One of my last visits to see my dad coincided with my late mom’s birthday — or maybe it was their wedding anniversary. In any case, I mentioned the date and remembered her with fondness.
My dad smiled, got a far-away look in his eyes, and after several long moments he nodded and said, “I miss her.”
His voice caught just a little. Like most men of his generation, he was not good at expressing his feelings. I could feel the enormous depth behind those three words.
Mom and Dad were together for nearly 62 years, from a Sunday afternoon in the cold World War II days of December 1944 until the anniversary of D-Day in 2006, and he spent the last 14 years of his life without her. Red and I had less than half as much time as my parents, but now I have a bit of firsthand knowledge of what it took for him to say, as calmly as he could muster, “I miss her.”
When I wrote the other day about the Canada geese leaving town for their winter quarters, the WordPress algorithm suggested “Last goodbyes” at the bottom of the page among the three “Related” posts. That was my post about our Celebration of Life after Red passed in early summer. Of course, the memory brought the inevitable tears to my eyes.
There are no “last” goodbyes, are there? I seem to say goodbye at least once a day. My friends who have had similar losses tell me the feeling never completely goes away, you just live with it, compartmentalize it, deal with it, et cetera et cetera. I get it — for awhile I had moments where I had to sit down and let the grief wash over me, feeling lost and paralyzed, but these days I am functioning more or less as well as I used to.
Every so often, though, a friend will ask with concern, “How are you doing?” and I will need several long moments before I nod and say that I’m hanging in there. And it’s true — no worries, folks, I really am doing all right.
I miss her.