February 19, 2009

Happy Birthday, Dad

Today's your 80th birthday, Pops - imagine that.

It's two years now that you've been gone. Sometimes it seems like just yesterday, and sometimes it seems like a forever ago that we lost you. My problem is I never know which it is until I start thinking about you, or something reminds me of you, and then I'm in the quandary of trying to figure it out.

I'll be honest -- I don't think of you every single day. I hope that doesn't offend you. We used to talk just about every day when you were alive, and if more than a couple of days went by one of us would reach out to see 'what was wrong', in that way that fathers and daughters have. Usually it was nothing, simply a matter of time slipping away, or starting to call and getting distracted by something else. And in the beginning, right after you passed away, I used to talk to you every day, made it a point to do that. I never let myself be distracted from that. I think I thought if I acted like you were still here, you would still be here.

Now, it's not an every day thing, it's usually triggered by something. Like Christmas at the house, when we were trying to figure out what dishes to use. I'm sure you remember Mom and I doing that every year; who was there determined what place-settings we'd use. Well, this year it was Mom and Peter and me, and for some reason we couldn't count. I resorted to what I always did, which is "there are five of us" and then added in the rest... Jen, Patrick, Bert,Christopher, Ericka and Sam. And I had too many. So I tried again, more insistently, "guys, there are five of us, and then there's Jen...Patrick..." and so on. Peter looked at me and said "Susan, five of who?" and I said "Drummonds". He said quietly, "Four - there are four Drummonds". I felt pretty ridiculous at that exact moment. It wasn't that I wished you were still here -- that goes without saying. I felt ridiculous because I hadn't figured out how to count the family anymore now that you were gone. How's that for "Her Royal Dizziness?"

Obama's inauguration, on the second anniversary of your death, was another trigger, as if it being January 20th weren't enough of one. That you missed this was almost unimaginable. The teacher in you, the democrat in you, the grumpy in you and the comedian in you would have had a blast with this whole campaign. It's kind of like people who died and never saw the Red Sox win the World Series, or SU win the NCAA basketball tourney. And yes, I'm chuckling because neither of these were milestone events in your life, I know.

There are other triggers as well. A sunset, headline in the paper or something dopey on the news. And of course the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra. MSB and I heard the SSO perform Mahler's 7th the night you died - I cried quietly through much of it, knowing I'd likely never share that with you again. We were at the symphony again the other day and yep -- you guessed it -- the triangle! I smile each time I see the percussionist raise it high, and wait for the faint note or two and remember when you were concerned that the puffing noise of your oxygen thing would bother other patrons. Our deal was that you'd hold your breath during the triangle solos, so no one would miss a note. I don't think I'll ever forget that.

And of course there's so much more that I'll never forget, memories both old and new, from childhood and those more recent from my adult life. Like jicama -- I've not had jicama since the last time I put it in a salad or something I made for you when you were here for your monthly dinner. Or the brownies I made when I was a kid and put in an extra cup of liquid, and they were turned into milkshakes. And of course I still can't drink Canadian or any of the other 'browns', just like you never really wanted to drink my wine. But you did taste the $45 red at McGregors, remember? Didn't like it much or see much difference between that and the cheaper stuff, but at least you could say you tasted it!

I do miss you -- all the time, some of the time, and every now and then. I explained once that you were like a favorite piece of jewelry, one that I don't wear every day, but when I take it out of the box, it's precious and wonderful and I love wearing it. And then, it goes back into the box after a while, not forgotten, just saved for another occasion. That's you now -- sometimes you pick the occasion, sometimes I do - but you're always here, my favorite, and it comforts me knowing that.

Tonight, I just might make a box of the most chocolaty brownies I can find, play some Beethoven way too loud, and raise a glass to you, Pops - Happy Birthday!

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