When one loses a loved one is when it begins, the Year of Firsts Without — a year’s worth of important dates that are each in turn the first time the anniversary of something important is commemorated without that loved one being present to help celebrate it. They are, as the late John Lennon called them in one of his books, “Red Lettuce Days” (Red Letter Days). Our Year of Firsts Without started with my mother’s 90th birthday, which was the day after my dad died. November 16th, is another one. Tomorrow would have been my parents’ 68th wedding anniversary. Looming ahead are Thanksgiving and Christmas, two holidays when families traditionally gather to celebrate together. These special days had already become problematic because my parents had outlived so many of those long-time friends who would have helped them celebrate, and of those few remaining, most had moved away to live closer to their married children. (I am reminded of the Bette Davis quotation, “Old age is no place for sissies.”)
My mom and I have planned to visit the cemetery together tomorrow, our first visit since the funeral. The VA is supposed to provide his grave marker. There is a lady at the funeral home whose job it is to coordinate that service. She warned us it would take “two or three months” for it to arrive and be put on my dad’s grave. One would assume she would contact us when it has arrived. We have not heard from her, so we don’t know whether there will be a grave marker or not.
It may seem callous that neither mother nor I have been to the grave site in the nearly two months since my dad died. Personally, I perfectly understand why what is put in the grave is referred to as “the remains,” — they are what remains after the person you knew and love has gone off and left them — departed, as it were. I’m supposed to believe in the resurrection of the body. It’s not something I particularly need to believe. It wasn’t the body I loved, anyway, it was the man that inhabited it. As far as I’m concerned, what was put into the ground on September 25th was a box of metaphorical 92-year-old clothes. He is not there.*
When he left this world, he had people he loved and people who loved him who where there to say, “Goodbye.” That, to me, is the hallmark of a successful life: Leaving behind people who are sad to see you go. People who will miss you. If you have that, you’ve done all right.
The day we buried him, it was raining intermittently up until it was time for the grave side service, at which point the clouds parted and the sun came out. Does anybody not see the irony in the fact that we are predicted to have snow tomorrow? Our high today was 71F/21.6C. The predicted high for tomorrow is 30F/-1.1C. We don’t have snow all that often here. Wouldn’t you know.
Just to make things totally weird, I woke up this morning from a dream about the late Diana, Princess of Wales. People had started giving her elephant figurines, and I was a police woman tasked with organizing them. I was supposed to tell her that the reason people were giving her the figurines was because elephants never forget, and they were to remind her that even though her husband didn’t love her anymore, the people still did and would never forget her.
And while we’re having a non sequitur, here’s another one. I always have trouble remembering how to spell the word “weird” — because “I” before “E” except after “C,” or unless it sounds “AY” as in “neighbor” and “weight,” — or unless it’s “weird.**”