It was a tough week. I have been struggling with the days leading up to today. Happy birthday, Dad. I have no idea how it has been more than a year and a half; I miss you.
Christmas is everywhere. The holiday lights, the parties, the work get-togethers, the gift giving. Ugh. I’m not that revved up about the holidays. I’ve spent a lot of years as a single, and the holidays are hard on singles. Like stab you in the heart kind of hard.
I often think back to a few Christmases, when I was at the City’s tree lighting ceremony with a friend. I stopped to chat with an acquaintance who was pushing her newborn son in a stroller. I stopped to coo over her son and catch up a little bit with her. To my shock, she said something along the lines of, “you don’t have to pretend that you are interested in my son, I know you are happy to not have kids.” Ouch.
I was a little less than six months out from an incredibly painful divorce, and a marriage where the choice to not have children was made for me. She didn’t know about any of that. I tried to laugh off her comment (as it wasn’t worth correcting her on my personal details), but it felt like a slap in the face. To be surrounded by all those families and holiday cheer, and to never have had that be an option for me was hard. Really hard.
People have trouble with the holidays for any number of reasons. Maybe they lost a loved one and are grieving. Maybe they are alone. Maybe they have anxiety and all of those social functions seem impossible. For whatever reason, they just don’t feel in the mood to deal with it.
I’ve had years where I have been more enthusiastic about the holidays. Some years I decorate; some years I don’t. Some years I have even hosted some sort of holiday get together. I have never been someone who gets overly thrilled about Christmas. I long for the day when I can just travel this time of year, and opt-out of the festivities.
This year I’m ambivalent – a solid neutral on the holidays. I’ll be in the hospital on Christmas this year, and of course I will let you know how that goes. I’m fortunate that I have people who love me and support me, no matter where I’m parked on the holiday. And next year is going to be awesome!
So go easy on those of us who have a hard time with Christmas. You may love all the “merry and bright,” the music, the lights, the artificial cheer, but be gentle with those who don’t.
My dad’s birthday was last week. It was an incredibly busy week, with my brother and his family here, my aunt and uncle here, and me working, and being sick. Add in a Labor Day weekend mini-getaway, and another aunt and uncle here, and you have a recipe for one exhausted worker bee.
I have been a bit down about my dad since then. I’m not surprised – but that doesn’t make it easier. I thought I got more birthdays with him. He always had everything he claimed to want, and if he didn’t, he generally just purchased it (or it cost approximately $2,500 and I couldn’t afford it). He wasn’t really a stuff kind of guy, unless you consider that he bought numerous duplicates for every article of clothing he liked. It explained why that Navy-blue t-shirt never seemed to wear out.
The other night my mom showed me what one of my uncles had been up to during their visit. My dad was a hobby woodworker, and he died with projects in various states of completion. Again, no surprise there. My uncle restored antique wooden boats for a living, so woodworking tools were right up his alley. My uncle finished a few of the project pieces that my mom had.
I’m so grateful to my uncle that he was able to do this for my mom, but it made me cry all the same. This little chest of drawers was one that my parents had worked on together several years ago, while taking a woodworking class at the local technical college. What a beautiful work of art that we will treasure having.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I am my father’s daughter.
I have his analytical mind, his skin that resists sunburns, his love of peas and his awkward smile in photographs. I also have his asthma, his allergies and his appendicitis at the age of 27. Our eyes both crinkle when we laugh. Just like him, I can save money like nobody’s business. We are both Virgos. Plain yellow mustard is where it is at. I have his nose and his love of snow, although he loves driving in it and I don’t.
I was one of those children who grew up with both of my parents, married for my entire life.
We went camping when I was a kid in the maxi-van that was converted into a camper, seeing Yellowstone and taking the ferry up to Alaska before driving back down to the states. We went to Hawaii when I was 8, and Mexico when I was 9. Like me, he remembers dates. We spent Christmas in a snowstorm in Michigan the year I was 13.
I was an insomniac at an early age, and my dad would lead me through an exercise of tensing up all my muscles in turn, and then shaking it off, so I could relax enough to fall asleep. He would get up in the middle of the night when I had nightmares, and soothe me back to sleep. He let me sit on his lap in that big black Naugahyde chair while he watched the evening news and read the paper.
He taught me to play chess, checkers, Chinese checkers and Score Four.
He shared my love of photography. On a trip to Yellowstone when I was 6 or 7, he let me use the camera to take any picture I wanted. I couldn’t decide until I found the perfect subject. An elk carcass. He never told me no. I still have that picture. In high school, he gave me his old SLR camera and showed me how to use the timed exposure to photograph nighttime landscapes.
He cheered at my swim meets and hauled my horses to horse shows, even after he developed allergies to horses. He caved when I wanted yet another cat, even though we are both allergic to cats. He petted them when we weren’t looking.
