34 years

Take a trip back. November 1, 1979. If you are old enough, think about your life then. My life then is burned into my memory. There may be lots in the years in between then and now that are blurred, foggy, indistinct – but that night is forever ingrained in my brain, and etched on my heart.

My dad worked all day that day – so did my mom. They worked together at Weber’s Coffee Service. But that was to be mom’s last day at work. Her arthritis in her thumbs was getting bad, and they decided it was time. Normal Thursday, really. Not a whole lot going on. Me, in my junior year of high school, in Chamber Singers, as well as in the choir at the First United Methodist Church. Choir practice was on Thursday nights, and it was important to me. I was to sing my first solo on Thanksgiving Sunday that year (that wasn’t in school choir), and I had picked a song called “Thanksgiving”. Or should I say my dad picked it.

I was daddy’s girl. From moment one. His only biological child, after being told that would be a miracle. Yep – that’s me, one little miracle. Two months early, 5 pounds, born on the 49th birthday of the man who was my world. Don’t get me wrong, Mom was there. But it was always Daddy. First thing in the morning, him in his recliner, I’d crawl up next to him – long after I was way too big. The one who got to go on service calls with him. All I had to do was say something looked cool, or interesting, or I wouldn’t mind having that – and it appeared. I was the one thing he had always wanted, the one thing he had been told he would never have – yet here I was. Quite a 49th birthday present. For the next 15 years, 10 months and 4 days – Daddy’s girl.

Then November 1, 1979. Daddy dropped me off at choir – I expected him back to get me in 2 hours. Not that night. 45 minutes into rehearsal, our apartment manager came in. Things get a little foggy here – next thing I remember is walking into the double doors of the emergency room to hear my mother’s scream. NO! That one word said it all. I went on auto pilot from there. It was over. I would always be Daddy’s girl – but from now on I would be alone. His memory would forever be with me – but never again would he take me anywhere. Never again would he be. My father, Alan McLaurin Shipley, had died.

I made it through the funeral. I slogged my way through, and I did my solo Thanksgiving Sunday – the song he picked for me. I don’t remember it. It took me a long time to get the music back, after he died. I just realized recently that I sang for him. It didn’t mean as much without those blue eyes twinkling at me – usually from the second row.

Lots of things happened in the time that followed, and he wasn’t there. No, wait, yes he was. He is. He sits with me right now – 34 years after his death. He is with me every single second of every single day, and will be as long as I live. But today – the 34th anniversary of his death – I need to look at all I have done, with just his memory to guide me.

I have had 3 children. Both of my boys carry the middle name Alan in his honor. My oldest son, whom I had as a single mom, on my own, carries his last name. Both of my boys carry his red hair (which I never saw, as it was totally gray before I was born). My youngest son stands like him – and in profile the resemblance is uncanny. I got married, almost 5 years after he died. I tried to make my mom happy, but instead I did what I had to do, and let her make her own way. She did that, joining him just 5 and a half years later, in June, 1985. He did not live to see the election of Ronald Reagan, whom he liked. He never had a personal computer – which he would have LOVED, and would have had to have had the newest one as it came out (he was fascinated by new electronics). He never had a cell phone – and he would have loved that too. He never saw a CD. But the day he would have loved was just 2 short days ago – his hometown Red Sox winning the World Series at home, which they last did a couple of months before his 4th birthday.

So this is for you, Daddy. I hope I have made you proud over the years. I’m already laying little plans together for December 27, 2014 – my 51st birthday, but more importantly your 100th. I will do my level best to have a drink of Old Granddad for you on that day, in remembrance of all the birthdays you celebrated with me (Daddy only drank Old Granddad on his birthday). It’s hard to believe you have been gone over twice as long as you were here with me, and while I miss you – I know you are here. You always will be.


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