When I was six, my dad entered the hospital. Everyone said he had heart trouble and needed to get better. I interpreted that to mean he would get better and come home. On June 26, I was coloring at our dining room table when I heard people approaching our front door. I excitedly thought, “Daddy’s home!” My Mom, brother and Aunt walked in the door. My mom was sobbing. My Dad never came home, because he died that day. June 26, 1979, became the Day My World Changed Forever. The next several months were scary. I feared my mom would die, too, because I now knew that life was unpredictable and unfair. I had nightmare about body parts and ghosts. I was afraid all the time.
But life, it continues for those still breathing. I played with my friends, played with my toys and danced in our living room with my sisters. My family talked about my Dad and how we all missed him. Most importantly, I believe, we all returned to laughing. We laughed at TV and when we spilled things, we laughed at all the little things and in the laughter we let go of some of our pain.
I remember my Daddy. I remember a man who colored with me and made all the animals on the side of the Playdoh box. I remember a man who allowed me to be naughty and ride my big-wheel barefoot. I remember a Dad who hugged me. I remember how he often carried me on his shoulders. I can still hear his voice. I think when we love someone, we love the sound of their voice.
What I learned to remember was much for the six years we were together and it is all good. I think that’s because my family all learned to quickly return to laughing, which helped us let go of the pain and lock in on the good times. We never stopped talking about him and loving him. I know some day I will see him again, but until then I smile when I think of him and the gift he was to me.