To love what is mortal
To hold it against your bones, knowing your own life depends on it;
And, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go
It happened on Tuesday, February 12, 1963. For decades we have marked that day. Now, suddenly, it is Tuesday, February 12, 2013. The same day of the week. Suddenly, a half-century has gone by.
Fifty years. Your six children who ranged between one and fifteen the day you went to the other side, grew up and became adults. Today we are all older now, by twelve years and more, than you lived to be. Our mother who was with you in Florida that weekend so long ago, and who by chance came home at the last minute separately from you, is still with us and we are all graced by her presence.
As people do as they move forward in life, we choose different paths to get where we all are today, we took roads less traveled. We traveled over much of this planet. Learned. Married. We all still live in the state you and Mom moved us to in 1957. We had children of our own, most now adults in their own right. Today you have eleven grandchildren who never met you but know your story well. In 2010 you became a great-grandfather, twice, in the space of one month–two beautiful boys who live close by each other, are great friends, love trucks–and, a year later, a third great-grandchild, a little girl with a smile that knows no bounds. You would have enjoyed bouncing them on your knees, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, all.
Time is a funny thing. The long span of five decades collapses in an instant when the memories of your departure come back. And then, the sharp intensity of that loss eases when I take the time to consciously let it go, and choose, instead, to be grateful for the fact that you brought me into this world, to remember how the paths you chose in your life shaped mine.
I remember you reaching down for me at the ocean that summer day so long ago, when you swung me up from the wet beach, laughing, shrieking, as I went into the air with dripping feet and came down to land solidly on your shoulders. I remember sitting next to you as you drove across South Dakota that last summer in 1962, me having the privileged seat next to Dad (a tough spot to land with six of us kids), eye-level with the green lights of the radio. You wearing your white baseball cap with the red Mobile Gas “Flying Horse” logo, telling me what those tall blinking towers were that marched across the wide night sky of the Midwestern plains as we got closer to Yankton, offering me a stick of Juicy-Fruit gum.
In 1998, when in Washington D. C. with your granddaughter, Sarah, we walked across a balcony in the Library of Congress. I chanced to look up and see these words engraved high on the wall: “Memory is the treasury and guardian of all things.” That phrase has such grace, enabling me to hold closely what matters most, no pens, paper or archive needed. It is a welcome buffer against what was lost that day.
You are firm in memory and the stories I have told my children. I will tell them to my grandson as well. From the Coast Guard adventures you had round the world, to meeting my mother at a Yankton High School football game, to the tale of your first camping trip in Washington State, when you ate crab on Ediz Hook, and slept in a cold canvas tent at the ocean, shivering in thin pajamas instead of the prerequisite hooded sweatshirt and pants that we all grew up knowing was the true and proper Northwest camping attire. Here’s to your memory and your place in our family Dad. You are missed. Remembered. Celebrated this week. Thank you for the start you gave us.