’m seeing in today’s cinema in my mind.
These weeks have gathered a bundle of memories, while shifting more pages of more memoirs of his 90 years. We’ve looked at pictures. We’ve told stories. We cleaned his house. We planned a service we aren’t yet able to experience. We talked, we remembered, we asked questions, we thought about Mama. We’ve spent time together—though not our preferred closeness because of this season of keeping distance.
Those two words, “keeping distance,” seem to be what DaddyO and Pops are doing. It feels like they’re keeping distance from us. But memories refuse to let that happen. The movies in our minds play on—scene by scene, song by song, smile by smile.
Today I’m staying here. With sadness, with grief, with memories, with hope—I’m staying here. In this mental theater catching as many memories as I can, I’m staying here.
Memories of those two men. Debbie’s dad. My dad. Grandfathers to our sons. Great grandfathers to our grandchildren. Together, on this day of our May, those two men are smiling. In their world where our team has already won, where all medical procedures are considered unnecessary, where calories (I assume) don’t matter, those two men are smiling.
And, as I feel sad watching my memory’s rush of mental-movie-clips, maybe I’ll smile a little too.