I knew it had been a few weeks since I last posted on this blog but enough time had passed that I had forgotten what I last wrote about. And tonight as I put these words into type, I find it somewhat ironic that I am still dwelling on loss. Hence, the title of this writing.
The last six weeks have been incredibly challenging. In that time I dealt with a sinus infection, two bouts of UTI, and a sciatic nerve flare-up that rendered me incapable of walking and unable to perform normal bodily functions. (I’ll spare the details.) Normally I’m very healthy, so this was an extreme test of my patience. If these medical issues weren’t a big enough test of my strength to overcome challenge, life threw some other speed bumps in the way during the same six weeks. We needed to put four new tires on the car my youngest two daughters (attempt to) share as the treads were showing. My husband’s computer crashed and burned, then two days later our household Internet router blew. My watch keeps stopping. The microwave and the dishwasher are acting up. And one of my hearing aids broke. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back/bank. And in the midst of all those tribulations came the now-annual bout of disappointment that a majority of my daughters wouldn’t be celebrating Thanksgiving with me. Followed by the arguments to determine exactly when we can all get together to celebrate Christmas. (At least there’s some hope that will happen—they’ve all agreed to lunch on December 22.)
In my previous post I wrote about how extremely challenging moments tend to bring feelings of grief. Tonight, after six tumultuous weeks, I can loudly declare that my theory is still valid. Proof came this weekend as I tried to suppress sad thoughts of missing my parents. It was 35 years ago this month when my father passed away, 37 years ago when my mother died. And this year I’m feeling it more than normal. Perhaps it’s the events of the last six weeks, although I don’t think so as I’ve been feeling this way for longer than that. I suspect it has something to do with my own age being close to my father’s when he died. Nevertheless, my emotions are raw. And over the weekend I thought about both of them…a lot.
So here’s where the story gets interesting. This morning when I logged onto my email, I found a message from someone who was my father’s confidante and companion in the last two years of his life. We’ve stayed in touch off and on, and she was going through Christmas cards from last year and found my email address and thought she’d send me a note. It was a wonderful surprise to hear from her, almost like a present-day connection to my life from 35 years ago. And her timing was spot on. In her message she mentioned the amount of time that has passed and reminded me—for the record I didn’t need reminding—that his birthday is coming up. She asked me to have a drink that night and toast to him. She’s planning to do that. I will as well.
I was very touched by her email and its apropos timing, and I answered her back. I admitted to her that after all these years I think about my father nearly every day. I explained how parenting my youngest daughter has been a greater challenge than I ever expected and I’ve wished so many times that I could talk with my dad to apologize for the way I treated him in his last year. I was just a snotty, spoiled teen and afraid of the future without him. I told her of my wish that I had his wisdom and guidance to help me be a better parent. I told her I had turned 51 this past July (he died at 52) and that I cannot fathom what he went through, but at this age I have a greater understanding of all that he lost in dying so young.
This woman had no idea of the depth of guilt I have carried for 35 years about how I argued with my dad in his final days. Mostly about stupid things like wanting to go to a friend’s house after school instead of coming home, or wanting to go out on a date with someone my dad didn’t approve of. As an adult, I have often wished that I had been more aware in that moment of what I was losing and that I would have told my father I loved him instead of arguing with him. At times those feelings have overwhelmed me. But she had no way of knowing that because I never shared that with her.
As I got ready for work this morning with all of these thoughts running through my brain, I struggled for composure and even contemplated calling in sick. I logged onto Facebook and asked my friends to keep me in their thoughts today that I would have strength to get through the moment. I headed off to work and as the day progressed, I felt better. On my lunch hour I took a very quick look at Facebook and saw messages from a dozen friends offering prayers for strength and words of encouragement. Their show of love and friendship carried me through the rest of the day.
And tonight, I found a reply to my email. This woman, who loved my father, who understood his desires and sorrows, wrote these words to me:
I think of your dad and how agonizing it was for him to go so young and leave a family that still needed him. Believe me when I tell you he understood you and all you were going through at the time—and had just gone through with your mother. I also had one of those bratty teenagers at home who was reacting and really didn’t know why. But you got through it and have become a fine adult. And now you are left with some memories that no child should have to have—losing both parents in a short time. Just remember the good stuff. I only speak for your father, and he was very devoted. I cannot even imagine what it would be like for a mother to die at 46 leaving her children. I believe both of them are listening to you, and watching over you. You were their “baby chick”.
I have been overwhelmed with tears. It is such a relief to finally know from a trusted source that my dad understood I loved him and that I was just reacting to the events in my life. The emotional river running through me tonight is overpowering. I don’t know how long it will take for this “grief moment” to pass, but I know that once again, loss has defined me.