It’s been five years. I still remember what I was wearing, what I was doing when my phone rang. It was the Beaumont Police. A woman’s voice. “Is this Amye Wilson?” she asked. “Yes.” “I’m going to let you speak with Jim Fuller.”
He told me that Dad had passed away sometime during the night before. I don’t remember his exact words. I remember they were delivered with kindness, sorrow, urgency and empathy. I sat on the floor, where I’d fallen when he told me, for what seems like a long time after I hung up the phone. I tried hard to remember the last words I’d spoken to Dad. To recall the details of our last conversation. When was it, even? Last week? The week before?
Dad had a way with words. Eloquent and funny, resonant and poetic — he composed prayers, sermons, meditations that hung in the air like echoes from a chorus. He loved music and his words demonstrated that love. On this day of remembrance, as I pull out a folder of his writing, I know the pages are best read aloud. And so I find myself on the floor again, papers scattered around me, reading aloud, imagining it was his voice rather than my own.
Dad also loved — Star Trek. I have many memories which involve the “voyages of the star ship Enterprise.” We watched the Next Generation together, but Dad’s affinity for outer space adventures dates back to the original Captain Kirk. I can’t imagine that the writing was all that good back in 1966 when the show began, though I’m sure Dad would vehemently disagree. Wikipedia does mention the literary nature of the show several times. So, maybe it was the writing that appealed to Dad. Maybe. I know he enjoyed the imagination of the show, and the camaraderie it depicted. The brotherhood.
Dad cherished his “brotherhood.” But, if I may use a more current (non-gendered) phrase, he cherished his “framily” — Made up of all those he considered to be his brothers and sisters. In fact, the honorific he often used when addressing his friends was Brother or Sister. “Brother John, good to see you!” Usually followed by a bear hug. When I think of this, of his words of greeting, it makes me smile. A simple word, and suddenly you were family. I try to honor that in my own relationships. Admittedly I fall short, and occasionally so did he, but his words were authentic. If he called you Brother, you were. If he named you Sister, he meant it.
Memory is a funny thing. When I think of Dad, when I try to remember things he said to me; to recall his words, I cannot. I remember funny phrases he would use. Phrases like “Steady!” and “DYB DYB DYB!” (Do Your Best, pronounced DIB DIB DIB) I remember talking to him. We had great conversations. Deep thought-provoking conversations. But, I don’t remember our words. The specific words.
I wish I could remember more. I watch my daughter play. I cuddle with my son. I wish that they could hear Dad’s words. Words of encouragement. Words of celebration. Words of sympathy. Words of wisdom. Even words of admonishment, always delivered with love. I grieve for them, that they will not know him.
I suspect though, that even if I cannot remember his words, I know them quite well. They are innate. They are a quiet melody, always playing in the back of my mind. At least I hope so.
Five years ago Dad moved on to the next great adventure. I hope that it is somewhere beyond the stars. I hope that there is music there. And I hope that the words he left behind never ever leave me.