I have imagined my father many ways in the 23 years since he died. I have seen him sitting in a high school football stadium or gymnasium cheering on his sport-playing grandsons. I have watched him pouring over Google like he did the World Book Encyclopedia collection back in the day. I have pictured him celebrating births, graduations, weddings, and jobs...all brought to him by four busy daughters and their families. I have wistfully allowed myself to conjure up an image of him holding my mother's hand in a hospital room, a church pew, on the back porch...
I have imagined him delighted and devastated, angry and elated, proud and pensive.
What I cannot imagine is my dad at 82.
Today is the 82nd anniversary of my father's birth. He died at 58...handsome, vibrant, essential...and now, frozen in time. Last year, on this day, I officially surpassed - in actual days lived on the planet - the age of my father. Today, I have breathed the Earth's air one year and one day longer than he ever had a chance to. That's weird.
My beautiful mother, who thankfully did make it to 82 in July, does not like to be reminded of this day. She has not remarried, and will tell you she is forever wed to my father, even though death did decidedly part them in 1990. She will also tell you she is still a bit angry with the guy who checked out early, left a beautiful corpse (her words), and abandoned her to age alone. Who can blame the woman?
The family has agreed, in many conversations over the years, that there are worse things than death. My father would have been miserable attached to an oxygen tank, for instance. He did not love pills or visits to doctors. He would certainly have resisted (and likely ignored) any restrictions from his favorite things...like 36 holes of golf on a Saturday followed by hot dogs and peanuts at an Astros game. It is easy to imagine him being a tad grouchy if oxygen and pills and doctors and restrictions had been his life for the last 23 years.
But oh how I love trying to think about him being old and stubborn and cantankerous...or old and easy and completely satisfied with life. The tricky part is old.
Malcolm Cook was lovely in almost every way. Strong, supportive, generous, fun-loving, life-embracing...
And, sadly, forever 58.
Happy Birthday Dad...I wish we'd known you now.