Missing Max – one year on.

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This time last year I was in Australia having received the call I knew must one day come.  The call from family to say that Max, my father, was gravely ill.  On his last day I sat beside him reading Guernsey Press newspapers aloud. He could not tell me the mistakes I was making in pronunciations but I know he could hear me.   He passed away early the next morning – 27th January 2012.

During this past year there have been many times I’ve wanted to ask him something;  tell him a story;  send him a photo;  talk about the world.  I wish he was here to share things. Some thing. Any thing.

I wasn’t finished learning from him.

I miss his daily emails.  In winter he would sign off by reminding me to keep my chest warm to prevent pleurisy or pneumonia, which I had in 2002. He sent me two pashmina shawls to assist in this.  In summer he would remind me to put sunscreen on, and a hat to prevent sun cancer.  He did not send me a hat though.

I’ve had days where I have not thought of him at all;  and then felt guilty when I realized he hadn’t crossed my mind.  I’ve had moments where something seen or heard has prompted sudden unexpected tears in inconvenient places like a crowded train.  There have been times when I’ve been angry with him for going too soon; and times of incredible sadness thinking of the battles he fought.

A determined, proud and impatient man;  he couldn’t stand carelessness or stupidity.  He could, and would,  talk to anyone. Strangers were treated the same as friends.

He had a terrific sense of humour,  a twinkle in his eye and he could charm anyone.  He was sociable,  but equally as happy with his own company & some music.   Back in the day he played a harmonica and the piano accordion though he could not read music.  He’d hear a piece and just be able to play it.

His greatest loves were his family, his dogs and music.  He was stern but fair both as a father and a master.

I brought some of his ashes back to DC with me.  He came back in my suitcase in a glass jar with masking tape securing the lid.   I’m not sure what the jar originally held,  I got it from Jane who was the keeper of the ashes until we scattered them on the river.   On the lid it says “Refrigerate After Opening”   and “Best by 30/5/13” .  I intend to scatter him about before then – I just haven’t decided where.

This clear glass jar is sitting on my dressing table slightly above the clutter of perfumes, lotions & ornaments.  I know that’s not quite “normal” – it’s not an every day cremain receptacle.

Often, as I get items out of the drawers, put earrings on and spritz myself with perfume,  I give the jar a nod and a smile and imagine dad would laugh over his current situation.  He enjoyed off-beat things.   There’s something  oddly comical  in a middle aged woman keeping her father’s ashes in a clear glass jar, topped with thick grey tape,  sitting amongst her pretty things.

The last song of his service was Tony Bennett singing “Fly me to the Moon”  as his grandsons carried his coffin to the hearse.  It therefore seems incredibly fitting that, on the 1st anniversary of his death,  I will be at a Tony Bennett concert.   Dad would have  loved to have seen Tony Bennett sing.  I suspect his spirit might be in the audience with me.

I miss you dad.

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Dad and I –  Circa 1980

M&M

And this is one of my favourite post-stroke photos as I reckon you can see he still had the twinkle in his eye and a certain mischievousness:   Max

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35 responses

    • I don’t think I will ever stop missing my father (and my mother when that time comes – it scares me to think of that though!) – I guess the good memories grow stronger than the sad ones as time passes.

  1. Condolences. No problem with the ashes where they are, they are right close to you among other special things. You weren’t done learning form him,but oh the times you did have with him are some lovely lovely times.

    • Thank you mizuno. I guess I’m not ready to let that last bit of him go yet. You are right – we did have some lovely times – and a lot more years than many people get with their loved ones.

  2. I quite like the idea of him watching over your powders and cremes. Gives you some quality time together. I’m sure he’d appreciate it too.

    That story of him calling emergency services when no one answered his buzzer is legendary amongst my friends and I’m sure they’ve passed it along. So he lives on even to people who didn’t know him.

    • He was a real fighter in the battle to be treated with dignity & respect but it was bloody hard in those nursing homes. That episode was like an inspirational victory for all those people helplessly confined to beds in establishments. It was a great story – I’m glad it’s passed along.

  3. Listening to Tony Bennett is a fitting way to mark the anniversary of your father’s death, though I teared up at your description of his casket being carried out to “Fly Me to the Moon.” I wish I had thought of something like that for my mother, but my father and his clan are sticklers for convention, so we kept it very Japanese and somber.

    Every once in awhile, I imagine hearing my mother’s voice commenting on some news story or a bit of music. It is painful to realize that you can’t talk to a parent anymore or receive letters from him or her. I think my mother was quite tired of this world and glad to be rid of it, however. I take some comfort in knowing that I was able to care for her in her last days. ((Hugs)) for you and Jane.

    • I remember my grandmother saying she was “tired” when she got into her 90’s. She was ready to go when she died at 99.

      I don’t intend to have anything conventional about my own service – I’ve already decided on a couple of songs I’d like played – they’re definitely not somber.

  4. Very touching post, MJ. I wish I couldn’t hung out with your Da and asked him questions, too.

    Gram raised me and I spent at least 5 years thinking, ‘Gotta ring her about that.’ Luckily, I hear her voice echoing in my head if I listen closely; it was been 13 years tomorrow.

    • Thank you Lily – dad would’ve loved your questions I’m sure. I’m sorry your Gram passed away when you were just a young woman. I have imaginary conversations with my father occasionally – a sort of what would dad do ……

      • I’m really happy that she went in about 5 minutes. I’m sorry it was painful but she did NOT want to go out the long way. I miss her every fecking day.

  5. Emjay… I’m so sorry for your loss. (My dad died in 1994, and that was very, very hard…)

    I teared up when I read the bit about “Fly Me to the Moon”; like HG, I think it’s great that you’ll be at a Tony Bennett gig tonight. (I do wonder who the bass player will be – for years, he’s worked off and on with a D.C.-area guy named Paul Langosch, whom I knew at one time, albeit not well.)

    Love to you from PA – and thinking of you and your dad, who does look like he was a bit of a rascal and definitely a charmer.

    • Thank you e2thec. I had a wonderful close relationship with my father. I imagine I’ll still be missing him dreadfully when I’m an old lady.

      The bass player was Marshall Wood. The concert was so good – dad would’ve loved it.

  6. I do so believe that your dad will be there with you. That twinkle in his eyes is set free to roam wherever it wants, and who wouldn’t want to be at a Tony Bennett concert with his daughter. Many hugs.

  7. The gift of a loving father is something many people never experience. How lucky are we to have had such wonderful men in our lives, if for too short a time. Perhaps take Dad in his jar in your handbag to the concert?

  8. You’ve made me all misty there Emjay. I never shared such closeness with my Dad and as I was overseas at the time I was not present at his death, both things which I regret. Hold onto your precious memories…you were both lucky to have each other.
    And thanks for sharing…..beautifully written.

    • My siblings and I were very lucky to have had a father such as ours and he would’ve been very satisfied & a mite proud, I think, with how we turned out. I imagine that you have a relationship with Inga similar to what I shared with my father.

    • Thank you homebody. It is funny to see the expiration date there – I now think of it as the date by which I have to do something with the ashes but then I wonder if I’ll be ready by then to actually let them go. I probably never should’ve brought any back with me.

  9. What a lovely post, Emjay. Hugs from all of us here, I know it must be so painful to have lost him. I love that he was loving yet quirky. Those types of family, I think, are the hardest to lose because they give so much and ask so little in return. It’s hardly the same but please feel free to email me if you’re ever in the mood to chat.

    • Thank you amelie. It took great determination on his part to do as well as he did after his total stroke. There must have been times when he felt utterly dreadful but his quirkiness and sense of humour always shone through.

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