Outdoors, the morning air warms steadily on a rare sunny day in Central Pennsylvania. Indoors, convalescent stuffiness lingers.
My parents stand embraced in an interior doorway of our redbrick bungalow at 323 Spruce St. in Phillipsburg, PA; their hold appears so desperate that if one were to let go, both would collapse to the floor.
Their arms wrap tightly around one another; together they appear as one. Dad's face rests heavily on Mom's shoulder. Leaning into her strength, he is pale, weak-kneed, and in tears.
Not quite 40 years old, Dad is recovering from a massive heart attack that nearly killed him a few months earlier.
"Sh-h-h," Mom quiets him.
In my nine years of life, I had not seen them like this before.
Aug. 6, 1972
Brian and I were married yesterday in Jamestown, NY. As we pull away from my parents' home to begin a long road trip to Iowa, we honk and wave goodbye.
Mom and Dad are in much the same embrace, holding onto one another; Dad is overcome with grief, while Mom consoles him.
Aug. 2, 2007
Over the years, I had always thought my father's rare displays of emotions represented his weakness, not his strength.
He passed away six months ago. As his birthday approaches on Aug. 4, I reflect on what made him strong. The son of Italian immigrants, he grew up in the Central Pennsylvania where coal mines, steel and lumber mills turned the economy.
He was a World War II veteran, father of six, lifelong businessman, and survivor of so many serious surgeries that we nicknamed him the "Bionic Man."
He had strong work ethic, even beyond age 80, and the ability to openly grieve in my mother's arms.
A resident of Southeast South Dakota for more than 30 years, Paula Damon is a popular columnist, keynote speaker, and freelance writer. Her columns have won first-place national and state awards in The Federation of Press Women competitions. Most recently, Damon's writing took second place statewide in the South Dakota Press Women 2007 Competition. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
� 2007 Paula Damon