A little over three weeks ago, 22 days to be precise (I could count the hours, too, but I’ll refrain from going that far) my father died.
I haven’t mentioned it here because I didn’t want to. I couldn’t figure out the words to type, and when I tried to type words that weren’t quite right, they hurt. So I stopped, closed the tab, closed the laptop, and went off to do something else.
But today I’m going to acknowledge it. My dad died. He was 67 years old (it wasn’t quite a month since his birthday) and I miss him. Very, very much.
Instead of going through all the particulars of his death and his funeral, however, I’m going to talk about the last conversation I had with him on the phone.
It was May 18th of this year, his birthday. I called earlier in the morning to wish him a happy birthday and make all the promises of bringing the kids up to visit him later in the week (we did, two days later, with all of the presents and handmade cards that little kids love to create).
But anyway, back to his birthday. After I called, he called back. I picked up the phone, expecting it to be my mother, but instead it was my dad, speaking in a low, whispering tone.
He reminded me that his wedding anniversary was coming up in two days, on May 20th. Their 43rd anniversary. He explained in a hushed voice that he couldn’t go out and get a card or flowers or a gift for my mom because he’d been so ill lately, but would I… could I send her a message of some sort? Like, an email or something? And maybe get her something, like a gift card or… anything. But make certain that she knew it was from him? And I had to send it on their anniversary. So that she would know he hadn’t forgotten it.
“Because she’s had to put up with me all these years,” he added with a chuckle. And then he hurried up and ended the call because he thought he heard my mom coming downstairs, and he didn’t want her to overhear.
So I sent an email from my own account, but put in his message and “signed” it from him. I sent an Amazon gift card along with it, also signed from him. I made sure it arrived in her inbox on the morning of May 20th, their anniversary.
The next week, he went to the hospital, and after being sent here and there and finally to Johns Hopkins, he died on June 16th.
When he called and asked me to set up the anniversary surprise for my mother was the last time I spoke to him on the phone (though I did, obviously, see him after that).
And that gift card? My dad’s last present to her? My mom still hasn’t used it. I’m not sure she ever will.