11 Years

The last picture I have of my Dad and I was taken in May of 2002. I was a senior in high school and was wearing all black and stage make up to perform in my high school musical. I had the leading role and would be going to college on a voice scholarship in the fall.

My Dad wore a red t-shirt tucked into his blue jeans and a belt; his signature style. 

We have our arms around each other and big smiles. 

Then, at 7:20 in the morning on October 5th, 2002, he would pass away.

I kept that picture in a small frame with pink metal flowers for a long time. With me in my college dorm room after I dropped out and returned, changing my major. With me in my first apartment and the first home my husband and I had together.

And somewhere along the way, with moves and with time, the little frame with the metal flowers and the picture of my Dad and I got packed in a box. Packed away as more of a memory than an item to be unpacked and displayed.

A lot changes in eleven years. Graduations, marriages, jobs, babies, moves.

Eleven years feels like a long time. It is a long time. Its an amount of time that allows a lot of things to change.

And people say that time heals all wounds.

I thought eleven years would be a long time.

But today, on the eleventh anniversary of my Dad passing away, I found myself in tears. Sobbing, hysterical tears. Not able to get out of the bed tears. Or talk to my son without crying tears.

I didn’t think eleven years would have felt like that. So I decided to have a regular day. I had 8 hours worth of rehearsal today. And I went to them, just like I was supposed to. And I made a spectical of myself and cried the ugly cry and had to explain that even eleven years later, the passing of my Dad felt as if it had just happened.

How even eleven years later, the wound was fresh and I could remember the details of the entire day. Like the hole in my heart had just been created.

The first few anniversaries of his death I gave myself permission not to do anything. I would skip class and spend the day crying in bed. Perhaps not functional, but it was my own version of therapy and it allowed me to avoid the inevitable embarrassment of public crying.

The anniversary in 2006 was the first one that I actually went about as a normal day. I was teaching in England, and I got up and taught. And the day was actually good.

There have been other anniversaries like that. Where it wasn’t so heart wrenching; it just WAS. I dreaded last year’s the most; the tenth anniversary seemed like such a milestone and a significant time period. My mom, brother, sister and I wanted to commemorate that occasion so we went on a weekend get away, just the four of us. It was a lovely weekend and the perfect way to celebrate and remember.

This year didn’t feel so significant. Eleven isn’t even a significant number. I had rehearsals and regular life on the calendar.

And yet, as it tends to happen with grief, this anniversary took me by surprise and left me inconsolable well into the afternoon.

The people who came to tell me it would be ok at the church rehearsal were older ladies who would say, “I lost my Dad a couple of years ago. I know what you’re going through.”

And I appreciate it. I do.

I can’t imagine that losing a partner would be easy at any point in life.

But we all know that this happens. We know that we grow older and pass away. We know that as we age our parents age, too. We must expect that at some point, in their old age, our parents will pass.

I feel like it’s entirely different losing a parent when you are young. They didn’t get to live their entire lives. They didn’t get to do everything in their careers, or travel everywhere they wanted, or become a grandparent. They didn’t get to be there for all of the things in yours. They missed your graduations, your wedding, and your baby.

I don’t think you know what that’s like unless you’ve experienced it. To have your heart entirely broken and then pieced back together again, every so slowly, and then every once in a while it loses one of the pieces all over again and you feel that you are starting over.

Starting back at the beginning of the most vulnerable time when you lost a part of yourself.

The truth is, I hate this day.

I hate the way that it always makes me remember losing him. I remember the good parts and the bad parts and our family and who he was as a father and a husband. But I remember those parts everyday. Those are the parts I can tell to my son when something makes me think of my Dad, or when I look into my son’s eyes, because I am lucky enough to have a child with my Dad’s eyes.

I hate that it makes me ponder all of the things that could have been different; SHOULD have been different if he were still here.

I hate that this day makes me remember the details of the day we lost him. The sting of that realization, the exact moment when you are told that your whole life is forever changed.

And I hate that I will never know, for the rest of my life, what days it will strike like this. What days the grief will become so overwhelming that you just can’t plaster on your usual smile and get through your day. That being comforted by someone who says “It’s ok” and “I know what you’re going through” seem meaningless because you are absolutely certain that no one knows exactly the extent of your pain or your loss.

Time doesn’t heal all wounds. It lessens them, perhaps. I’m not grief stricken every day. It’s not as intense as it was at first, or as paralyzingly hard as the very first anniversary.

