He had a stroke a few months after he turned 60, but strokes don't kill you; they just leave you disabled. He was unable to work, write his beloved poetry, or play his clarinet.
Right before his 81st birthday, he had a heart attack and needed surgery. My father had always been physically and emotionally strong, so it pained us to see him frightened and frail. We prayed that God would assuage his fear and return his courage. It took him the better part of one year to recover enough before he was allowed to go home.
One morning right after his 84th birthday, my dad hunted for a snack in his dark kitchen in the early morning hours. He tripped, hit his head on the corner of a counter, and collapsed unconscious to the floor.
My daddy died the next morning, January 8, 2006.
I understand when someone tells me they find the holidays difficult. I understand when they tell me they are lost in grief.
My father taught me to walk, read and write, and dance. He’d come home from work, take off his suit jacket and tie, and play tea party like a pro with me and my dollies.
I never really cried when he passed away, though I will admit my eyes sometimes mist over. I forget he is gone and I reach for the phone. I hear a silly joke and remind myself to share it with Dad. I refuse to be sad. My life is full of memories of him that still make me smile and laugh; my heart is still full of his love.
Merry Christmas, Daddy.