Friday, May 20, 2016
Relicks From the Past
Some three years ago my sister and I made the suggestion that perhaps, our folks should consider moving here. Faced with deteriorating health. They could find a place here, we told them, could live less expensively and would have plenty of family available to come by and look in on them when needed.
Family was always important to my father, and from time to time he would reminisce about the good old days, when so many members of the extended family would come by on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Yes, my dad thrived in that atmosphere. Yet, when the suggestion was made that he and my mother pull up stakes and move here, the idea was kindly rebuffed. I can only imagine that the notion of moving hundreds of miles away from friends and the location that they were bonded to was just as unthinkable for them as it would be for me today, were I faced with that choice. We respected their decision and let the matter drop.
Over the course of the next few years my mother suffered a series of falls, each seemingly worse than the one before it. Last fall she took a spill that seriously injured her elbow and shoulder, landing her in a rehabilitation center for a few weeks. I don't remember exactly when she was released from professional care, but sometime in February of this year she fell again. This time she had broken or fractured her hip, landing her first in the hospital, then back to the rehabilitation center. My sister flew up to Rhode Island to help Dad out and I arrived about a week later, having driven the distance over the course of four days. During the two weeks or so that I was up there, my parents decided that they would come down here, taking residence at my sister's place.
My dad and I didn't see eye to eye very often and it was not at all unusual for us to clash. As far as I can tell, I was a big disappointment to him for a variety of reasons that are mainly related to not following in his footsteps. Be that as it may, I'm glad that I had the opportunity to stay by him and tended to his needs as best I could during his last night here on Earth. I'm not even sure that he was aware of my presence during those last hours, but I suspect that he was, even though he slipped in and out of consciousness. Today, I take solace in knowing that, in spite of all our disagreements over the years, I did right by him in the end. He was buried with military honors Thursday in our National Cemetery.
On Tuesday or Wednesday of this week a cousin whom I hadn't seen since childhood tagged my sisters and me on Facebook with the above photo. He wanted us to guess who the people in the photo were. Scanning the picture, I was able to recognize a couple of the kids in the image. But that man on the left, I wondered, could he be my great grandfather? I had never seen a photo of my great grandfather before, and I soon learned that the man on the left is indeed him and the woman on the right is my great grandmother. In the front row next to him is my father. Also pictured is an aunt and my father's first cousins. All in all, I found the above photo absolutely amazing; and with the passing of my father so fresh in my mind, the photo filled me with a deep sense of melancholy as well as a profound feeling that I had somehow been propelled into the distant past. It brought alive those who have long passed from this world. It helped me become acquainted with ancestors I had never known; I felt connected.
My cousin, who lives about 45 miles away, brought along other photos that I found equally amazing. Also included among his relics from the past were letters and cards my mother had sent to his so many years ago. She looked through them with amazement. I was glad to see her hearkening back to the past. I understand that the world of the 21st century is quite alien to the simpler times she grew up with.
During the dark hours following the funeral it occurred to me that everything my father had wanted and desired for so long occurred on the day of his funeral and burial. Through his passing, the family and its relics from a past that he so cherished had come together in his name--and I find that quite magical!
Rest in Peace, Dad!