But when the grief comes washing over you, it unavoidably takes you back to that first place. The first time that you felt yourself break.

And sometimes there’s nothing you can do but to live there until it passes.

I can’t believe it’s been eleven years. I miss you every day, Dad. I love you.

My Dad 2002

My Dad 2002

 

 

 

Why Father’s Day Annoys Me

“Happy Father’s Day to the best Dad in the world!”

“I have the best husband and father a girl could ask for!”

“Happy Father’s Day to my amazing husband and my very own amazing Dad!”

“I have the best Dad in the world I just don’t know what I would do without him!”

My enthusiasm for my daily Facebook browsing quickly weaned as I read status after status of Father’s Day wishes.

It seemed like all of the women my age in my feed changed their profile picture to one of  them with their Dad on their wedding day. Why is that thing?

Some people posted about thinking of those that are missing fathers that are no longer with us. A sweet tribute, but it felt empty. When you lose someone, you don’t need to be reminded of how much you miss them on a specific day. The truth is, you miss them every moment, every day. A random day in June neither amplifies nor diminishes that reality.

I found my self becoming increasingly more agitated and exited from the social media world for the day. As much as I wished we had a nice Father’s Day planned for our own little family, my husband is on nights and he slept the day away, just like he did last year. I don’t really remember what we did for that first Father’s Day after my son was born so it couldn’t have been too spectacular.

I haven’t celebrated Father’s Day in 10 years now and though I used to find the day to be very emotional, now I just find it trivial, jarring; a reminder of something I can’t have and the circumstances with my own husband mean that it’s not even a holiday I can fully embrace now.  I go through the motions; I never forget a card to my father-in-law and a present for my husband from my son. It all feels very obligatory.

I took out my emotional cocktail of bitterness and indifference by doing yard work today. A ton of yard work. It takes much longer to accomplish yard work with a toddler glued to your side all day, and my legs can easily be mistaken as diseased with the amount of mosquito bites I got, but at least the yard looks good better.

I realize my anger towards this day and its intentions are misplaced. I’m jealous that I don’t have a picture of my Dad and I on my wedding day. I hate that my husband’s schedule makes it impossible for us to ever do normal things like hang out with friends on the weekends or celebrate holidays. (Or that my husband actually would be the one to do the yard work.) I hate that even if I wanted this day to be significant, it can’t be.

When my husband finally woke up, my son and I gave him his Father’s Day presents. I unintentionally spoiled him this year (because good deals on all the things!) with a t-shirt, a hammock, and an adorable pillow I will tell you all about soon. We spent the evening covered in bug spray relaxing on the new hammock and catching up on a bit of family time. We have dinner reservations tomorrow to take advantage of a Father’s Day special. (Because free dinner!)

So I guess we are celebrating Father’s Day this year. Just not in the “oh my gosh you are so amazing what would I do without you” way. Because whether you know it or not, you would do what you had to do without your husband or your father. And you wouldn’t love them any more or any less no matter what date was on the calendar.

Happy Father’s Day to everyone that found meaning in it. I promise I will try to work on my attitude (and get some decent sleep. I’m grumpy when I’m sleep deprived.)

But can we please all agree on one thing….it is impossible for ALL of you to have the best husband/father/boyfriend/cat/dog/brother’s sister’s cousin in the world. Have a contest, figure it out, and then only the winner can brag.

Because obviously the heart of this issue is annoying Facebook statuses.

 

Blended Pieces on Moonfrye

“The sun was peeking through the clouds giving slight highlights to our morning as we traced the familiar steps to the car.

My son climbed into his almost too small car seat. I remember when he seemed so small in it and though he will always be my little, he sees himself as big.

I like these morning rides, these insights into his toddler mind as he asks me questions or tells me stories.

The engine reluctantly warmed itself to start in the cold as I adjusted the heat and put on the silly songs CD my son likes to listen to during our drives to school.

A rushed pulling out of the driveway left us headed to school just a few minutes late, because try as we might we can never make it out of the house exactly on time.

As I turned on to the next street I slowed as a kitten ran across the road.

“Oh, no, get out of the road little kitty!” I exclaimed.

“Why, Mommy?”

“I just saw a kitty run across the road but I don’t want to hurt it.”

“No, because then it would be squished and have to fly up to God.”

I paused at his certainty but responded with “Yes, then the kitty would go up to heaven with God.”

I then gave pause to my uncertainty as I added, “Mommy’s Daddy lives in heaven.”….”

