Went up to Rome today to pick up a few items--a small chest of drawers, a mirror, a chair, a few family photos, a rustic wooden side-stand--and to see how the den looked now that Cole and Christy have painted it. It was remarkable how much the paint and the lighter carpet opened up the room; it feels more expansive and inviting now. Cole is already making plans to have the hardwood floors in the old part of the house refinished, and then to redo the kitchen tile to brighten up that room as well. I'm glad to see the work underway; the house needed some attention and activity to invigorate it, and that's just what's happening.
In cleaning up, I found a birthday card that began "to my granddaughter" along with a receipt from June of this year. Obviously Dad had bought the card to have it on hand for Jessica's birthday, which was yesterday; unfortunately, he wasn't able to present it to her in person, but I did leave it with Cole so that he could give Jess this final card from Dad. It was an emotional discovery; I realized that, even with all the difficulties Dad was having with Alzheimer's-related complications during the past year, he still made a point of checking that birthday listing he had thumbtacked to the bulletin board (it included his own birthday, which said a lot about Dad's awareness of his own diminished memory). Knowing that Jess had a birthday coming up sometime soon--Dad was having trouble remembering dates, and we had begun turning the pages on the calendar for him so he would be certain of the month--he had picked out a card that told her how much he loved her.
Our family didn't say "I love you" very frequently. Dad and Mom were reserved about expressing emotion to others; they were private people. That's why I was so profoundly moved when Dad said "I love you" on Father's Day after he and I talked and I told him how much he had influenced me and how much I loved him. I know those words did not come easy for him--not that he didn't love me or Kim or Jess or Cole or Susan, but he felt uncomfortable expressing those words. He preferred to show his love in actions rather than in words, but cards offered a way for him to share his feelings without feeling awkward. The cards he bought in recent years were no longer the joking cards he and Mom so frequently gave us in earlier times; instead, they were honest, sincere expressions of emotion that seemed to reflect his feelings so clearly that I'm sure he spent time reading through cards to find just the right one.
I know how intensely one can be touched by an emotional gesture like this that manages to transcend the death of a loved one. Mom died on December 15th, 2002; on December 25th, 2002, Dad gave me a scrapbook/photo album of my youth, along with a note from Mom written in early December in which she explained how she had assembled all this after seeing a post on an earlier blog in which I had remarked, "my past has run away from me," in response to the fact that so many landmarks from my past had been replaced (my high school, the first school where I taught, the stores where I bought my comics, Rome's first mall where Susan and I spent so much our idle time shopping and wandering idly...). Had Mom been alive when I received the gift, it would have meant a great deal to me; the fact that it was a sort of final statement that not even death could silence made it so much more meaningful, though.
Unfortunately, Dad never wrote anything on Jess's card; I'm he intended to later on, when the family got together to celebrate her birthday. Unfortunately, that opportunity never came--but the sentiment is still there, and the card still says so much...