It's something you talk about. Something you know will happen. Something you dread. And then. The day comes. The hour comes. And the phone call comes. And the words make no sense. How can Terry be dead? What? What? What? Why does my voice sound so far away? Danny's too. Why can't I understand what he is saying. What happened. What we do now..
Losing a parent is something that we know will likely happen. The odds are anyway. When it happens to other people. To friends. To family. We express our condolences. And our hearts hurt for them. And we, very secretly, exhale to know that it is not us. Because we cannot imagine. Besides, we have time.
On January 20, 2012, Spencer's dad, Terry Jack Anderson, died. He died at 56 years old. He died at home. In his bed. Married to a woman he loved so deeply. A woman who loved him so truly for who he was. He died the father of 6 children. The grandfather of 9 children. He died an artist, a gun lover, a knife lover, a Harley lover, a dog lover and a people lover..
That phone call will never leave me. The time afterward that I had to calm my voice enough to call Spencer. Spencer who was an hour away. An eternity away, at work. I had to tell him that the man who had raised him and whose nose he bears and memories he shares, had died. The same what, what, what, I don't understand followed. And then, to tell Isabel. And her friend. Some playdate..
We would leave immediately. We need to be there. Had to be there. Had to see siblings. Had to see Tami. Had to be in his house. To soak of any last bit of him that was there. Time came in extremes. Slowing and spinning. Weather fought against us. Fitful hours (few) of sleep and we were on the road for real. Ironically, through the same central Utah that had raised each of us. Alternately crying and talking and being silent. We could not get there fast enough..
My heart ached for the grandfather and the father-in-law that I knew. My heart broke for my husband and his siblings. For Tami. For the entire family. How could this be?.
And when we got there, the four oldest siblings arriving nearly in unison, and hugged and nearly collapsed with grief together, but didn't, it felt a little better. But the tears wouldn't stop. How could this be? How could we have missed the chance to say it, or that, or anything. We didn't take the time that we should have or we didn't have the chance that we wanted. What about the grandkids? What about a love so true that they were still "boyfriend and girlfriend"?.
Time continued in spits and spurts. There was planning and decisions and choices and programs to arrange. All things that anyone in that condition should not have to do. But you do. When it's your parent, you don't get to just show up. You have to do. All the while, doing together. Doing their best to do together and to just be. Be together..
I don't want this post to necessarily be about remembering the program or the casket or the flowers. Although, it was all perfect. Spencer agonized over delivering the perfect life sketch and euology. The one that represented the dad that each of the siblings and Tami knew and loved. That represented him in all phases of his family and life. And he did a wonderful job. At what may have been the hardest thing he's ever done. But I want this to be about what kept rolling through our heads. And what we kept saying. At least we're all together. To see all of the grandkids together, every last one of them. And to hear their joyful noise. And to hug and hug and hug some more..
This past summer, Melissa Rae (younger of the Melissa sisters) was married. It was, in a word, beautiful. Everything about it. But, more than that, was the feeling that weekend...this is us. We are a family. We are a family of divorce and remarriage and steps and adoption and more adoption. We are all over the country, from Utah to NYC. We are a personal banker, moms, a nurse, a therapist, students, dads, managers, artists, runners, readers, crafters, climbers, homeschoolers and so much more. And we are just us. We are funny. We laugh together. That day was beautiful. Terry was so palpably proud. His family was growing even more..
As our family was together for that week in grief, the same thing was rolling through my head and was verbalized by others. Terry would have loved us all together. (He would not have loved the fuss and the crying, however.) He would have loved to see us all laughing and see the kids all playing. He would have taken a moment to talk to each one of us. To ask how work is, to ask how climbing is, to ask how school is, to talk about hockey, fishing, working out, running. Whatever he knew you cared about. And he would have been proud. Proud of the family he had brought together. Proud of the choices his children were making and the places they are at in their lives. Proud of his growing grandchildren. Proud of his amazing and hilarious and bright and funny wife. And, undoubtedly, there would have been some sort of antics. 200 goldfish in a swimming pool for the kids to catch (and the dogs to eat!), dog training class for a grandchild, a carp and some hot dogs, sneaking strawberries to dip in a vat of powdered sugar, chocolate croissants for breakfast, and a model Harley (or 6) given to a grandchild..
Life will never be the same. Today is the first day that I feel like I have some grasp of time in its normal sequence and speed again. Last night, we stumbled on a picture of Terry reading to 3 year old Milo and Isabel and it brought tears again. Recent pictures are still too hard to look at. We have a stack of Terry's artwork in our living room. Waiting to be reframed and hung as a collection. So that we can remember. Every day. So that we have something beautiful to remind us of what he was, what he was passionate about, and what we take away from all of this.