It is a hundred small things, and they sucker-punch me when l least expect it.
It is walking through the seasonal aisle at Target and remembering he used to buy me a box of candy every year for Valentine's Day.. It didn't matter how old I got, if I had a boyfriend or not, even after I was married. He always wanted me to know I was loved.
It is entering the gym for my son's first basketball game ever, and hearing the balls bouncing and the shoes squeaking on the floor and the way that basketball gyms smell and the rush of childhood memories and realizing how much he would have loved to be there, and that he never would.
I mean it is not like I am walking around on the edge of tears all the time or anything. He has been gone for for 7 months. I got through the hard parts: The day after the night he died, the funeral, his birthday, Christmas...I thought I got through the hard parts.
It is suddenly hearing a John Denver song from the water aerobics class in the next pool while doing mommy and me swimming with my son. It could be a Beatles song, or an Eagles song, or Paul Simon or Rod Stewart...I feel like I have lost the songs I grew up with. They have been swallowed up by grief and I am unable to visit the soundtrack of my childhood without getting pulled under.
It is working on Matthew's baby book, knowing that these are the only pictures I will ever have of him and my dad, and knowing that he was too young for them to be actual memories.
I go days when I forget that he is gone. How can that be true? I have three kids...they are busy, I am busy. I lived 100 miles away from my dad and we only saw each other about once a month. Still. How can that be true?
It is looking at old pictures of my boys that I have posted on Facebook, and my dad's comment still sitting there, a little note from him that I forgot I had.
It is watching a sitcom where a character loses his father and I am sobbing. SOBBING. The big ugly cry, because I know. I know how hard it is and how hard it is still going to be and they are talking about his father's last words and oh my God do I even remember what my dad's last words were? He was in the hospital, he'd had a heart attack, and he was so worried about my mom, about how she would get by while he was there. I think he said, "I love you, Mac. Take care of your mom." I think. Why don't I know? Shouldn't I know?
My sister and I are trying so hard not to fight, to not let the stress of my dad being gone so suddenly and my mom's health declining so slowly get to us. Because we have realized that someday the shared story of our childhood will only be found with each other.
It is talking on the phone with my aunt and hearing my uncle laugh in the background and OH! For just a split second it could be him and even though my mind knows better, knows that he is gone, my heart is hopeful and it soars. It sounds just like him.
It is having dinner at that same Uncle's house, and even though I have tried my best to prepare myself, put steel bands of the reality of what has happened around my heart, I see him hug his daughter or pick up his grandson and the tears sneak up on me anyway.
I didn't know about this part. I held it together when he died. I was a rock. I told my sons that grandpa had died, that his heart was just too sick and couldn't be fixed. I talked to them about heaven. I talked to them about the fact that parents usually die before their children, that yes, I would probably die before they did but, God willing, not for a very long time. I took my mom to pick out the casket. I spoke at the funeral. I was strong. I kept it together. I got through it.
It is going out to dinner with my family and telling my boys about how my sister and I both waitressed our way through college, and then remembering how my dad would come in to eat and always leave us a ridiculous tip (20 bucks on a 20 dollar check).
It is the midnight phone call from my sister that my mom is ill again, that she needs to be in the hospital, that we need to find some way to help her more than we are and the realization that this is actually up to us. That we are the grown-ups. That we have to figure this out alone.
And even so, most of the time I am fine. Really! I'm not walking around upset. I don't think I am particularly depressed. I am having fun and laughing and getting on with life. Having little kids will force you to do that. I just didn't realize that after the hard parts there would still be all these other parts. Random moments of sadness that pop up and the most unexpected times, all the more difficult because you just don't see them coming. How could you? Mommy and me swimming sounds fairly safe, tears wise. As does watching a sitcom. And attending a basketball game. And walking around Target, for Pete's sake.
It is my sister, pregnant, due in May with her first and his name will be Charlie after my dad.
It is realizing how completely uncomplicated my relationship with my dad really was. He loved me. Unconditionally, every second, no matter what, he loved me. And, it is realizing how rare and precious that really was.
I miss you dad.