Friday, December 2, 2011

18 years.

As the fire takes the chill off my unusually cold desert home, I am sitting here reflecting on our recent time in Mississippi and the memories there -- some newly-made, some re-visited.

Our recent visits have been in Spring and late-summer...but this trip was our first in recent years that the leaves were off the trees and fluttering our path as we rounded the bend of Rogers Drive, the peaceful, lovely street that has housed my Mason memories since I was a little girl.

Perhaps, it was the leaves. Or perhaps the the time of year.  Or maybe it is just the way I always feel when we turn that corner. At least the way I have felt for the last 18 years. But whatever the reason....

I missed my Daddy.

Visiting the cemetery on Thanksgiving Day.

Eighteen years ago, Wade and I were home on Rogers Drive for Thanksgiving. It was unusual for us to be home for this holiday. Working at the ABC-affiliate in Huntsville and as the co-chair of the Huntsville Christmas Parade meant I always worked the Friday after Thanksgiving. But this year, my dad's fight with cancer was nearing an obvious end and I feared this would be his last holiday. Wade and I wanted to be at home.

We had a peaceful Thanksgiving day gathered with Mom, Dad and my brothers. We spent the day after watching some of my Dad's favorite movies and though he was sick and weak, he found the strength to pat me occasionally and kept his arm near me on the couch. (He didn't eat when I tried to feed him though -- I just didn't do it like my Mom who was at work...he waited on her. Always. He wanted my Mom.)

The next day was the Egg Bowl. He wanted us to take my brothers -- he had taught Mississippi State's then-Quarterback Todd Jordan in Sunday School when Todd was nine and loved listening to Todd's games. We left him and Mom with the radio to follow the game.

In the days before cell phones, I went to a pay phone in the stadium several times that night -- always, Mama gave me a good report. Dad was enjoying the game. Go back and have fun, she would say.

After the game, I called from Oby's. He was delighted that Todd had won his final game at MSU and was resting. We should enjoy our meal and let the boys have fun. I told her we wouldn't call again she agreed that was best. They were resting.

When we took the exit ramp to turn onto Rogers Drive, my uncle, Ross, and his wife, Starr were waiting. They flagged Wade to a stop and climbed into our car. My Daddy had died after our last call home. Ross didn't want us to turn the bend onto Rogers Drive and see the cars lining both sides of the road all the way to the end where everyone had gathered to be with my Mom and wait on our return.

My memories are sketchy after that. I needed to get to my mother. I fell but wouldn't remember that until someone else reminded me later when I couldn't explain the bruises on my legs. There were people in the kitchen -- family, friends of my mom's, friends of Talley, people who came to offer not words that would make it better, but arms that would hold us until we could function.

We organized the funeral. We made decisions -- he wore his maroon sports coat because he always did after a Bulldog win. He wore Christmas socks for no other reason than we knew he loved them and it made us smile to know they were there, hidden from sight but known to us.

People brought food. Like good Southerners, we knew food cures all that hurts. But it didn't. We couldn't eat. We didn't want to be at the table. The dinner table was symbolic of our family -- Daddy traveled for his job but he always came home at night. He didn't like to spend even a night away. So we would wait to have dinner with him -- always. So we avoided the dinner table. In the weeks and months to follow, Mom served meals at the kitchen island.

Slowly, we rediscovered our joy...and chose to Praise God for the gift of this man, even if only for 49 years. Slowly, we were able to talk about our memories -- of the man who loved us unconditionally and showed it in everything he did. Slowly, we were able to laugh at the memory of him dressed in an apron being completely silly; or greeting my date at the door with a BB gun; or telling Wade I was just getting to be fun, when Wade asked his permission to propose marriage....slowly, we found our joy.

But even in the joy, even after 18 years,  I miss him. I miss that my kids only know him through stories. I miss that when the cares of this world bear down, I can not climb in his lap and hear him tell me it will be alright.

At the Tupelo Veteran's Park.

I miss that he never knew me as a Mom. I miss that he never saw Len as a Man. I miss that he wasn't at Talley's wedding.

On the third anniversary of his death, exactly on the day, the doctor held up three fingers and told us we were expecting triplets. I have to smile. Knowing the man who tapped on Wade's window as we were leaving for our honeymoon to tell him he had nine months to give him grandchildren, had a hand in sending us THREE at one time (we had waited six years for goodness sakes!).

I see him in each of my kiddos and thank God for that joy. For that reminder. For that gift.

And so as I sit here, I know I could spend my morning reflecting on the 18 years of missing this wonderful wonderful man. But I far prefer to reflect on the blessing of a Godly-example set for me and lived before me for 25 years -- I am so grateful. Terry Mason, you were and continue to be, a blessing and I love you.

Now, I think I will go hug my kids. Savoring every single moment. For all our moments together are blessings. Never doubt that.


The Giraffe Head Tree said...

I remember you then and rejoice in the woman you've become, with a lovely family your daddy would be proud of. Is proud of. Love you, girl.