It’s been 16 years since that fateful early morning phone call when my sister told me our father was gone and our lives changed forever.
It was 6 am in San Francisco, which is 2 in the afternoon in London, so my sister had already lived with the knowledge that he was gone for almost an entire day. Her gift to me was those last few hours of not knowing, when she already knew.
I will never forget the overwhelming grief when I finally grasped what she was telling me; or the stricken look on my brother’s face as he seized my hand in his strong, work-roughened one and said, “Let’s do it” as we walked together to the plane that would carry us to London; or the undertakers in full morning dress who handled our father’s coffin with such respect and tenderness, doffing their black silk top hats and bowing to him on his last journey.
I think of my father every day, and when I do, it’s more often the happy memories than the sad ones. Similarly, when I dream of him, he is always alive. Sometimes he tells me it was all a mistake, but mostly, it’s as if nothing ever happened and of course we are cooking together or having adventures, as we did so often in real life.
When I look back over the years, I think of Dad coming home from work in his white lab coat, smelling of chemicals when he was a young scientist and I was a young girl, and how he’d roll around on the floor with us before dinner. I think of climbing Mount Cadillac in Maine, to be the first on the eastern seaboard to see the sun rise that day, his blazing blue eyes gazing out over the Atlantic. I think of him reading stories to us as children – and adults. I think of him walking his beloved dog Jesse on Wimbledon Common, just a handful of miles from where Dad used to walk with own beloved father. Dad and Jesse were not parted for long, since their ashes are scattered together on the Common. Somewhere, a boy and his dog will always be playing.
A YEAR AGO: Missing Dad.
FIVE YEARS AGO: Remembering Dad.