This post was written to remember the 2nd anniversary of our Dad’s passing on September 8, 2014. This is just one of 1,000 stories left to write about a man who was unique, loving, wise, and a pure treasure. His laughter, his life, his love will never be forgotten.
September 2013. It is Sunday afternoon. I step from the sidewalk onto the floorboards of the old front porch. The movement of my feet causes those aging boards to creak. The sound alerts the dogs sitting just inside of the door. Jeb, my parent’s German Shepard, has been the old guard on duty here for almost a decade. He is the chosen one of sorts, the keeper of the gate and the protector of his precious family living inside. Buddy, the rescue dog, is standing by supporting Jeb with a complementary yet alternating bark, providing extra cover just as any good second-in-command should do. The barking is intimidating, and if I did not know any better, I would turn around and try again on another day.
But, I do know better. For this is my home. A place I left over 21 years ago in search of my own dreams. Straight out of college and into my first apartment that I shared with my little sister, Kass, who was still in college at the time. We only moved 30 minutes away, but for two kids new to living completely on their own, it felt like we had moved across the country. After that first move, chasing dreams took us both further down the road away from home and on to new jobs, new cities, and new experiences. My brothers stayed closer and settled into their own lives, filling up their days with activities and sports for their kids, work, and simply taking care of business. Two families with all of the trimmings.
But, no matter where our lives took us, we never forgot where we came from. Stillmeadow, the name given by my parents to their 16-acre domain, would always be our home. The safe haven. A soft place to land no matter what life was serving up at the time. And over the course of those years when the four of us were creating lives of our own, we gathered regularly in the kitchen at Stillmeadow for compelling conversation, great debates, outstanding food, laughter, and unconditional love.
Today, I know Mom and Dad are expecting us. Lately, this is a common occasion for most of our Sunday afternoons. The phone call would come in sometime before noon. “Kris, it’s Dad. I put a little something on the stove if you and Jamie want to come over for an early dinner today.” “Wow, Dad, yes. Of course. That sounds great.” I ask Jamie if he wants to go. There is never a doubt as to his answer. During the drive out to their house, his game is always the same as he tries to guess what will be on the menu on that particular day. My Dad is a phenomenal chef and he loves to create new dishes. One thing we learned over the years is that when Dad cooks it is always homemade, usually an amazing Italian creation he cooked up in his head, often incorporating items from his garden, and always delicious.
As the dogs continue to bark, we make our way to the front door. Somehow, the experience of my entry into the kitchen over all of these years never seems to change. It stays with me as a powerful memory of this place. It is pure perfection. Today is no exception. Dad is standing at the doorway, kitchen towel draped over this shoulder, spatula in his hand, his glass of wine close by. A huge smile comes over his face, he reaches for me to give me a hug and says, “Hello, my dear.”
It is always the same. Same appearance. Same words. Same smile. Same hug. This greeting is not only offered when I see my Dad in person, but in almost every instance that I interact with him…on the phone, in his voice mail messages, in his email greeting, when I meet him for coffee or a drink, when he stops by my house to visit. It is always the same greeting filled with such warmth and love: “Hello, my dear.” I love being his daughter and his dear.
As I hug him tightly, I can smell his perfect scent through his work clothes. I smell the candles burning, I smell something delicious simmering on the stove, I hear the soft music playing in the family room, and feel a warmth in the air. I give him a kiss on the cheek and say, “Hi Dad.” Jamie follows me in and it is then that I see Mom coming into the kitchen. We all exchange greetings and I know that our afternoon is going to be filled with laughter, sharing old stories, and a few life lessons and casual advice for me. All of that and an exceptional meal.
It is moments like today that I will never forget.
September 2016. It is 8:00 a.m. on a clear Saturday morning. I step onto the front porch. The new floorboards do not creak like they used to. As I make my way to my car, my eyes are drawn skyward, as they usually are, and I catch a glimpse of the cloud formation overhead. White, puffy, cumulus clouds dominate my view.
It looks like it is going to be a beautiful day. The birds chirp happily in the trees and our farm kitty, Bella, makes a run for the barn. I cannot help but think that it has almost been two years since we lost Dad and a year since we purchased and moved to Stillmeadow to be with Mom. It is still hard to fathom that Dad passed just two years after we said goodbye to Kass. Life does not seem fair. Some days, in fact most days, I still have trouble wrapping my head around any of it. But, instead of trying to sort it all out today, I just keep moving. I keep moving forward one day at a time just as Kass and Dad would have wanted.
When I miss my Dad and the sound of his voice, I often picture his reunion with Kass in Heaven. His arms wide open, his huge smile dominating his expression, he looks at her and says simply, “Hello, my dear.”
It is the thought of this moment that brings me peace.
Post script: Sadly, we lost Buddy suddenly in April 2014. Dad and Mom then adopted Abbie and Jennie, two German Shepard/golden retriever sisters who still live at the farm along with their new brother, Kato.
We said goodbye to Jeb in January 2016. In early October 2014, Mom and I were reminiscing about Dad and re-playing family videos on the computer. When he heard Dad’s voice, Jeb whimpered softly for several minutes. I believe if dogs can cry that Jeb cried that day. He missed Dad. They were the best of friends. Forever faithful, Jeb was 11 years old.
Dad always loved his dogs so much. The puppies were only five months old when he passed away. They still miss him everyday. Just as we all do….