On Monday, which happened to be a day in early March that reached 60 degrees, Ben and I were driving home from speech therapy when he noted, “it’s too bad your dad can’t see this nice weather.” It was so beautiful. So out-of-nowhere. We hadn’t been talking about my dad or his absence recently. It really took me by surprise. One minute this kid sounds like much younger child, with his haulted style of speech and mis-articulation of sounds. And another he’s remembering my dad, who he only met one weekend (April, 2010, at three years old) on a visit to Vancouver, WA after we learned he had multiple myeloma and not much longer to live.
I told Ben how much I appreciated that he thought of my dad, and that it was a good time to think of him because the anniversary of his death was this week. Yesterday, March 18, marks two years since my dad, Lee Marshall Kirkpatrick, died.
Perhaps from Ben’s comment, or because I’ve been meaning to take the trek for a long time, or because the anniversary aligning with no other plans for therapy or playdates or otherwise..I decided that Kelsey and I would take the long, hour plus drive to the cemetery in Parkville, MD where my dad’s ashes lay. I was worried about an hour there, and an hour back and how Kelsey would tolerate that much car time. She was awesome. She really does love the car, so her mood and cooperation were good. The snacks, two drinks and endless toys I brought along probably didn’t hurt either.
On the way there, I had time to think about my dad, my grandmother (his mother and one of my favorite people I’ve ever known), and all the memories I have from them. After my dad died, his nephew and best man in his wedding, went to Washington to clean out his apartment for me. I was 9 months pregnant with Kelsey at the time and a cross-country trip didn’t seem like the best idea. My Uncle Bob sifted through my dad’s belongings and packed a suitcase full of memorabilia for me to keep. While he brought it back immediately, for some reason it took me 2 years to go through. Some might say we’ve been “busy” but I’m not really sure why it took so long. I’d say laziness (or other things on my mind) were more to blame than busy-ness. Whatever the reason, after our long drive to see my dad’s grave and stone marker, I decided to go through the suitcase of his life.
I’m so glad I did. I found photos, certificates, diplomas, dog tags and Air Force medals, and my grandmother’s Facebook-like journal of family happnenings, births, deaths and job promotions. I found out that my great, great grandfather fought in the Civil War for the North, that my great grandfather was killed by the milk truck he was driving, and that my great grandmother lived about as long as my grandmother did…into her early nineties. I confirmed that Kelsey looks more like me than Dave as a baby (becoming a heated debate!) and that my dad loved me and my family very much…even though he didn’t share that as much as I would have liked after he and my mom divorced.
My dad saved every card I ever sent…every picture my mom or I ever sent…every graduation, wedding and birth announcement…even though he didn’t always respond to them. I’m so glad he got to meet Ben, but I so wish he was able to share more of my life with me. I’m so thankful to have all his memories packed in that suitcase.