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Losing A Parent

Losing A Parent

Like any other Sunday morning, I walked to the Brooklyn Heights Deli for a breakfast sandwich and a coffee, greeted with a smile by the owner Frank, who wished me a wonderful day.

Several minutes later on a blue plaid chair in my second floor apartment on Atlantic Avenue, the phone rang too early. It was my mom, who I knew was in upstate New York with my dad, visiting friends on their way to Nantucket, where we’d meet them in a few days for the Thanksgiving holiday.

As I picked up her first words were “Anne?” as if she was ensuring that it was in fact me, and then, “Oh Anne,” as if the depth of her love and concern for me over the last 26 years had become actualized.

I heard the words she spoke but couldn’t catch up with what she was saying. My dad had gone out for a run that morning, and had collapsed, and was gone. That she was so sorry. There was overwhelming pain and shock in her voice. I had to repeat her own words back to her several times, maybe ten or maybe one hundred times, before either of us understood them.

The loss of a parent in any form and at any age is devastating. The sudden loss of a parent as a young adult is disorienting.

Almost twenty years later, the sadness mostly comes in the form of knowing what Dave is missing and what my kids are missing without him. His outlandish style, his impulsiveness, his restless and relentless problem solving with whatever was on his mind at the moment…homelessness, soil mechanics, learning to juggle. I am smiling as I remember his unabashedly unique nature. The way he loved living around the edges.

In the years before his death, he was on an internal quest for meaning and purpose, taking missionary style trips to unlock his past, pushing his physical limits atop far reaching mountaintops, digging deep into introspection with wise guides and mentors.

As Father’s Day came and went this year, I felt a small opening in my heart, perhaps for the first time, into the bottomless grief of loss. There’s not much more to say, as grief feels almost impossible to describe in words. It’s both deeply hollow and wildly full.

I’ve thought many times about visiting the place in New York where he died. Perhaps I’d be able to find some part of him there. Curious what the breeze may have felt like, or the birds may have sounded like, that morning as he ran.

I mostly look for him inside me now. He is surely there, in my own relentless quest for meaning, my impulsivity, my mismatched socks and unruly hair. The love light he carried is now within me to carry forward in my own precious time.