Tag Archive | grief

Miss You Dad – Happy Father’s Day

I hope you are having a good time in Heaven, Dad.

I do think it was you who tickled my feet the other night when I was asleep – you always did like tickling my feet.

I miss those bike rides we used to go on when I was a kid; miles long rides out to the lake or wherever, starting when I was so small that I sat in that seat mounted on the back of your bike.  Then later when I had my own 10-speed, the one you bought from the Police auction.  I remember the day you took the training wheels off my bike at the park, then let go of the back when I wasn’t paying attention.  I rode on my own until I realized you weren’t back there anymore, and then crashed into that parked car.  Oops.  Even as an adult, we sometimes went for a bike ride at Grandma’s house, even though there wasn’t much to bike to in the middle of small town Michigan.

I miss sitting at the dinner table and talking about investments, current events, or what was going on at work.  I’m grateful that I lived close enough that dinners were possible on a random Tuesday night.  I miss teasing you about the way you said, “onion,” or the fact that you liked your steak super-dead…

I was thinking the other day about that summer that we laid all those bricks for your patio.  That was a lot of work, but the dinners afterwards were good, and I always enjoyed talking with you.

I have always been grateful that you taught me to be really good with money.  I hope I get to retire early like you did; that’s my plan anyway.  Work only as long as I have to, then take off and see more of the world.  I always loved hearing about the trips you took with my mom, and the emails you would send to the family about your adventures.

I wish you would have taught me more about fixing stuff around the house.  I miss those days when you would come over to help me prune my fruit trees; I’ve never been tall enough to reach those higher branches very well.

I miss watching you sit with your sisters on trips to Michigan, talking about growing up on the farm.  I hate that I will never again see you laugh so hard that you cry – I always loved that.  No one could make you laugh like your sisters could.  I loved seeing you happy.

I’m still kind of mad at you for leaving us with no warning, Dad.  I’m so grateful that you didn’t suffer from some long illness, but I’m still so sad that we never had a chance to say goodbye.  I saw you at least every few weeks, but I still feel like I should have been around more.  I guess that’s what happens after someone is gone – we second guess everything we did or didn’t do.  That part sucks.  It is still difficult to comprehend that I’ll never get to talk to you again, or help with a project, or just sit and watch the news with you.  I’ll never get to sit around the fire pit and have smores with you again, or sit next to you on a plane on a family trip to Michigan.

I love you and miss you something fierce, Dad.  Happy Father’s Day.

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Happy Mother’s Day

I’m so lucky that I have the mother that I do.

My mama taught art lessons at my school when I was growing up and painted murals outside the classroom doors at my elementary school.

She typed up my creative writing stories when I was little, and bound them into books with my illustrations.  She still has them.

She led my girl scout troop and my 4-H club, and organized camping trips and arena rides and all sorts of learning excursions.  We camped in the rain and the heat, but really, since it is the Pacific Northwest, we mostly camped in the rain.  We sold cookies and Christmas swags and manned hot dog stands and a million other things that are undoubtedly a huge pain in the butt for any parent.

She helped me bathe and scrub my all white horse after a muddy winter.  I bet she was pretty happy when I got a bay (and a warm water wash rack).

She let my friend move in with us when she was having a tough time with her family.

My mother is talented with all things crafty.  She can sew and quilt, paint, make jewelry, dye fabric, make paper and a million other arts and crafts.  I am in awe of her talent – I wish I had gotten the genes for any of it!

My mama taught me all about my family background, from my father’s ancestors in Poland and Bohemia, to her ancestors in Scotland and England.  We went to visit the places where my great-grandmother lived in Scotland before she crossed the ocean to Boston.  She tried haggis in Scotland.

She went on a road trip with me and when I just about crashed the rental car, we laughed so hard we cried – after of course.  When the dead bunny needed to be extricated from the grill of the same car, she grabbed a paper town and pulled him out.

She has taken care of my cats, my horses, my friends and me without hesitation.

My mama practices tough love when I need it, providing me with that candid perspective.  “You can do anything for 90 days.”  If I didn’t get to make the choice, at least I could affect the outcome.

Mom panning for gold. She makes it look effortless…

She lost my father, her partner and husband of over 50 years 3 months ago, but she hasn’t let that stop her from living.  Even with that kick in the teeth, she hasn’t given up.  She keeps trying, keeps getting things done. It isn’t fair and it sucks, but what other choice do you have?

She taught me that life is what you make it.  You try your hardest and do your best, and what comes to you is in direct proportion to your effort.  You look on the bright side even on the darkest of days.  You might take a break, but you don’t give up.

My mama hasn’t had an easy road lately, but I admire her fortitude.  She’s badass.  I hope I am just a little like her.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.  I love you.

