24 years ago yesterday, a terrible spring storm rolled through Wisconsin, complete with ominous claps of thunder, bolts of lightning, and strong winds.
That morning, my mom, my grandma who was visiting from Virginia, brother, and I went to church. It was Mother's Day, 1988. We had bought mom flowers and drew homemade cards with smiling suns and big hearts in pink crayon. Anything to make her smile.
Later that afternoon, the clouds darkened and the winds grew intense. I was sitting downstairs in the ever-darkening play room when my grandma yelled, "Trish, your mom wants you to go outside and grab the hanging basket off the mailbox!"
I begrudgingly put on my shoes and did as I was told. I dawdled down the driveway as only a 10 year old could do, dodging worms and hopping over cracks, not really paying attention to the world around me. I was wrapped up in one singular, powerful emotion. Fear.
I knew it then. I just didn't know how I knew it.
The day went on. I brought the basket in. My mom got home late--I imagine my brother and I were already in bed. One more day over, just like all the others.
12:30am: Monday May 9, 1988.
The phone rang, pulling me out of my sleep. I figured it was a wrong number, but then my mom screamed. Not a scream of fear, but more like a loud, guttural moaning that drove the fear right back into my heart.
Over and over. I knew. Again, I knew.
I somehow went to bed and woke up on time for school the next day. Mom and grandma said I didn't have to go, but I didn't know what else to do. On my way to the bus stop, I re-hung basket on the mailbox. I looked up and saw a beautiful rainbow fighting against the clouds, gathering strength from the sun's rays. The rainbow gave me hope. I figured God put it there for my dad.
I tried to keep it together on the bus ride. My brother didn't go to school--in hindsight, I can't figure out why I felt like I would be the tough one. I walked into 5th grade terrified someone would know my secret. That my classmates would see me as "different."
The school counselor soon came for me and asked where I wanted to go.
"The library," I said. It was the safest place I could think of, surrounded by characters who would never know my truth but who could understand my fear. How does a 10-year old girl wrap her head around cancer? Around death? Around the truth that she would never see her father again?
The doctors told my mom they believed my dad fought throughout the evening so he wouldn't pass on Mother's Day. I agree. Unfortunately, every Mother's Day since then has been different. It's like Mother's Day* in my house, where the * is the awful reminder of what happened in 1988. It's getting better though. My mom rebounds faster from her blues and I can do things like type this story out without crumbling into a sobbing mess.
So Dad, this one's for you. I have faith that I'm not walking alone.
I remember you.
I could never forget you.
I just wish you were still here.