There are moments in time that are seared into your memory. For me, I can watch them as though remembering a scene in a movie. A year ago, in the middle of the night, was one such moment.
My husband’s father was sick. He’d been sick for a very long time. Shortly before we conceived Grey, his father was diagnosed with stomach cancer. They removed most of his stomach, followed by radiation treatment. Michael never fully recovered. He couldn’t, without most of his stomach, pull the nutritional value from the foods he ate. This was a great horror to him, a constant discomfort and embarrassment. For the next four years, he fluctuated between terribly sick and maybe, possibly getting better. When Grey was born, he was very, very sick. He looks older than his father-in-law in those pictures. But with courage, optimism and hope he always kept striving. We’d hear about the amazing improvement he’d made with the latest treatment attempt. My mother-in-law could rattle off the protein content of many foods, and was constantly researching and trying new supplements or foods, hoping to find the one that he could eat, that would bring him back to health and vitality.
But that week, my indomitable mother-in-law sounded frazzled, tired, and at the end of her rope. She sounded like she was going to cry. I’d never heard her sound like that before, or since. And he was very sick. Things weren’t going well, not at all. That afternoon, feeling a bit foolish, I’d bought my husband tickets to go down to see them. His Dad might not have needed him, but his Mom did.
And then, in the dark of the night, our months-old baby down the hall, the telephone rang. It took me a minute — we hadn’t had land line phones for quite a while. It did not take my husband a minute. He vaulted out of our bed as though he’d been waiting for this call all night. He stood, shivering, in the dark hallway. “Oh, Mom. I’m so sorry. Oh God.” I laid there in bed, staring at the ceiling, listening to my husband hear that his father had died.
After a while, she asked to speak to me. All she got out was “I’m so sorry” before she burst into weeping.
Two days later my husband boarded the planned flight, to be with his mother and clear out his father’s closet and make fond jokes about the man who had raised him.
That day at work, I wrote about Michael.
It’s been a year since then, and we still miss him. I thought, when I got this new job, just how proud of me he’d be. He was my father-in-law, but I started dating his son when I was 17. He was a father figure for nearly my entire adult life. My husband, as he increases his roles and extends into management, laments that he can’t call his dad for advice. My mother-in-law still sleeps with his vest and wears his old Timex watch, even though the velcro is giving.
Last night, for bedtime story, Grey and I read the story that he and Papa Flynn wrote over a year ago, about Forest Ranger Grey and the Falling Acorns. We watched the precious snatch of video that captures a moment in that writing. We looked at pictures of Papa Flynn and I told him some stories about him. Grey expressed his theme of disappointment, Papa Flynn is STILL dead?!?!?. Seriously, isn’t a year long enough to get over the whole dead thing?
Thane, my sweet Thane, oh child. He will have no memories of his grandfather who died when he was months old. We have a few pictures of Michael holding him. Mike looks like hell in all of them. But when he stops trying to eat the monitor, I’ll show him and tell him too.
Michael, you are greatly missed. You are not forgotten. We have not put you on a pedestal of perfection, instead we miss the exuberant, raunchy, crazy-smart, crazy-making man you really were.