 

 

 

Moving On

Somewhere, in that space between the loss and the letting go of it, you must feel its whole, heavy, crushing weight.  That’s what grief is. No one prepares you for how heavy that weight is, how hard it is to carry, or how long it will linger in your heart.  But you have to feel it in its entirely, in order to feel the light begin to peek in the cracks on the other side of grief.  It will never go away completely; you will always carry some of it with you.  It changes you, but in time the light will come back and you will see the road forward with new eyes.

My last three years have been largely about grief.  The end of my marriage, a job with a toxic environment, the loss of two beloved cats, and having my life upended by my father’s sudden death.

There were nights I cried myself to sleep, and days I felt so numb that I thought I may never cry again.  I walked with that weight pressing me down, invading every inch of my soul.  I walked even on days when I thought I couldn’t possibly have any more strength.  I lay awake most nights at 3 am, turning over every word, every feeling, every look I had received, trying to make sense of what went wrong.  I did this even when I knew logically that I did the best I could, I did exactly what I was supposed to do, I upheld my end of the deal.  Not perfectly, but I did the best I could.

I lay awake with the weight of knowing that you can’t make somebody else step up to the plate, or keep the promises they made.  Knowing that sometimes you just run into assholes, and kindness won’t make them stop being assholes.  Knowing that sometimes we all get the shitty end of the deal, no matter what we do.  When I did sleep, I had vivid nightmares.  My brain is very, very ruthless. For me sleep came and went, with the insomnia returning with each new trauma.  At some point, the sleepless nights once again became nights where I slept more peacefully.  It creeps up slowly, so you aren’t really sure exactly when it happens.  I still have those nights that I wake up at 3 am and turn over everything in my mind; they are coming less often now though.

The light seeps into the cracks, and you find your smile returning.  Sometimes other people notice it before you realize it’s there.  You find yourself laughing where you faked it before.  You find yourself looking forward to things again, instead of seeing each day as something to be endured.  My road trip helped me immeasurably.  With each mile that I drove, and each place I visited, and each kind person I met along the way, the weight lessened.  My heart lightened.  But time played a part too – and the distance that time creates.

No, it never really truly goes away.  You still have the memories.  The good memories, that bring you joy and peace.  And the bad memories hit you like a gut punch when you least expect it.  They also remind you that you can get through it, as long as you don’t give up.  You change.  The grief will still be a part of you.  But it will no longer define you.  So yes, somewhere, in that space between the loss and the letting go of it, you must feel its whole, heavy, crushing weight – there isn’t any other way.  I’m not quite there yet, but one day, it will feel lighter.

 

Two Months Gone

It’s been two months since my dad died.  Life goes on – in many ways it speeds by faster than we ever expect or even want it to.

I still miss him terribly and think about him everyday.  I think about the new job that I will never talk to him about.  I think about the financial things I can’t ask him for advice on.  I think about how much I know my mom misses him and I hurt for her.

I don’t cry every day anymore, but I still cry.  It hits me at unexpected times.  Sometimes I think I’m doing ok, and then I’m suddenly not.  Like writing this post – although I suppose that could have been expected.  His marker at the cemetery niche arrived two weeks ago and when I went to visit him, I cried harder than I have in a while.  There wasn’t any new, fresh realization that he is gone, just a fresh wave of pain.

Blogger Lauren Herschel summed grief up pretty well with a theory she heard from her doctor.  The ball in the box.  The ball starts out being a really big ball in the box, and there is a pain button on the side of the box.  When it bounces around, it hits the side of the box all the time and causes pain.  Gradually, the ball gets smaller, and it doesn’t hit the side of the box quite as often.  When it does though, it still hurts just as much.  Grief is like that.  You can read about it, because she does a better job explaining it (with pictures).

So as time marches on, I find myself smiling again, and laughing.  There is joy and happiness in life, and I don’t want to miss that.  But I still miss you dad.

Circus Trip 2018: The Series Begins

I’m always a bit behind on this blog.  I love writing about my travels and goings-on, and I like to be informative, so my posts always take a while to create.  2018 was a big year for travel for me, since almost half the year was spent away from home.

Since I have wrapped up London, my big road trip last year, the one I named the Circus Road Trip, is the next series on the agenda.  I had been staring at a blank page for a while, pondering how to start.  A writer’s block so to speak.  I mean, how do I start to tackle such a huge, momentous and long event in my life?  I didn’t even really know why, until a conversation last night made me realize.  It’s my Dad.

My Dad loved seeing places and loved road trips too.  He built out my car with my bed for the trip; I mean let’s be real, I was the assistant on that project.  He always read my blog posts and looked at my Facebook pictures.  My mom always made sure to tell him when there was a new post, because he didn’t have a Facebook account of his own.  He always wanted to know where I had been and what I thought of it, and mentioned places I had gone to that he wanted to visit too.

For those of you who are newer to this blog, I wrote last summer about the Circus Road Trip’s origins.  I departed in mid-July and spent several months on the road, traveling through much of the United States, and seeing so much along the way.

