Night Sky of My Father

Words by Sloane Citron

It’s the anniversary of my father’s death. I acknowledge it each year by lighting a yahrzeit candle and by saying some specific prayers. Yet, I think of my father every day. I make a point of it, really. Enough time has passed so that he is not in my subconscious every day, and if I neglected to take the time, I am sure that days would pass without my recalling him. So I make a point of it, like practicing an instrument regularly so as not to lose the feel for it.

Both of my parents have died, so that makes me an orphan of sorts, and like for any orphan, especially those in movies, the loss of my parents plays heavily on my present. And though I enjoyed the lives of my parents for a good long time, there is no changing the effect of that kind of loss whenever it hits you in life.

If nature holds course, and God is good to us, we lose our parents before they lose us. I can imagine nothing more difficult, nothing sadder than when a parent loses a child. So I’m glad that my parents have left the earth and that my sister, brother, and I remain.

Every evening before I go to bed, I walk outside to search the dark skies for a heavenly body, whether a star, a planet, or the moon. Staring up into the deep night sky I feel as though I am seeing into the infinity of life, the star dust from whence we come and one day return. Focusing on one celestial object brings me a sense of permanence, so that eternity and certainty are imposed upon me. Looking skyward and seeing that object in the sky—that object that has been there before me and will be there after me—I take a moment to think of my parents. I take a moment and think of a time we have shared or a moment together. I try to dig back deep into my existence, but sometimes, honestly, I can only think of the last few times that we shared before they died. And that bothers me. Why can’t I remember all those years of being together?

I want to remember the times when I first had my children and shared that joy with them. I want to remember when I was eight years old and they were there for me. But sometimes all I can think of is when I was 11 years old and they weren’t there for me. It was a horrible time—my parents divorcing, my mother moving away, my father marrying a woman I detested. And yet, they were my parents. And in time you come to understand exactly what that means. Parents. You get one set and their imprint on you is greater than anything in life.

Contrary studies aside, I believe that no two people have a stronger, more profound, everlasting imprint on your life than your parents. It’s just the way that we are configured and nothing in changing society norms can alter that fact. Like the lottery of life, for good or for bad, we have our parents and our DNA craves acknowledgement and love from them.

And so I return to my father, the very flawed Ralph Citron. My poor father. His mother died when he was a child in Berlin and he was subjected to Nazi barbarism before escaping. He was a quiet man with a temper and it wasn’t until he was in his seventies that he told me he loved me. But he really didn’t have to utter the words. I knew it from his actions, and I knew that I was lucky to have him despite his iniquities.

As I look up into the black night sky for support on this anniversary of my father’s death, finding the planet Mars to latch onto, I stare at this twinkling body in the darkness of night and think especially long and hard of him. He was my father. We had our times together, both good and bad. But they were ours alone, and I am lucky for them. He was my father. And when I am lost in the infinity of time and space, I think of him there, a part of the universe always, and a part of my life forever, with great love and a tear in my eye.