A Memory for My Birthday Present

It hasn’t been quite a week since my father-in-law passed on to heaven. He was James Patterson Cremer, but with family he was Jim, Dad or Papa. With each passing of family and friends, it brings out a different part of me. When Dad left us last week, I was completely lost for emotions. It frighten me, but I was going to be patient with myself and let things come to me as it needed to. Over the years, I learned that you shouldn’t rush grieving, it isn’t a healthy thing to do.

So, while visiting with my mother-in-law, last night, Mom gave me a birthday present. I didn’t expect anything from her with everything going on over the past few days. After dinner, I got a card and framed picture from her and Dad. The picture is of an angel that we saw in the Vatican museum when they visited us in Europe 26 years ago. Doug was studying in Munich for his doctorate and his parents came to visit us for 10 days.

She bought the print as a souvenir and it hung in their living room for many years. I didn’t expect that when I asked Mom for the picture three years ago, I would get it when Dad passed away. The practice in the family is to call “dibs’ or put a post-it-note on something you want after a person has passed on. So, when items are divided among family members, it’s understood that the item has been claimed by someone. I expected to get the picture after Mom passed away, but not when Dad left us.

This picture is symbolic of many memories that happened during that trip. It was the trip that fostered a relationship with my in-laws. I may have called him “Dad” but he was intimidating, not a warm and fuzzy person. Doug and I were the unconventional marriage; mixed race, not having babies right away, and going to graduate school. So, those aspects added to the distance that I felt with him. This trip gave us an opportunity to understand each other a little better.

Over the years, the conversations changed and shifted depending on the family dynamics. We had a shared interest in gardening. Dad introduced me to his love of 60’s folk music and classical opera. Yes, Dad was more than what he appeared to be. He was quiet in the way he loved. You can’t underestimate a husband’s kiss, the impact of a father’s words, or the charm of a grandfather.


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