This year would have made it sixty years (WOW!). So much those two newlyweds wanted and hoped for in the years to come. He was in sales – a career that would move them north to Washington – where she stopped her career and became a dutiful housewife. Being told they were not likely to have children, there was no worry.
By October a baby girl joined their happy home and soon after a boy and not so long after that, another girl – so much for modern medicine. By now they were living closer to David’s brother and sister-in-law and their children. And, living up to the American dream, they soon bought a home. Still all was blissful in the Merrill home.
Until David started growing ill, Amelia wasn’t sure what to make of it and all the doctor’s could say was that it was Hypertension – not much was known about the illness in 1961. Even so, life went on as usual. Then another bundle came into the mix – Ann – and by this time David was seeing the doctor once a month. There was a fear of kidney failure.
It wasn’t until Ann’s birthday in 1963, the day after, that he went into the hospital never to return. He died 10 days later. Malignant Hypertension – which caused both kidneys to shut down.
No, those two newlyweds had no idea when they married twelve years earlier just what they would be facing. And he had no idea what a black hole his death would create. But it is done, and there is no point in going over the ‘what ifs’.
As an adult, I spent a great deal of time looking at the positives of his death, the ‘legacy’ – if you will – that his death gave us. After all, we learned what most never learn until too late, that life is to be cherished and that people don’t live forever. We must cherish those times and cherish each other.
However, the events of this past weekend made me realize just what that hole his leaving us truly did create. Of us four, the oldest was eleven, our brother only nine, Elizabeth only six and myself, only a year. I don’t remember any of it, but make no mistake there was a hole; however that’s not the topic of this. Kim, the oldest in our clan, was placed in the role of care-giver and housemaid – she was my nanny if you will.
Our brother was placed as ‘head of house’ and mother’s confidant. A title no boy of nine should ever have to play for he should have been able to be a child and to have had the ability to be taught to be a man – once the time came that is. My brother is the one I am concerned with most for he was never given that chance. Everyone doted on him, he couldn’t handle conflict well at all. God help him if somebody didn’t like him – it would haunt him for days, torture him. There is something eating at him and I can’t place my finger on it. But the hole created by our father’s death made quite an effect on him – no doubt.
Elizabeth, on the other hand, got the happy gene. But ‘happy gene’ or no, she too couldn’t escape unscathed. She never married and confessed at one time that it was because she was never able to find anyone resembling our father – the type of man he truly was. Now, to understand, our father died at an age where she was like all little girls – they wanted to marry their fathers. No other man on earth would even remotely be better than or could ever compare to that of their daddy. And just as she was getting through this phase, he was yanked out. She was never even able to get through that phase of her life naturally; and to make matters worse, she was never truly ever able to mourn.
And all these children – all of them – were never able to talk about their feelings; our mother simply couldn’t take it. It would be as though it never happened; life was to go on as usual.
Of what I’ve been told, our father was a man who was loved by all. Everyone – adults and children alike – wanted him around. He could tell a great tale and did a great impersonation of Jackie Gleason. He was the joy and light of everyone’s heart. And within those hearts a hole was left upon his death.
I write this to all parents who believe, as my mother did, that children are somehow so resilient that they can live through anything. And, in most cases this is true. BUT, whatever the case, children need to be heard and must be able to discuss and talk about whatever trauma has happened to them. The old adage that Children are to be Seen and Not Heard is of the past. They are to be heard for they do have a great many things to say, and a great many fears.
But we are talking about the new year and what the new year can bring. Today, for the most part, we are all leading successful lives and have a part of both our parents within us. Our father was a great debater, something for which each of us hold – I especially as I crave a good debate. Our mother had much creativity, but more importantly she taught us to critically think and it is through her we learned the power of logic.
I myself have just started to find my ‘voice’ and hope to continue through writing and in song. The concerns for my family will continue and I know that they each will find their way. 2012 will be a wonderful year for I see prosperity, health and joy. May you find it as well.