If my sister hadn’t texted me last night I wouldn’t have remembered it was the date my father, Bob Klein, died in 2014. The day has slipped my mind the last few years.
That’s never the case regarding my mother, who died on July 9, 1983, when she was only 58. Almost 40 years ago, yet I see that day approaching every year like a dark cloud on the horizon. I think it’s because I was young—and so was she. Too young. What did I know of death back then? A bit, and mostly in the abstract. My mother found out she was seriously ill and six months later was gone. I alternated between disbelief, numbness, and suffocating grief. So this is the way life goes. This is what we get. I had an overwhelming feeling I would be next.
Thirty years later when my father’s turn came I was more a seasoned soldier. I’d been through personal battles, I’d witnessed more death, I could bear some weight on my shoulders. And I had a family of my own to love and support me.
2014 had already been a tough year: my daughter got sick, I broke up with my publisher. I’d been expecting my dad to die—he’d been doing it for years, slowly, under the torture of dementia. There was no surprise. No acute crushing trauma. There was sadness and relief. The actual date he died almost blended into the longer arc of his life and mine. The morning of his funeral we were getting dressed in our hotel room. I helped my son knot his tie. We took a few photos because we were rarely dressed up together and we all looked so turned out.
After the funeral and luncheon, my dad’s grandchildren stood outside the restaurant for a photo. He loved them all and held each one of them as babies. How he loved holding babies.
I’ve written about my parents before. I knew them and didn’t know them.