In December of 2009 I went to Florida to spend the holidays with my parents and an aunt. It was fun for all of us, a typical family gathering with a mixture of eating, sightseeing, and playing Wii. Yes, even old people like Wii. ;P We also went to watch the film Avatar at the town center movie theater. After Christmas, my aunt and I drove to her home in Georgia where she lives with her adult children and grandson for New Year’s Eve. We had fun checking out some more sights in Atlanta but the wait to enter World of Coca Cola was too damn long. I asked if anybody wanted to go to the Peach Drop (Atlanta’s localized version of New York City’s famous ball drop) but there were no takers so we all had a quiet evening at the house instead.
A day or so later I was back in Philly. I tried to give my dad a quick call to let him know my plane landed safely. My stepmom picked up and she said my dad was sick and she was taking him to the hospital. She sounded pretty upset. I was concerned, but I didn’t want to make things worse by calling repeatedly. January 3, 2010 was a Sunday. I was watching football when there was a knock on my door. I answered and I saw two of my stepbrothers standing there. They hardly ever visit me and they’re not the kind to drop in unannounced. I knew something was terribly wrong and my heart sank before they even said a word. They told me that my dad was dead. He had full blown pancreatitis and it was too severe. They hugged me and said they thought it would be better to tell me in person. I thanked them for stopping by to tell me and they left once I had assured them that I would be OK.
I couldn’t believe that I was going back to Florida so soon. On the flight south I was given the window seat and I saw the most amazing thing. The sun was bouncing off the clouds beneath us at just the right angle to produce an amazing rainbow. I never saw that phenomenon before or since. It might have been a sign that dad was safe in heaven. The next few days was a blur including the funeral itself. I found out the hard way that I had gained a few pounds since college and I was barely able to fit into my old suit. After the funeral we spent time at my stepmom’s home with all of her adult kids and we had a good time looking at old home movies which included some appearances by my dad and yours truly.
I don’t know why but I seem more down than usual for this time of year. I’ve already gone through three anniversaries and I didn’t feel as empty as I do right now. Seasonal Affective Disorder may be playing a role too as I have long shown symptoms of that condition. Regrets and missed opportunities have been on my mind. But lately I’ve been thinking about how short life is. I have some elderly relatives that I’d like to spend some quality time with. One of my goals is to have them help me identify people in my dad’s old photographs. Sadly, the few people on my mom’s side of the family I was in touch with were all older and they have since passed on. It’s easy to be lulled into a false sense of security that family members will always be there. But that is definitely not the case, especially those who are in their 80s and 90s. We should never take relatives for granted, even the ones who work our nerves sometimes.