I was on Spring Break from school in March of 2007, a week or two before he got his diagnosis. He was on disability leave from work indefinitely so I went down to visit and spend some extra time with him. We spent most of that week together. He was feeling pretty good, or at least acted like it. We went to a nature center and explored it. We went to a scenic overlook across the river and saw the city from a new perspective. We took my niece to the park and played with her. We went to lunch. We went downtown and pretended we were tourists. It was the most one on one time I spent with my dad as an adult - I loved it. At the end of the week, I had packed up to go home and we went to a little Mexican restaurant for lunch before I hit the interstate. In the parking lot, next to my car, he gave me as big of a hug as a sick, skinny man can give and told me "I've really enjoyed our time together this week." And he hugged me a little longer than usual.
I said before that my dad wasn't a touchy feely guy. He said things like "come back and see us," rather than "I've really enjoyed our time together." If not before then, I knew at that moment that he knew he was dying. I didn't know that he was dying, but I at least knew that he thought he was. It was just the little things he did and said all week. I'm so grateful for that week with him. If he had gotten his diagnosis before Spring Break, I don't think we would have had as much fun.
After he died, I felt lost. Literally. I had a recurring dream that I was a child standing in a crowded mall, spinning around and around in one spot. The crowd was a rotating blur and there were loud echoes of people talking and laughing. I was too scared to move out of that spot, feeling totally helpless and alone while the world just kept moving in circles at an accelerated pace.
About a week after I returned to "normal" life, I decided to seek help through a grief support group. I found one that was offered at a church not too far from my home on Friday nights. We went and were the youngest people there. One lady was about 10 years older than me and had lost her fiance, but everyone else was elderly. Like senior citizens. And they had lost a spouse. We shared our stories of loss. One of the older ladies told me that she was really broken-hearted when she lost her father, but I wouldn't know what grief was unless I lost a spouse, like she had. Umm. What?
I don't doubt that the pain you feel when your husband of a gobzillion years passes away is intense, but I'm not there. I'm here. My dad died two weeks ago and I'm still reeling. The support group was not helpful. I think I went back once after that out of guilt for starting something and not finishing it, but I couldn't bring myself to keep sitting around with these sad old ladies. I guess I wanted to sit around with sad 27 year olds.
I experienced a lot of jealousy. I was so envious of anyone and everyone who still had both of their parents. And you know who was included in that list? My mom...whose parents are now in their late 70s. MY MOM, of all people. She just lost her husband of 35+ years and the love of her life. My mom, who was 53 at the time and still had both of her parents. I was jealous of my mom. I felt guilty about that, but I guess I somehow separated the loss of her husband from the fact that she still had both parents. I thought I'd have my parents until I was in my 50s too. When my dad was dying, I told my mom that she better plan on living to be about 150 to make up for my dad dying so young. He was only 55.
At times, I was suprised at what friends were there for me. Some friends that I hadn't even heard from for months or years came out of the woodwork while many whom I expected to be there unconditionally were the ones that let me down. I get it. No one wants to reopen the wound. No one wants to bring it up if you seem happy because they don't want to make you sad. People don't know what to say. It made me feel like people forgot about my dad. Or forgot that I was in pain. Or didn't care? Looking back, I don't think that people didn't care, I just think that they were scared I would cry. What's so scary about crying, anyway?
Right after my dad died, I had a lot of anxiety about what would happen to him. Not him, physically, but the things that made him him. His thoughts. Fears. Talents. His personality and character. The sound of his voice. The sound of his laughter. The memory of his face and his smile. The sparkle in his eye. I was afraid I would forget everything. I was afraid people would never think about him. Downright anxious that everything would disappear. I can look at pictures of him, but they are flat...physical and spiritually flat. It's not like being with him or feeling his presence. I usually drive by his grave when I go home. It's the only place I can go where I feel just a little bit closer to him. I know that none of those things are there, but at least what's left of his body is there. I know that he doesn't know that I'm there, but it makes me feel better, knowing that I at least tried to visit the place he is.
I wonder what he would think and say about the way his girls are turning out. I'd like to think that he'd be so proud of us both, for different reasons. I'd like to think he would have a great relationship with my boys. That he'd take them fishing or toss a football with them. That he'd play HORSE in the driveway with them and sneak them candy and dollar bills when I wasn't looking.
This will be the 5th Christmas without my dad. It's hard to believe almost 4 1/2 years have passed since he died. Being in the midst of that grief and watching the rest of the world carry on as usual was hard. I felt like because my world stopped, the rest of the world should too. Now I know that the world doesn't stop for one woman's heartache, and I can say that I'm happy. I think about him and miss him every single day, but I'm happy. I try to focus on the wonderful things he brought to my life and not the emptiness his absence has created. I continue doing the things that I hope would make him proud. I'm going to raise my boys to know their Gramps, even though they will never meet him.
getting it all off my chest,