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Twenty-Eight Years Gone.

Earlier this week I took the littles to visit my father.

My father had cancer- and died when I was two years old, on July 17th 1982.  He was only twenty-five years old.  He has been gone for more years than he lived.  He would have been fifty-three years old this year- I think it is cool that he shares his birthday with my son Patrick.

My father was born with a disfiguring birthmark that covered his entire torso. The doctors told my grandparents that it should be removed for cosmetic reasons. So he endured twenty-two skin grafts in total, until his skin resembled a patchwork quilt.  He was in and out of the hospital so often and missed so much school that he got fed up and quit in his junior year of high school.  Even after all that, the doctors missed a spot. His tumor grew from a tiny mole, a pencil thin stretch of skin about an inch long.

When I was five, and ten, and fifteen. twenty-five seemed so old. Now, I am thirty, and five years older than my father was at his death.  He was so young.  Now that I am a parent, I have become obsessed with birth marks. I sometimes catch myself checking my children’s skin, searching for any change, however slight it may be.

My family loves to retell favorite stories about my dad. He died so young, it’s how they keep him alive.  They revel in his practical jokes, his paintings, his love for me and my brother.

“Your father loved you so very very much.”


“Your Father is always watching over you, he is always there.”

Those two lines were repeated to me so many times during my childhood that I started seeing him everywhere I looked. I couldn’t go to the bathroom or shower without wondering if he was looking down from heaven, his head poking through the fluffy white clouds.  I would wonder if he could see me during the oddest moments.

I am sort of numb when it comes to him now. I only feel awkward and unsure when his name comes up. I never know how I am supposed to refer to him, as he was never ‘daddy’ or ‘dad’ or ‘pops’.  He was just “Your Father” capital Y capital F.  When I was little I used to talk about him a lot. In school I would often tell other kids that my dad was dead. It made me feel better to be different, but I didn’t understand this whole “dead” thing.

I have no memories of his face, when I think of him I see a picture in a frame.

The only real memory I have is of his hand- I can see our old apartment, the dark kitchen cabinets are a dull blur, the shades are drawn. The lumbering shape of his metal hospital bed towered above me, I remember I had to look up to see it. I was so thirsty, and he dragged himself out of bed to pour me some juice.  And there was his hand, pale and sprinkled with freckles as he twisted the cap off the glass bottle of orange juice.  I can see the bottle very clearly.  It was glass and it had a metal cap, and our fridge was dark inside.

That’s it- that is all I have that I can call my own.  I guess I am glad I have that.

Every year I take the kids to visit his grave so we can clean it up a little.  Sometimes we go more than once a year- but at the very least we go each summer.

Baby Patrick, named after my father.

The sun is always so very bright there.

No cool, shady trees in this cemetery- at least not in the section my father is buried in.

Cooper’s first visit.

5 Responses to Twenty-Eight Years Gone.

  1. I keep coming back to this, yet I still find myself without words…

    Instead all I can offer is love. Thank you for sharing such a powerful memory. <3

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