Tom Fisher's parents last saw him in July 1981, visiting him in Southern Maryland. Tom's field was helping the handicapped. He showed his folks where he had taught psychology in Charles County and where he had served as the director of the Calvert County Association for Retarded Citizens. Six months later he was dead at 33.

Wanting to nourish those memories, John and Jeannette Fisher retraced that trip last July.

They met his colleagues and learned of the Thomas Fisher award given by the retarded citizens association to workers who have done the most for the handicapped. They returned to the crab house where Tom had taken them for supper and found seats at the same table looking over the Chesapeake.

"I don't think we'll ever be the same," says Tom's younger sister, Carol Smith. "It has devastated my parents. They look 10 years older."

In March after Tom was buried next to his grandfather in LaGrange, Ind., the Fishers took a train east to collect their son's belongings. They stayed in the room Tom had rented on a farm in Clarksburg, Md., ran errands in his Datsun and listened to the cassette of country music he'd left in the tape player.

"I found the letters I had written him," says Jeannette Fisher. "I laughed and cried at the same time. In the laundry room there was a large container of Wisk detergent. When we visited him in July, I saw he was using powdered detergent. I said, 'Oh Tom, powdered detergents are hard on clothes.' I told him I'd been using Wisk for years. I was so impressed--he'd gone out and bought the Wisk. It wasn't just a small bottle. It was a mammoth jug. I took it back with his things."