We went for bike rides on the weekends. He and my mom grew a garden and dug potatoes and planted beets because I wanted them, even though neither of them like beets. He loved the corn.
He got up at 5:20 am every day of his working life and made fried eggs for breakfast. In middle school my bus came early so we ate breakfast together in the mornings. I wasn’t allowed to come to the dinner table in my pajamas.
The day my horse was so badly injured when I was 16, he cried with me, and never made me feel badly when I vomited all over the floor of his classic 1968 Cougar. He bought that Cougar new in 1968. When I was young we pretended that the map light switch was a turbo thruster. When I flipped it he would gun the engine up the hill towards home.
He needed routine and spontaneity made him uncomfortable. I am my father’s daughter, although I am a bit more flexible. If you needed him to do something, a few days’ notice was ideal. The teenage years drove him nuts, when I wanted him to drive me somewhere on a moment’s notice. He liked to do his Sudoku, read the paper, and watch his shows. Clockwork.
He tried to tutor me on my math homework, even though he could never understand why I just didn’t get how multiplying two imaginary numbers made a real number. He delighted in solving my extra credit algebra problems in college (you could use any and all methods at your disposal), and even cracked the one with ten variables and ten equations. I was the only one who came in with the correct answer. That said, proofreading my English papers was not his thing…
When my mom battled colon cancer 21 years ago, I saw a man who would have been devastated to lose her. It was the second time I ever saw him cry.
He was proud of me when I got my Bachelor’s degree, even though he didn’t really understand what I would do with a degree in Spanish. He was proud of me when I got my Master’s degree in business, and relieved that I had decided on something more practical.
In preschool, I sprouted a chestnut seed, and we planted the seedling in the back yard. When my parents moved away from that house I grew up in when I was 25, and they had to cut down that now big tree, my father had a wood turner make two bowls from its trunk. He gave me those bowls for Christmas.
He and my mom came to all my parties, met all my friends, and were always kind to them all. I had the kind of house growing up that my friends wanted to hang out at.
He always made me laugh in those days before caller ID when I called and said, “Hi Dad,” and he responded with “Who’s this?” I am his only daughter.
When I got divorced, he quietly supported me, listening as I ranted and cried and broke. It was the third time I saw my father cry.
When I told him that I wanted to build a bed in my car and camp in it for several months last summer, he designed a platform bed with legs that swung out of the way to access the storage underneath, and slide out shelves to hold my camp stove. We took the seats out of my car and we built it together.
I am now a fatherless daughter. My dad died unexpectedly on Tuesday morning, February 5. There is no word to define a daughter who has lost a father, but I now join the ranks of all those other daughters who miss their dads.
Our relationship wasn’t perfect, but I am blessed to have had him. It wasn’t enough time. It was too soon.
I feel selfish; I got more from my dad than many daughters will ever receive. But I still wanted more. I am devastated to know that I may very well live more years without my dad than with him.
My heart is broken. I will miss you forever, Dad.
I found out on Wednesday night that my former boss passed away on Monday. As far as I know he wasn’t sick. He was going on a fly fishing trip in early October and had still been working and vacationing. He was in his late seventies though; that age when even if someone’s death is a shock, it isn’t necessarily a surprise.
I knew Larry for seventeen years. I met him when I took a few classes at the community college after I got my MBA and graduated in the middle of a recession. I interned for him, and he took me under his wing. He took me to meetings, gave me projects to build my skills in my career field, and exposed me to influential people in the community. He didn’t have to do any of it… He was a true mentor.
He helped me get my first career job, calling my soon-to-be-supervisor to give me a great reference. I got the job. Then when an opening came up where Larry worked and I had interned, he called me to let me know he wanted me to come back and work for him. We worked together for eight years until he retired in 2009.
Larry taught me a piece of career wisdom that I will never forget. You work someplace as long as it works for you. There is no faster way to make your life suck than to dislike your job. The people are just as important as the work, and those people aren’t likely to change, at least not fast enough for it to matter. You spend too much time there to be unhappy. The same is true for your personal relationships.
He showed me that you can be professional and still have a great sense of humor. He loved to lighten the mood in a tough situation, and didn’t take life, or himself, too seriously. I loved working for him.
Larry and I stayed friends over the years, through different jobs of mine and consulting work of his, to personal joys and trials. He moved to Nevada for a sunnier and more affordable retirement, but we stayed in touch through texts, phone calls and visits. He was frequently back in my area doing consulting work, which let us get together from time to time over a bottle of red wine.
I talked to him about getting together in Nevada in October while I was on my road trip, but he was out of town on the days that I was there. I didn’t know at the time that it would be the last time we talked.
True friends come along rarely in this world, and I will always be grateful that I had the experience of having a boss and mentor become a real friend. I know a lot of people felt that way about him.
Rest in peace, Larry. You are very, very missed.