I recently saw the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (a fabulous movie). When I left I was struck that it has been over 20 years since I heard my Mom’s voice and has been 9 years since I heard my Father’s voice. Not just that I haven’t seen them in so long but to not hear their voices in so long seemed in some ways even bigger.
In 2003, when I last saw my Dad in NJ, it was to visit him in the hospital again… my big, strong Dad was not capable of walking, feeding himself…cancer had rapidly metastasized from his lung to his brain and what was originally projected as potentially 3 more years or so was ‘not much longer.’ I sat with him as long as I could and finally said “Dad, I have to go now but we will be back in 10 days so I will see you then. I love you.” He said to me, “no you won’t… I won’t be here.” I hoped that he was wrong but somehow knew he might be right. He was done. This was not a way of life for him. Selfishly, I didn’t want it to be so. I had already lost my Mom years before and could not imagine being parentless. My then 1-year-old son was with me visiting and I hated that he would not know either of his Grandparents and that the relatively few pictures we had of my Dad and him would be all he would ever know of having any Grandparent.
A few days after I saw my Dad and just before I was getting back on a plane from LA to NJ with my son, my Dad was moved by my brother from the hospital to a rehabilitation facility. Not that it was expected that he would rehabilitate but because there was nothing more the hospital could do. I spoke to my Dad that night… he mostly listened as his speech had become strained by everything. Again, I said, “I will be there in a couple of days Dad… I love you.” Again, he responded, “I won’t be here… I love you too… take care of Cole.”
The next day I was with my son in the park when the phone rang. It was my sister-in-law calling to tell me my Dad was gone. I let out a scream. Death is so final. The tears that are streaming down my face now are as fresh as that day.
Over the years I have continually tried to paint a picture for my son of his Grandparents. When he was younger we would say ‘goodnight to Grandma and Grandpa in heaven who we hoped were watching us.’ I tell him many stories, show him many photos. I tell him when I am acting just like my Mom or Dad as his Mom now. I tell him that my parents would be absolutely crazy, in-love with him. With his recent love of robotics and engineering, I was reminded that my Dad studied electrical engineering and compared that kind of brain shared by the two of them.
I am thrilled when it means something to my son. When he remembers the stories. That he knows them by their photos and that I overhear him share some of the things he knows with his friends when they visit us and see their pictures on the walls.
Today Dad, I know you would be so proud to see your Grandson in the Los Angeles Times, to hear about his efforts to teach himself Flash animation, to have seen him recently at your other grandson’s wedding growing up quickly yet still an amazing, cuddly boy, to hear about his summer plans, his origami bookmarks, his favorite movies and so much more. I wish that you were here to experience it all but I promise to continue to keep you alive through stories, memories and love.
Jeannine Chanin-Penn… xoj9 | event curator | smart & beautiful events… My son, my husband, lobster & the color purple make me happy…