Join me at Moonfrye to read the rest of this post as I take on the tender subject of talking about my Dad to my son. I would love to see you there. xo

Heavy Grey

Clouds coated the sky in a blanket of grey, clinging to the sky and soaking into my bones.

The heaviness of the earth mirrored the heaviness of my heart, as my footsteps interrupted the calm of the puddles decorating the pavement.

I even mirrored my mood, ever so subconsciously, in an outfit of blue jeans, a gray and white striped shirt, and gray cardigan.

It’s almost here, isn’t it? This day that creeps up slowly and then presents itself quickly as it makes it presence known; this day that changed so much.

October 5th will be the tenth anniversary of the day my Dad passed away. It will mark ten years since I have seen his face, heard his voice, or felt his hug.

I don’t exactly dread the day, but I do feel it’s presence and it’s significance. It is a day that changed everything, a day that forces me to remember, but the moments that I miss my Dad are much more frequent and emotional. October 5th is not a cursed day for me like September 1st. October 5th was awful ten years ago, but the day itself has not been repeatedly bad, just saddening.

People say time heals all wounds, but I don’t think you ever heal from the loss of a parent. I think the intensity of the pain becomes much less, and time may distance you from the event, but never from the emptiness.

The best description was explained to me by my grief counselor who I saw for a few months after my Dad passed. He said losing someone is like throwing a rock into a calm lake. At first, the ripples are large and big and interrupt the calm of the surface. Eventually, the ripples calm, and if you watch long enough, you will see the silent stillness of the water once again. But the rock will always remain, sitting there, just beneath the surface, changing the foundation of the lake.

And so it is when you experience a loss. Time will take away the ripples. Time will distance you from the event. But time can not change the way it changed you, the way you miss them, the way you wish they were still here every second of every day.

This was my day of heavy grey  Of anticipation of a ten year anniversary. A day where the world gave me the gift of gray to mirror my thoughts. For it is only by my walking through the fog that I can once again return to the sunshine.

“When someone you love dies, and you’re not expecting it, you don’t lose them all at once; you lose them in pieces over a long time—the way the mail stops coming, and their scent fades from the pillows and even from the clothes in the closet and drawers. Gradually, you accumulate the parts of them that are gone. Just when the day comes—when there’s a particular missing part that overwhelms you with the feeling that they are gone, forever—there comes another day, and another specifically missing part.” 
― John IrvingA Prayer for Owen Meany

All Birds Go To Heaven

“Oh no, Mommy, look!”

I turned in his direction and I followed his gaze down to the bird with flies buzzing around its head. I pulled him away quickly.

“Oh no, don’t touch. It’s a dead bird.”

“Uh oh, Mommy. Now it can not go to his family.”

“No, he can not go to his family.”

“But why, Mommy?”

“The bird is hurt. It looks like a kitty cat or a ruff ruff got him.”

Our feet pattered on the concrete as we continued walking down the road.

Should I tell him? Are we ready for these conversations?

“Now the bird is in heaven with God.”

“With God?”

“Yes.”

But why Mommy?”

“When things die, they go up to heaven to live with God.”

A long pause filled our conversation as we both pondered the validity of my statement. Can we talk about this yet?

“Mommy’s Daddy lives in heaven.”

Gentle feet pad on the cement. I look down at the top of his head. I can see his eyelashes and his brow slightly furrow as he grips the flowers he has collected tighter.

“Does your Daddy take care of the birds, Mommy?”

Surprised tears threaten my eyes as I smile and reply, “Why, yes, I guess he does.”

Chirping birds and a distant train combine with the sound of our shoes on the ground as the background track to our poignant conversation.

We observe fallen branches and white lines painted on the road. They were meant for traffic but they make a perfect balance beam for my son to follow as I walk beside him. His concentration is on the line; the steadying of his feet one in front of the other.

My concentration is on him.

As the line fades and we near the next cross street he says, “Mommy? And your Daddy will say, no no kitties and ruff ruffs we do not hurt birds.”

“Yes,” I realize and speak out loud, “that is probably something he would say.”

The rest of our walk is speckled in conversation about looking both ways and not throwing trash on the ground. We stop to admire flowers and bugs and I watch as he delights in walking down into a shallow ditch and climbing back out.

As we near our house, he breaks into a big grin and runs to the driveway. “That was a good walk, Mommy. Now I am thirsty.”

It was a good walk, love. A very good walk.