Eight years is a long time. For a third-grade little girl, it is a lifetime.
It was two days before Thanksgiving, 1985, and two days before my dad’s birthday. Living in the Phoenix area, it was a “chilly” evening at 60 degrees or so. We had a large wood stove in the living room but hadn’t lit it yet–we were Hoosiers, after all.
My routine in those days was set: I’d go to school, come home, be greeted by my mom with an after-school snack (I recall lots of Pace picante sauce and chips), watch some TV (Channel 5 would play all the greats–the Brady Bunch, Giligan’s Island, I Love Lucy, etc.), or go to a neighbor friend’s house to play for a couple of hours.
My dad owned his own brakes and alignment business and was a very hard worker. When he got home, he’d collapse into the recliner, read the newspaper, and watch the evening news. He instilled my love of current events then, always telling me, “you gotta know what’s going on in the world!” My mom would bring dinner to the living room and we usually ate in front of the television.
That night, the phone rang. It was located in the kitchen on a yellow metal cart. My mom answered. She came to the living room and looked alarmed, “Paul, it’s for you.”
That’s when it happened. For the first time, I saw my dad cry. His mom, back home in Indiana, had passed away.
I didn’t have the chance to know my Grandma very well. We had moved to Arizona when I was four and my main memories of her were of the few visits we made to Indiana after that. The last time I had seen her, probably the summer before her passing, I remember her taking me to White Castle for lunch.
The next days are a blur. My mom and dad flew to Indiana to meet my dad’s eight siblings for the funeral. Finances probably dictated that I stay behind in Arizona with my mom’s side of the family. I remember celebrating a somber Thanksgiving–no one quite sure how to behave. Years later I would lose my other grandmother, two days before Christmas.
In my view, my dad changed that day, in a very positive way. I saw his vulnerability, his compassion, and his love; after that day he seemed softer. And although he remained a pillar of strength, I would see him cry again. I appreciate that.
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