I never realized until recently how much we count on making memories with the people we care about. Quite often lately, especially when I was at my parents' house, I have found myself planning things I'm going to do with my dad. I make a mental list of topics to discuss with him, or funny stories to tell him. I'm realizing that this is something I've done for years, but never noticed myself doing when I "had an outlet."
I didn't experience this when any of my grandparents died, and I think I've figured out why. (Which, by the way, Dad would probably have found a fascinating topic!)
Here's my theory:
My grandparents were all in the process of "old-age deterioration". We all knew it was only a matter of time for all of them, and without realizing it, began to "power down" the part of our brains that plans memory-making with the other person. Dad, on the other hand, was still going strong. At 71, he wasn't even on any of the standard "old people meds"! (cholesterol, blood pressure, arthritis, etc.) I didn't have time to break myself of the memory-planning habit. So, I've got a list of questions to ask Dad—about the house, about caring for Mom, about where an object is, or why it is where it is! And I've got a whole volume of topics for us to discuss "when he gets back"!
Now, I know that death is the permanent end to life on this earth. It's just that the sudden halt of the opportunity to talk with my dad has made the whole experience kind of surreal. The bad thing about it is that I have ongoing reminders of what I've lost. The good thing about it is the fact that I have a real sense of Dad being "just there"—of Heaven being a real place, just out of sight and out of reach, just beyond an invisible wall.
This whole experience is one I would have talked about with my dad.... And I know one day I will! Of course, by then we'll both know the event from the other side of the equation. So, for now I'll just say what I always said when we talked on the phone. "Bye, Dad! Love you! Talk to you later!"