Dear bread pals,
Two years ago we were with my father, Kevin Charles Halloran as he was dying. Last week I thought this year would be nothing. We've already been through the echo year, so this would be easy.
But Monday morning, I felt like a bucket of hot coals was burning my belly, and realized the replay would be just as intense. Luckily, my body took over for most of my feelings. I got a bad cold, the kind that demands the sofa, and I've been reading and resting, remembering what happened at several intervals. The last time he talked to me, in a Facetime with my youngest boy Felix. He was at the hospital. We couldn't figure out what he was trying to say, but Felix plugged the iPad into the speakers and deciphered the booming sounds: I love you. "I love you too, Grandpa," he said, and that must have been it, because he relaxed, and read him some Huck Finn. That was Tuesday.
On Thursday, in 2020, we were ever so lucky, and got him home. We pretended Covid didn’t exist and gathered as we hadn’t all year, my three siblings and our families & our mom. The family room, which he’d built, was where he was, near the wall of windows that faced the sunset, under the beams he’d wrapped — at my mom’s wishes — with bittersweet and Christmas lights that never came down.
The room, like all in my parents’ house, was inviting. My mother is an artist and each space she makes is full of places to pause and be: a small abstract painting of woods, a Royal Smart Person — a soft sculpture portrait of everyone/no one, a face graced with a peacock feather.
In the family room, part of the former back porch of the house was preserved, and Mom decorated the posts with paint and wallpaper. Somehow, the former roof made a shelf, and forever it held a row of my dad’s toys, a pressboard castle with red turrets, a flatbed truck with a 1940s looking hood, a rusty toy tractor, its front tires replaced decades before with hand cut wooden wheels. These parts of his youth watched us as we watched him.
We sat alone with him, and said what we said. All of us adored him, our Kind and Wonderful Father, Dad, Daddy, Grandpa, Pampa, Kevie, Kevin. I had extra chances to talk to him because I slept in a nest of comforters on the floor. I kept telling him where he was, describing what was around us, the temperature outside, where everyone was sleeping.
Pegeen, Amy, Elissa, Nate. That’s the kids. Eve Francesca Sweeney Halloran. That’s the mom, our Mom. In pairs and sets, we kept him company, sang songs and read poems. We had three full days of vigil, an extension of our growing up together that we never imagined. As we became adults, we knew we’d have holidays and birthdays, but this was a part of the pattern we didn’t predict.
Next year, I’ll give myself room to be in the echo week. I won’t let it surprise me with a serious cold. I feel like I should have a food to memorialize this time, but the food was incidental. Maybe I don’t need to live all of my life in the kitchen. Just most of it.
So my mind aims for holiday baking. Cookies, of course, and I’ll be making borscht & pampushky for a friend’s Hanukah, and pampushky & cinnamon buns for Christmas morning at my sister’s. Anyone have a miso cinnamon roll recipe they love?
Amy, this is beautifully written. You can have a vigil every year if you desire to.
Be prepared so you don’t get sick.
What a lovely good bye.