After twenty-eight years of not laying eyes on him, why is it I am able to so vividly recall the details of my dad? This picture of him may be fuzzy, but not the one in my mind.
Is it ever not too early to lose someone? I expect that most of us would gamble our last cent to have just one more day with a loved one lost. February 7, 1987, I had no more one-more-days. This is the day my dad, Douglas Michael Summers, left this earth. It’s been twenty-eight years. He was forty-seven years old, and I wasn’t much more than a new adult.
Too early to not have anymore days to live?
My goodness, yes.
Too early to say goodbye to my dad?
No need to ask.
Twenty-eight years is a long time. A lot of life has been lived in those twenty-eight years. More moments have passed than I have memory for. Yet, today, as I drove out here to the library to write, endless memories rolled through my mind accompanied by an equal number of tears.
They both said it feels just like yesterday.
Just like yesterday, I see him.
Just like yesterday, I see his face.
I see his hands, and the large freckle along his knuckle line.
I see that tattoo of a leopard on his right arm, with the faded red claws that I worried could possible scratch me.
Just like yesterday, I see his shoulders, big and round with muscles.
I see his cut-off “trunks” that he used to wear doing yard work, the ones with all the little strings hanging from them that would drip water after he jumped in the pool for a quick swim.
I see his full lips curled in a half smile like Elvis.
Just like yesterday, I see his long toes.
Just like yesterday? After twenty-eight years? Really Terey?
Oh yes, can I ever.
Just like yesterday, I see his eyes, hazel green, and all the versions of them.
Happy eyes, laughing eyes, angry eyes that he packed around, like Mr. Potato head.
I saw more of his tired eyes that last year of his life. He was sick. We now know he had been sick much longer than his big, full-of-life laugh would tell. But his eyes said so. A strapping, still quite young, very handsome man had a tiring fight on his hands that came with the life altering news; his 10 year cancer free body had a return visitor.
It was a fight his body did not win. We lost him. He lost. We lost.
Goodness. I’m weeping in the library. Really Terey? After 28 years?
I was in second grade. My dad and I sat at the dining room table after dinner and tackled the States and Capitols memory homework. I say tackled, because that’s how my dad did things. Always. He tackled them. He was a star football player in high school… maybe that's why… he missed football?
I was a sharp little kid with a photographic memory, so it’s not like my dad had his work cut out for him. That being said, we worked on learning and memorizing the states and capitols for three nights. First he showed me the map of the United states so that I could become familiar with where the states were as I memorized their names. Then, he did something that I think I learned from him. He made up a story. Fifty stories. My dad told me his own little story about each capitol in relationship to its state. I will never forget the Capitol of North Dakota, nor the fact that Mark needed to mind his own business (Bismarck) and let Dakota live in the North as well. I could see Mark in my mind, giving Dakota a hard time because Dakota already lived in the South, and now he was wanting the North as well?
“Mind your own business, Mark!”
With my photographic memory I could also see in my minds eye the capitol’s name, Bismarck, with the little red dot next to it, pretty much south center of the state named North Dakota. I missed not one answer on my assignment at school. I remembered fifty stories and the name of fifty states and capitols. The pictures my brain took were just secondary.
My dad loved me. A lot. Over my lifetime there have been a handful of moments where I wasn’t so sure just exactly what he loved about me, but I do know I never doubted his love for me. And though there are some moments now I would love to hear him share what exactly he loved about me, I have some pretty good guesses. Guesses aside, my dad just really loved me. He loved me.
Love. That is what I remember. That is why I remember. That is what makes these tears roll down my cheeks. That is what makes his physical features so sharp in my mind after twenty-eight years. Love.
Could my photographic memory pull up those images today? I’m sure it would with some success. Just like my little, sharp, second grade mind may have been able to rely on this God-given brain that takes pictures. But as I see and understand now, I know it was really the love I felt from my dad that sealed the deal.
Not to leave out the love I have for him! I remember loving that he and I sat at the dining room table for three nights as father and daughter and tackled the States and Capitols. That exchange, that time of storytelling to a little girl who hung on every word, that act of love is the magic that truly brought those states and capitols so vividly into view for Terey Summers, Second Grade.
I see my dad today. I see him clear as a bell, twenty-eight years later. I see him because he loved me. Love cements. Love brings things into focus. Love seals the deal.
I miss my dad. I miss him so very much. I wish it were possible to gamble my last cent to win one more day with him. What I will always have, always feel, always remember and always see, is his love for me. Love is powerful. Love is potent. Love sticks with you. Love weaves itself into our fabric, the fabric of our very being.
The love of Doug Summers is with me today. More than memories. I’m so glad I have it.
Thank you for coming to Tereyland today. My feeling about Tereyland, in a nutshell, is that it’s a place for all kinds of things I just want to share. In the big picture of elevator spiel in length, I sincerely hope that through the varied collection of things I will come to share, you will in some way be entertained and informed, encouraged and inspired. The prompting for todays’ post undoubtedly is the anniversary of the passing of my dad. Yet, I know I am not alone in living and sharing a life where grief and loss have touched me. Twenty-eight years later, I still move through moments where I sense the need to let myself feel all the things the loss of my dad brings. And if in fact I am not alone, then it would be safe to assume there may be some of you who may need the encouragement to allow yourself some grieving you may desire yet to do.
There is so much to this beautiful gift of life. So much to enjoy, so much to experience, so much to live. I’ve heard it said that grief is a passage, rather than a place to stay. If you are struggling to move forward due to a loss in your life, I reach out to you in understanding, prayer and support. Unexpressed grief can definitely stop us in our tracks. If you care to pursue some support through reading, I couldn’t more highly recommend this resource I have found. I didn’t know of this book when I lost my father, but life can bring losses of all sorts and more than one. Along the line of my living, I encountered this great tool to help me move through and forward. The book is called The Grief Recovery Handbook. The link will lead you to a full website, should you choose to explore.
If life for you has been dim, I hope the sun shines soon for you.
Come visit Tereyland again. There’s all sorts of entertaining, informative, encouraging and inspirational stuff ahead to be shared. As for today, February 7, 2015 rolled around and called upon me to remember twenty-eight years later… Remember and share. So I did. And I will continue to. I hope you will as well.
Unbeknownst to me, a dear friend caught this picture of me at my dad’s gravesite two years ago. I think it's beautiful.