Today it has been one month (and also four weeks) since Dad died.  It has kind of flown by, with all the tasks to be done, trying to maintain some semblance of my own life, and let’s be honest, some days where I didn’t feel up to doing much at all.  He would have loved to read about this trip, and I know he was (sometimes impatiently) waiting for these posts to appear.  I know some of the rest of you have been waiting as well.

This is the last posed photograph of my Dad and me, taken in Michigan before my cousin’s wedding in September, while I was on the trip.

So this series is for you Dad.  I know you are up there somewhere reading.  I love you and I hope you enjoy.

 

Note: For those of you who want to read or refresh yourself on the posts I posted while I was on the trip, here they are in order:

1. The Reveal
2. The Build
3. The Hat
4. 11 Days In
5. August Already?
6. Land of Lincoln
7. Heartbreaking Bridge
8. 1 Month In
9. Respite
10. Comparisons
11. Early September
12. New Beginnings
13. A Break
14. Westward
15. Reset
16. Rain
17. The Mighty 5
18. Historic Toilets
19. Kindness
20. Down time
21. Blowout
22. Still Sick
23. No Regrets
24. The Home Stretch
25. Withdrawals

Muscle Memory

When I was in college, my father tore his rotator cuff.  My childhood home had a really steep driveway, and he slipped on some ice and fell down, catching his fall with his right hand.  Dad was right handed, and he lost a lot of use in that arm.  He couldn’t raise his arm above his shoulder anymore, and the doctors told him that he shouldn’t bowl anymore.  My dad loved bowling; I never knew him to not be on a team or two, from as early as I could remember.

Dad got pretty mopey after his injury, and at one point was very down in the dumps feeling sorry for himself.  I was over at my parents’ house when he was complaining that he couldn’t do things anymore, because he couldn’t use his right hand.  The task at hand that day – changing the light bulb in the hallway.

I was annoyed by his attitude, and I got pretty snarky with him and told him he was just going to have to figure things out.  I dragged a chair over to the hallway, pulled down the light fixture cover, and changed the light bulb, all with my left hand.  I told him that if I could do it, so could he.

The next week, dad asked if I wanted to go bowling on Sunday morning.  He was going to learn how to bowl with his left hand.  We went together several Sundays, and talked about life and school and whatever came to mind, while he practiced left handed bowling.  After a little time away, he went back to his league and spent the next 20-some years bowling as a lefty.

This morning I finished a 15K; the Hot Chocolate Run in Seattle.  It was my second time doing this distance, although if you read here you know I have done many half-marathons.

I haven’t been training; I haven’t even been exercising as much as I normally do in the last several weeks since my dad died.  I’ve just been trying to get through all the day to day stuff.  Yesterday I felt like absolute garbage.  But I didn’t want to bow out of the race.

While I was walking and jogging this morning, under a clear blue, cloudless sky, I was reminded that sometimes all you can do is keep putting one foot in front of the other, and keep looking up, and keep knocking the miles and tasks off the list.  You just have to let the muscle memory take over.  Even if you don’t feel like you can.  Even if you don’t want to.  Because you can do it.  And someday, you’ll want to again.

I’m also blessed to be surrounded by amazing women who lift me up and carry me, even when they might not even realize they are.  They are a big part of why I crossed that finish line this morning.

I finished the 9.3 miles in 2 hours, 14 minutes and 14 seconds, for a pace of 14:25 per mile.  It wasn’t a fast time, and I didn’t run as much of the race as I normally would, but I finished.

Just keep going.  You got this.

Numbered Days

Grief is a funny thing.  I read somewhere that you don’t work through it; that it works through you.  I read that it is a manifestation of love; there is no grief without love.  That sounds about right.  It comes in waves.  Some days you can feel remarkably alright.  Other days it is all you can do to take a shower and eat enough.  It would be easier if you could have some advance notice on which days would be which.

I never really thought about my dad dying.  I mean, I guess I did, in an abstract sort of way, the way that all adult children know that that their parents won’t live forever.  But not in any real, tangible way.  My grandmother had other heart attacks before the end, and my grandfather had other strokes before the end, so I guess I was just expecting some sort of warning before it came.  I don’t know which is easier, having no warning but knowing he didn’t have to suffer through some long, sad decline – or having the time to get used to the idea, but knowing he was in pain.  And we don’t get to choose…  You just get what you are given…  That doesn’t stop us from going through all the “what-if’s”, does it?

Dad’s service was nice.  “Nice.”  That word we use to describe things that we have no interest in participating in, but no choice but to do.  The pastor asked how many of us would rather be sitting at a wedding instead of Dad’s service, and I counted myself among that group, even though I don’t really like weddings much at all.  But on a scale of weddings or funerals…  I’m not a fan of baby showers either, if you must know the truth… I would rather have been anywhere else though, instead of listening to people talk about him in the past tense.  I’m not ready for the past tense.  Yet another thing about which I have no choice.

“You gave me a forever within the numbered days.”  John Green, The Fault in Our Stars