I don't miss my father all the time anymore, or even think about him every day. (Twenty years is time enough to learn how to miss other things.) But there are certain days, of course, when his presence lurks just beneath the surface of things, making the lack of him, the void of him, all the more glaring.
Perhaps strangely, these moments are often beautiful, joyous moments. The afternoon my first real boyfriend and I confessed our love to each other, and a part of me wanted so badly to drag him over to Barnard to meet my father. The day my brother got married to a wonderful woman we all adore, and my mother had to walk down the aisle with me instead of him. The night my brother called to tell me he and Shanna were going to have a baby, and I cried afterwards, and couldn't for the longest time figure out why.
And then of course there are frightening or sad or lonely days when I still imagine the smell of my father's plaid flannel shirts, or the way he would pretend to be angry but couldn't quite keep a grin from quirking one corner of his mouth, or the way I trusted him implicitly to always know how to do the right thing, what ever that right thing might be.
Tomorrow morning my sweet little nephew, after a year of anxiety and trouble and progress and worry, goes in to surgery. The hope is that this will help his little body be able to handle food better, and that he will then be able to move from IV drips back to tube feeding, and perhaps someday from tube feeding to mouth eating.
I spoke with my mother earlier this evening, as we have been speaking most days lately, about how they are holding up, about how frustrating and frightening this all is, about how strong they are and how resourceful. And I spoke with my brother a little while ago, with his baby boy fussing inconsolably in the background, for mere moments, not having much to say other than, "I love you. I'm sure it will be fine. We'll talk tomorrow when it's over."
And I got off the phone and cried. And I thought of my father and the way he woke me up early one morning when I was nine years old to tell me that my grandmother had died, and that my mother would be coming home soon. And I remember how sad he looked, and yet how steady and matter of fact his voice sounded, and I am wishing he were here today to be all of these things -- sad and steady and matter of fact -- for my brother, to carry all of these things with him. I like to imagine he wishes so, too.