My father died last February. He could have died many times due to chronic heart difficulties. I had imagined that he could die many times, I think, in an attempt to prepare myself for the eventual and inevitable. However, he did not die of heart problems as it turned out but rather a rampant, stubborn infection which led to kidney and liver failure. He lived much longer than the doctors predicted, though, allowing us a little more time for goodbyes and saying last things, expression of love and endearments.
I could write a book about him, my mom, and the life they built for us children. What kid couldn't? But, it is always late when I think of him, most often at day's end when I begin reflecting. For now, I will just say that every holiday since February 24, 2010, has been bittersweet, even this evening, Sunday, the eve before the opening of buck season.
In Pennsylvania, the day rivals Christmas, and in my house growing up, there were three major days of the year: Christmas, half-price ride day at the Cambridge Springs Fireman's Festival, and the first day of deer season. My mother would man the telephone, collecting the reports of success and passing them onto the rest of the family. For my brothers, in fact, the only thing about Christmas that could rival the thrill of the first day of buck, was the prospect that Christmas would bring a new gun or some kind of hunting gear.
My husband and boys all hunt, except for the son who now lives in Florida, but it's still a big deal as the uncles and cousins plot and plan.
As my dad aged, he ceased going into the woods. Blood thinning medications caused him to get cold quicker and the arthritic joints protested the bumpy frozen mud and brush of the fields and woods.
But, I will think of him in the next 24 hours, remembering his love of the hunt, the outdoors, the time spent with those he loved, and the scavenging of limbs and trees available for firewood all winter.
I hope the guys remember to call Mom with their reports of deer kills.