One of my final photo-memories is of Eugene and me sitting at the kitchen table, still eating after all the adults had jumped up and left. I sat staring at all the white mounds of mashed potatoes thinking about how they were going to get cold if everyone didn’t come back and eat them.
That day the mashed potatoes not only grew cold, they remained uneaten. I discovered the reason why almost thirty years later.
My mom and I were discussing Dad’s death. She commented that both of my Grossmommies and several aunts were at our house that day. Emma-Grossmommy was in the bedroom at Dad’s side and as he was taking his final breaths, she cried out and everyone jumped up from the dinner table and rushed in to his side.
I looked at my mom. “That’s why the mashed potatoes grew cold.” While my brother and I sat at the kitchen table finishing our dinner and watching those mounds of creamy white mashed potatoes growing cold, my dad’s body had begun growing cold in my parent’s bedroom.
Later, during that day of the cold mashed potatoes, I stood at the foot of the couch listening to the grown-up’s talk about asking Uncle Raymond to bring my cousin Rosella along down to our house to keep me company.
My Aunt Emma’s diary records that while the adults were waiting for my dad’s body to be embalmed and then returned to the house, I enquired. “Wes duh Dat es er dot ist? Does Dad know that he is dead?” When they replied in the negative, I asked, “Shouldn’t we tell him when he comes home?”
Several days later Dad’s coffin was placed just inside the parlor door. I see a memory snapshot of Grossmommy and some other adults holding Roland, who was eleven months old, up to the casket and urging him to touch Dad’s face. There is no movement and I hear no words. I see them there and I just know that that is what is happening.
In another snapshot the walls are lined with chairs and I sit in one of them with hundreds of people filing by. The only person I recall personally is one little boy, a distant cousin several years older than me. I remember standing outside the barn door once when he and his dad had came to my parent’s shop.
There is no emotion attached to any of these photo memories of my dad’s death. They are all still life prints. But as I write about them the tears come. The memory of being his baby girl is drowned in a sea of abandoned emptiness.
While I am writing my cell phone rings and the pictures fade. “I love you!” I answer as I dry my tears.
My husband, out of town on business is calling to wish me good night, “I love you,” he responds.
“I finally found the inspiration to write,” I told him.
“Oh, good!” He always sounds so excited when I have good news about my writing and storytelling. I feel warm and loved again.
When I had met my husband, Daniel, I wasn’t looking for a husbandly kind of love. I believed I needed to first heal from the feelings of abandonment I was struggling with due to losing my dad at such a young age. But I fell in love and God gave me a peace that Daniel was the right one for me. Even then, I was not expecting to gain any healing through my relationship with Daniel. I was expecting God to heal me. But God chose to extend his love and healing power through the love of my husband.
Culture shock, along with the pain of finally beginning to deal with a sense of loss as a young adult had led me to build walls around my emotions. It sometimes felt as if my heart were made of iron. My natural tendency toward introversion had led me to crawl inside of myself and God knew I needed that human connection. So he sent me Daniel, a gift of love from God.