Monday, June 9, 2008

Of death and dad's and fierce love

Death seems to haunt my thoughts lately. At first I blamed it on that rich Italian meal my husband and I thoroughly enjoyed at Macaroni Grill. Great service, excellent music, delicious wine, and the food. Oh my. It had us groaning in delight. We savored every bite. Took leftovers home and savored again the next day. Even the leftovers made us swoon.

But somewhere between the first bite and the last I suffered a night of violence. It was the kind of violent dream that awakens me with heart pounding and adrenalin rushing. It is the kind that makes me desperate to pray for all my loved ones. To pray that 'this shall never come to pass,' and then pray until I fall into an exhausted sleep. "Protect, please protect...." I'm quite the believer in intercessory prayer.

Italians were hacking and shooting and attacking everyone in sight. It was a blood bath in my dreams. The Valentine's Day Massacre times ten. I have no idea why Italians, or why the violent dreams. I hadn't watched anything unusually graphic on television. Nor had I read anything overly dramatic. I wouldn't think that Melissa Bank's "A Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing" would bring on nightmares.

But one thought led to another and June first dawned. I had been lethargic and melancholy for days, fighting a mind numbing energy drain and when I looked at the calendar I understood. My father died on that day -- years ago -- but I remember seeing him in the hospital, yellow and waxy already, still struggling for a breath. An ignominious end to such a harsh, hard fought life. I'm not sure that a daughter ever gets over the loss of her first love, her first protector, the first man she ever trusted or hugged or kissed or wanted to please -- her Daddy, Papa, Father, Da, Dad.

Today, Suzanne, my new best friend at the Orange County Library, suggested the novel "Interloper" by Antoine Wilson. It is about a family struggling to come to terms with the murder of a loved one -- a son and brother. It is an experience that one can never put behind them. I know. My father-in-law was killed by a drunk driver. Years ago. But I still see that day, remember the feeling of dread when the phone rang, the horror that someone could or would rob him of his life. And take him, our heart, away from this family who needed him to keep us together.

Of course we face death every day in one way or another, some more than others. Friends fight disease, injury, accidents, toxic environments, toxic people. But I rarely bring those thoughts to bed with me. I'm staying away from the Italian foods for awhile. Ohhhhh it was soooo delicious. But most of all, I am remembering the lives of two men whom I loved with such purity it hurts.

Dads. They are a special blessing. Oh we make over mothers and daughters and wives -- but the dads. They're the ones who keep us safe, stand guard, provide the foundation on which the rest of the family grows. I know families are changing, the role of father seems less vital in some ways of thinking at that basic group, but the father who accepts his role, his responsibility, and understands the purpose of his life -- he is the heart of the family, the glue that holds it together, and the source of the purest love that was ever invented. He loves without qualification from the moment the child enters his world. Does anyone ever love a child as completely or as fiercely as a dad?

It's time to celebrate him.

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