Tomorrow is the eighteenth anniversary of my father's sudden death, in 1992, at age 40. While the date is, of course, always a difficult occasion for me, I seem to feel some extra gravity this year. Why? Because after eighteen years, I will have lived the same amount of time without my father as I did with him. Worse yet--that later, more awful portion will grow longer every day from here on.
That melancholy summer, 1992, I'd never have believed that there could be any moving forward, that some kind of acceptance would ever be possible. I was adrift for months, watching my grades slip, crippled by ache, feeling emotionally undone. And yet, as people assured me it would, the searing immediacy of that sudden loss diminished over time. Slowly. I addressed goals again; I looked ahead to the rest of my life. But grief is inexhaustible. It never completely goes away. It is a rare day when I don't think of my father in some way--often pleasantly, I admit, recalling something I loved about him, or rediscovering some way that he inspired any of the many routines and interests that govern the rhythm of my life still. But those memories always remind of a persistent sadness that can't ever go away. It creeps up on me each year through June and resonates terribly on the 3rd of every July.
And so, I offer a minor public display of remembrance here, however exhibitionistic and out of place that may seem. And I offer one of my favorite quotations from my favorite writer, Ralph Ellison, as I look to waking up Sunday, when I will try to stay focused on joy and gratitude as that long orphan period of my life overtakes the sweeter days that came before:
"But what quality of love sustains us in our orphan's loneliness; and how much is thus required of fatherly love to give us strength for all our life thereafter?"