Today marks twenty-three years since my father died. I was nine years old, and have spent more time without him than with him. I miss him everyday, and wish he could be here, especially to see my kids, but this has been my normal for so long I don’t know it any other way. As this day approaches each year, I find myself in a funk that goes away once the day is gone. I’m not usually thinking the day is approaching, but something usually serves as a reminder. This year it happened while watching Doctor Who.
I was watching The Doctor Dances, and at the end the Doctor dances with Rose, which was funny of course, but what caught my attention was the song. They were dancing to “In the Mood” by Glenn Miller, the song my dad would dance with us girls to. We would listen to it on the record player (yep, record player) and he would dance with each one of us. We dubbed it “the shoop doop dance” because that’s what he would sing. We danced in the living room over and over, and I know other songs were played but this is the one I remember vividly.
My mom often asks what I remember about him. My memory of my dad is not linear, and is unfortunately short. I remember him taking me to and picking me up from school, secretly getting Happy Meals for lunch and being told not to tell mommy, eating Oreos and drinking Coca Cola from glass bottles while watching a Braves baseball game in the big blue chair, going to the gun club to watch him shoot clay pigeons, being told to leave the room because he had a dirty joke to tell, him making rye bread and covering the kitchen in flour, having prime rib at Misty’s, and a few more things. It’s blurry, but it’s there.
A few nights ago, Jake and Izzy asked if we could have a dance party. We do this a lot. It started when Jake was a toddler and he and I had mornings together before I went to work. I would put on a CD (usually George Harrison) and we would dance around the kitchen together. Lately these take place while listening to Slacker Radio, with the kids choosing the songs (much to my dismay) and we just go nuts. Izzy asked me when we started having dance parties, so I told her how Jake and I started it up before she was born. I played “In the Mood” for them and told them how I would dance with my dad to it, sometimes while standing on his feet. Izzy came over to dance with me and asked if she could put her feet on mine. When she did that, two things became blatantly obvious: first, kudos to my dad for dancing with us on his feet because that was hard to do, and secondly, the dance party started when I was little. I hadn’t made the connection between the dance parties with my kids and the dance parties when I was little. Little pieces of memory must be coming out in the way I interact with my kids. Sure, I tell Izzy to run to the fridge and get me a string cheese (I usually grabbed my dad a beer), but the dance party should have been obvious. And now I wonder what else I do but don’t think about (brushing Izzy’s hair in the morning and listening to her scream brings back some memories).
What I have done consciously for them is when I tuck them in, the last thing I say is “good night, I love you.” Seems pretty basic for most parents, but those were the last words my dad said to me. He tucked me in for the last time 23 years ago, and said “good night Sara, I love you.”