I lost it at the grocery store the other day. Swinging my cart through the aisles to pick up carrots, brussel sprouts, potatoes and hamburgers for dinner, thinking about a new walking route to try later in the day with Toby, making a mental reminder of what bills to pay, I pushed past a store wagon full of cardboard boxes whose contents had yet to be placed on the shelves. The detour around the stack put me face to face with the racks of greeting cards you can still find in supermarkets. There was the section for His and Her Birthdays, Children, Special Occasion, Wedding, Anniversary, Sympathy and on the wall behind the boxes, two rows of red and pink Valentine’s Day cards. Seeing them was my annual reminder that the “lover’s holiday” was approaching but for our family, it also marks the twin birthdays for my father and younger sister, a trifecta of sweetness when we were growing up.
I walked around the giant cart and decided to get birthday cards for Dad and my sister before the good ones are picked over and gone. It has always been a bit of fun, I thought, to remember both their birthdays are on Valentines Day…
A bubble of grief burst in my brain as I realized this may be the last year I will be buying a Valentine’s birthday card for dad and suddenly, my eyes blurred with tears and for a minute, I could not move until the spinning reality of my father’s declining health became a dull light permanently switched to on. Ambushed by grief.
There are a lot of awful diseases out there and many ways to leave this earth. It is the one thing we have in common with every living thing on the planet. There have been many who have written more eloquently about the approaching loss of loved ones but this is my story this time, a story I don’t talk about much because living it is hard enough.
But, to borrow a phrase from a friend’s father who passed away recently: “We travel hopefully,” with both mom and dad, and with each other. We travel hopefully that we will be able to companion them in this transition to a place not that far away. We travel hopefully that we will find a way to keep Dad comfortable and safe. We travel hopefully that love will reach beyond the veil and we will know each other again.