Yesterday I reblogged a post by Ruth Williams from praypower4today. She mentioned in it remembering how her dad used to stand outside his garage when she was coming over for a visit and remark that she was late. She said she finally realized it was his way of saying, “You’re the highlight of our day! Couldn’t wait for you to get here.”
The light bulb went on and I remembered something I’d written about MY dad on the anniversary of his death. Thinking about it made me wonder if that’s really some kind of “parent” thing. If we all have our little rituals that give our lives continuity.
If you do, I’d love it if you’d share it in the comment box!
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I don’t remember when it started, when my father decided, consciously or not, that saying goodbye needed to be shrouded in ritual. But in my mind he’s still there standing outside on the porch, one foot propped up on the long brick flower box, toothpick dangling from his mouth, one hand stuck deeply in his jeans pocket, the other waving and waving and waving until we were out of sight.
But it wasn’t a solitary ceremony! No indeed, for we had our part to play as well! And as we pulled out of the driveway our horn found it’s voice, honking twice in farewell to the man who stood, visit after visit, year after year, no matter how inclement the weather, like a sentry on duty atop his castle wall for one last glimpse, one last wave goodbye.
It never occurred to me to wonder why my father would stand so long and strain his eyes to see until we were gone from view. It never occurred to me that as our car disappeared in the distance his castle would be besieged once more by arrows of loneliness and a quiet foreboding. The loneliness of a house without children’s voices, the foreboding of knowing the sands in the hour glass of his life were dropping far too quickly now and soon there would only be time for one final goodbye.
I wouldn’t have understood it. Not then.
Now all these years later as I stand at the living room window, curtains pushed aside, waving goodbye to my son as he honks and pulls away, I realize I have taken my father’s place on the castle wall, and that no matter how much I wish it, there is no way to turn back the clock, to keep my children from leaving the nest and my mortality at bay for a little while longer.
But my children don’t understand any better than I did. And kids will be kids, so sometimes, though it’s tradition, they forget to honk. And in only a moment they are gone without a backward glance, and I feel . . . forgotten. Then sometimes my eyes sting with tears and my heart aches, and I find myself wondering how many times I failed to fulfill my part of the Goodbye Ritual. How many forgotten tears filled my father’s eyes as I drove away . . . and I never knew.
Today, after standing at his graveside on the anniversary of his death, I honked twice as I pulled away in the car and prayed that by some miracle he heard. That wherever he is he can see me standing on my own porch or in my own window, watching and waving to my own kids from where I’ve joined him at his post on the castle wall. And I hope he understands that I didn’t . . . until now.