365 Days

365 days is a long time.

You don’t realize it as it happens. Day passes into night, and back into day again, and so on. The cycle never stops. It’s as sure as life, death and taxes.

Throughout those 365 days, things happen that make time stand still. Sometimes those moments are joyous. Sometimes they’re terrible.

365 days ago, I experienced a terrible moment.

Time never stood so still. It was as if the earth had stopped, and suddenly everything ground to a halt– yet my mind seemed to backlash at the sudden stop and, in an instant, 35 years of my life flashed before my eyes.

The backyard in late spring, probably 1975 or 1976. My dad is kneeling down and holding my sister in one arm, and me in the other. Behind us are my dad’s roses– the ones he meticulously cared for and worked so hard to grow tall and strong and proud.

My sister’s bedroom, around Christmastime of ’76 or ’77. She and I are playing and fully engrossed in our play. We didn’t hear the basement door open and close outside her room. Suddenly, the bedroom door swings open and Dad, dressed as Santa Claus, yells with his booming voice, “HO! HO! HO!” My sister and I shriek, nearly jumping right out of our Garanimals, and then collapse into laughter saying, “Daddy!? Why are you dressed like Santa Claus!?” He had volunteered to play Santa for his company’s Christmas party and was trying on the costume, and decided to try it out on us. We weren’t fooled, but we played along anyway when the day of the Christmas party came….

365 days later, these are the things I remember most about my dad.

If I heard it once, I heard it a thousand times: The first year is the hardest. Each holiday is the “First holiday” without him. Each birthday is the “First birthday” without him. And every time something happens and you think to pick up the phone to call him, you have to remind yourself that he’s not there to pick up the phone.

The first few times these things happen, it’s hard. But as each succeeding time occurs, it truly does get easier.

The last time I had the urge to pick up the phone to call my dad was just a week ago. The Cubs had won their 7th game in a row; the last one against the first-place Milwaukee Brewers, which brought their average to .500 for the first time this season. As in the past, I instinctively reached for my cell phone to call him and talk about it… but I didn’t get any further than touching the phone in my pocket. Instead, I glanced upward and nodded. He knew. No words needed to be spoken. So I left it at that.

Tomorrow after work I’m going to see my mom. We’ll have dinner together, talk a bit, probably cry a bit, and get back on with our lives. And on Wednesday, our family will have their first July 4th picnic without him– since last year’s July 4th was no cause for celebration. We’ll roast corn, eat burgers and brats, and do the things we always did on July 4th.

And we’ll laugh… and we’ll probably cry a bit… and we’ll remember.

Long ago,
Far away,
Life was clear,

Close your eyes….

Remember — is a place from long ago.
Remember — filled with everything you know.

Remember — when you’re sad and feeling down.
Remember — turn around.

Remember — life is just a memory.
Remember — close your eyes and you can see.

Remember — think of all that life can be.
Remember. …

Dream — love is only in a dream. Remember….
Remember — life is never as it seems. Dream….

Long ago,
Far away,
Life was clear,

Close your eyes….

Remember (Christmas)
Harry Nilsson