Thursday, January 27, 2005

January 28th, 1985

When I was a melodramatic teenager, I used to fill in the block on my calendar for January 28th with black marker.

I'm much older now, and the January page of my calendar remains unmarred. Still, this year I'm having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that my father died 20 years ago.

His death (6 weeks after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer) tore a hole in my heart and my life that took many, many years to mend. In its place is the scar tissue: sadness and regret that my father did not live to see me grow up, marry, and have children; that my children will never know him; that I never had the chance to know my father as an adult. I'm scared that my memories of him will dim as I grow older; even now I have to strain inside my head to hear his voice.

It will be my duty and privilege to keep my father's memory alive for my children. Right now, he's a photograph on the mantel to them. "That's Mommy's daddy," I explain to Sean. I'm pretty sure he has no idea what I'm talking about.

One of the most profound lessons I learned at age 15 is that once a child experiences a loss like the death of a parent, it takes a long time to feel secure again. My father's death made me realize how tenuous life is. Is there any way to explain death to Sean and Allie without making them fearful that something could happen to their parents?