Today is special.
Today is "Papa Day".
Five years ago today, my dad-in-law -- a neat, fun inspiring man -- left this life. It sucked.
I remember him. Often.
And not just the last few weeks and months of his life -- those whirlwind, visceral memories of surprise phone calls and rushed road trips, of moves and the funeral and packing and selling that sometime threaten to take over all of the other memories.
I remember how Dad laughed, how easy-going he was, how patient he was in the middle of inconvenience, discomfort, and pain (we all found out after the fact that he was playing on the floor with the kids "with a horribly sore back" -- that it turned out was actually his spine cracked from the growth of a tumor).
I remember his sense of humor, the self-deprecating-but-not-insecure fun he had at his own expense.
I remember his generosity. That man would tip a waitress in need more than the cost of the meal. And not look back.
Later the day that dad passed, my then-seven-year-old daughter asked if we could remember the day, and celebrate it as "Poppa Day", with all of those good memories.
I promised her I would. And we do.
Tonight was about listening to fifties sock-hop music (could have been polka or Pavarotti, too), dancing around the open-windowed house like goofballs (because it doesn't matter what we look like or what people think of us), and eating horrible sugary baked treats like those he would buy the kids when he visited us.
Why do all of this stuff that could be called self-medicating, or superficial, or no longer needed?
Kind of like baskets and candy and trinkets at Easter or Christmas, this fun, light-hearted break from routine -- revolving around something more important -- gives all of us a chance to step back, laugh, tear up, be reflective, be goofy, and focus on an example and a legacy that's lasting and outside of ourselves.
At one point tonight, my youngest daughter (a toddler when we lost Dad) stopped eating her white-emblazoned chocolate cupcake, and just stared into space.
Thinking the sugar had won, I asked her what she was thinking about.
"I know Papa was a very good man," she said. And went back to eating her cupcake.
That's why we do Papa Day.