30 years ago on this night (about 4 in the morning 6 May, 1989) I was awakened by a phone call. It was my mother telling me Dad was immediately going to have surgery (Aortic Aneurysm) and I should get to the hospital right away. I got there in time to see him being rolled into the operating room. The look on his face was to me, one of alarm and helplessness. It was as if he wanted to tell me something but couldn’t. I spoke for us both: “I love you”. That’s the last look I’d have of him alive.
We sat in the waiting room for hours, deep in prayer. I had a mystical experience in that state of prayer that remains vividly in my mind to this day. It was a scene that told me it was Dad’s time to go. Moments later, the surgeon came in and said dad had died on the table. He was 63 years old.
Two years ago I performed at the Tucson Folk Festival on May 6th. I was 63 years old. Since my dad’s birthday was the 21st of October, and mine is the 25th, I knew that if I lived 4 more days, I’d become older than my father ever was. That’s a strange thing for me. He was my role model. Now I had to forge ahead without that guide. There was nothing his life could tell me about growing older than 63 and a half years. At the end of my set I asked the audience to sing with me, the last few lines of a Beatles song with me that my dad loved to sing: “When I’m 64”. Ironic isn’t it? He really liked that song, but never made it to 64.
This morning (Sunday, 5 May) I spoke to my mother on the phone. She’s 93 and still sharp. I asked if she realized that tomorrow would mark 30 years since his passing. “Oh Yes” she said, “I’ve been thinking about that”. She went on to say that many of her widowed friends have had 2 or 3 husbands in that time, but she never felt the need to re-marry. “I had a pretty good one and that’s enough for me”. We laughed and agreed that a new one might have brought down her average.
Grief is a strange thing. Just when you think you’re passed it, an anniversary triggers memories and for a moment, draws you back in time. Well, at least it’s only a fleeting moment.