I am positive that somewhere in the world the 15th of August is important to someone. It could be a wedding day, birthday, first day of a new job, the date of someone’s death or the birth of a new baby. To someone somewhere, something about this date will either create a new memory or bring back old memories. For me it was a posting on Facebook that today is National Lemon Meringue Pie Day. I then remembered that the 15th of August was my parents’ wedding anniversary, and the mention of lemon meringue pie sparked another memory of something I had written a couple of years ago about lemons and this date. It’s not that I’m living in the past because I have been working very hard at keeping the past where it belongs, in the past. But memories are funny creatures that can grab you and not let go until they are finished with you. Good story or not I have to go with it because the memories and the feelings those memories evoke won’t let me go until I do.
Dad had been admitted to the hospital a few days prior to their wedding anniversary August, 1982. The Doctors hadn’t exactly said what was wrong with Dad, they mentioned asbestos poisoning, TB, pneumonia but nothing definite. I knew, I’d known since the first time I went to visit with him after he was admitted. I knew as soon as I entered his room but I couldn’t or wouldn’t allow myself to say the word; to admit to myself or anyone else what was wrong. I remember entering his room that first day and asking what was that smell. No one else in the room smelled anything different other than the usual hospital smells. It’s weird I know, people can’t smell cancer but I did that day. I didn’t say anything, I just buried the knowledge and fear deep inside and refused to accept what I knew.
August 15th came and I baked a lemon layer cake with lemon filling and whipped cream topping. The family gathered together and we celebrated Mom and Dad’s 29th wedding anniversary in the hospital lobby by the elevators. I also remember how much Dad enjoyed that lemon cake. When the Doctor gave Dad and the family the diagnosis I wasn’t shocked like everyone else. Looking back I believe Dad, too, had known all along what was wrong.
That memory led to another, of how I prayed nightly, asking God to heal my Dad and not let him suffer. Every night I prayed and hoped and waited for my prayers to be answered. When Dad died a short 8 weeks later I was angry, so very angry, another layer of anger added to what I already held buried deep inside. I stopped praying, stopped going to Mass, stopped believing. I held my anger to me like a shield keeping grief, sorrow and guilt away. I pulled back from the people I loved most because I didn’t know how to deal with what I was feeling and I didn’t believe I was deserving of their love. You see, I didn’t believe I was good at showing love. I had learned to hide and bury my feelings so I wouldn’t say or do something to hurt others that I’d later regret; like I had been hurt. I felt guilt for all the times through the years that I was angry with Dad for the hurtful things he’d said and done. I felt regret that I’d never get the chance to actually speak with Dad about those times and ask him why, to be able to understand why. Though I never heard the words I believed Dad loved me. I could see it in his eyes, especially at the end, he loved us and didn’t want to leave us. I loved my Dad but I never said the words to him either and I carried that guilt too.
It took several years but I was finally able to see the truth. God had heard my prayers and He did answer my prayers. It was just not in the way I wanted but in His way and in His time. Dad’s illness lasted a few short weeks and for that I should have been and am now grateful. Dad was able to die where he wanted to be…at home. I am ashamed to admit that it was a very long time before I was able to express that gratitude to God but I know He understands. Perhaps memories sometimes serve the purpose of helping us see things clearly, at a later time, when we’re better able to understand those things which are incomprehensible at the time.
At the age of 63 I am still a work in progress, imperfect but still making progress slowly but surely. I remember telling my sons when they were much younger that parents aren’t perfect, they’re human beings and will make mistakes. Being a Mom and Dad doesn’t mean you’re always right in everything you say and do. When I said that to my boys I can’t help but wonder if subconsciously I already understood that included my Dad too. That understanding has helped me to begin letting go of things I’ve held on to for far too long. Words have power and you shouldn’t be afraid to use that power when necessary. I’m sorry, forgive me, I love you. Simple words that can make such a difference to someone, especially those you love…and that includes ourselves. It’s still not easy for me but I try to give hugs more often and say “I love you” more often. Regret isn’t easy to live with, I know this, so I try to always remember that hearing the words is important too.
It’s funny how the mention of the word lemon and the date, August 15th, can stir so many memories and feelings. The difference is this time it’s with a much lighter heart.
All rights reserved. I hope you enjoyed my story but please remember it’smy story so no using or copying any content in any manner without the express written permission of the owner…me.