Friday, December 12, 2014

A Day To Remember

     I opened my calendar this morning and stared at the date.  December 11.  There was something I was supposed to remember or do or start.  Why hadn't I added it to my Spanish class at 9 a.m. and my physical therapy appointment at 11:30 a.m.?  That wasn't like me to forget items on my daily "To Do" list.
     I sat at my desk, staring at the calendar.  I don't know:  Maybe I thought this book of reminders would jog my memory.  Power up those synapses which, I must admit, have been a bit unreliable lately.  (Soon, I'll have to change the name of my blog.)
     Gracias a Dios!  I remembered how to say "Thank God" in Spanish AND why this day rang a bell:  My parents' wedding anniversary.  Married in 1940, they would have sealed the vows they made to each other seventy-four years ago.  The Great Depression had just ended.  World War II was just around the bend.
     Now I can be forgiven for the lapse in memory.  My parents have been dead for more than six years.  First, my mother, then my father three weeks later.  (Check out my post on August 21, 2008 for more details.  Or hold your breath for my memoir still under construction.)  Just like that, no more anniversaries or birthdays to celebrate.  No longer necessary to buy a card, a present, or to pull out the worm scrapbook with the faded wedding photos.
     Still, the memory persists and so does the emptiness of losing both parents in such a short time.
     Around their wedding anniversary, my husband and I would pack our bags and head to sunny Florida where my parents lived, first in a Gulf-side condo on Longboat Key, then in a state-of-the-art senior high rise in Sarasota.  ("Now, I can't predict the weather," my mom learned to say.  She didn't want me to be disappointed.  We were coming from the Midwest where winter had most likely already descended.)
     The four of us would toast with a glass of sherry before dining at an exclusive restaurant my parents were excited to share.  Their anniversary was a ritual, one that provided a sense of continuity and a meaningful past and hopeful future.

     For their 44th, my mom and dad took the entire family to the Galapagos Islands, then up into the Ecuadorian Andes.  My son, then eleven, can still mimic the whistle of the blue-footed Boobies and the huff hisses of the largest, most colorful iguanas in the world.
     In advance of their 65th wedding anniversary, our family traveled to France where my younger brother owned and ran a gites in the village of Villeferry, 90 minutes out of Paris by fast train.  If my mother had had her way, she and my dad might have retired there.  But by then, my dad's traveling days were over, and my mother had to settle for a part-time move to Ohio to be closer to my sister and me.
     Today, I booted up my iPhoto and savored every saved photo of my parents.  Photos taken in France.  Scanned photos of my mother and me when I was a newborn.  Photos of my dad and my son riding a tractor and cutting the lawn.  Shots of my mother giving a toast at my first of two engagement parties.  Images of family gatherings, three generations casually enjoying a summer day on Walnut Lake . . . And the last photos.  My mom lying in bed with oxygen tubes in each nostril . . . My dad sitting outside on a bench, old and defeated.  He wanted to die first, but it didn't work out that way.

     Here's to you, mom and dad.  I raise a glass of sherry and sure as hell wish you were here.