In many ways, it’s hard to believe that a full year has passed since my father-in-law Marty Kelly took his last breath.
The events starting that Friday, when Dunreith called me as Aidan and I were taking a cab on the way to the airport to let me know of her father’s death, and continuing with Mom being released from the hospital, Dunreith getting into a serious car accident, our niece Lucy being born, and Marty’s memorial service, all feel so vivid that they are difficult to reconcile with the knowledge that indeed a year has come and gone since then.
Marty treated me with generosity and kindness throughout the dozen years I was privileged to know him, and for the nine-and-a-half years I was honored to be his son-in-law.
He loved Dunreith and Aidan with a simple and unapologetic ferocity that told them they were Kellys and that that meant a lot.
He lived for his passions-family, friends and golf-and touched many people’s lives.
One of my more vivid memories of being in the reception line at the memorial service was the unending stream of people, many of whom I had never met, who came up, shook my hand and said things like, “He was really one of the great ones.”
“A fixture at the club.”
“They don’t make them like him anymore.”
They were right.
In my head, I know that a lot has occurred since last March.
In May, after much difficulty, Mom got a pacemaker installed, and, in December, she had a hip replacement.
In July my stepmother Diane Lowenstein died.
In August, Aidan got his driver’s license. In January, he turned 18 and gained admission into three fine universities.
In just over two short months, he will graduate from high school.
In November, I went to Italy as a participant in the Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma after being named the vice president of the Dart Society.
In January, I was elected to serve as president after the person in that position resigned.
And, two weeks ago, I started working for Hoy, the Chicago Tribune’s Spanish-language newspaper.
Yet, as I get older, the factual reconstruction and listing of these events does not make the event feel any more distant. Rather, I have come to understand, in a way that I did and perhaps could not while I was a sophomore at Stanford, what Marcel Proust was describing when he wrote about the flood of memories that were triggered by his eating a madeleine.
I was not there during the last days of Marty’s life, and, in some ways, it saddens me that I did not get to say goodbye to him in person.
But I do know that he lives close within me, springing up when I start to speed read in Spanish. Or when I think about telling him of my plans last year to run the Marathon in his honor and could feel his gratitude, even as his language faltered.
Or when I picture him sitting in his chair in the living room of the Wilbraham home he and Helen shared, one long leg crossed over the other, a glass of Dewar’s in his right hand, eyes glinting with satisfaction and love as he looked at the family he had helped create.
I miss him, and I’m grateful for, and enriched by, the times we had together.