Friday, July 2, 2010

Today is one of those days when I'm really grateful to be working from home. My father would have turned 61. And for some reason it hurts more than other years. But this is how grief goes. It doesn't make sense. It catches you off guard. It comes and goes. And it really really sucks when you're not expecting it!

I feel it today more than I have in a while. The pinching of my heart. The difficulty in breathing. The overwhelming sadness. The crying that I can't seem to get under control. And it's not even 8am.

I don't know why this year is more difficult than I remember it being in the past. But I'm sure it has to do with a variety of facts. Like, he'll never meet Quinn. He won't get to see how insane Lila has become- a child we all felt bad for upon entering the world behind Julia, but who is clearly setting herself apart from her undeniably outgoing and unique sister. He will never get the chance to witness just how unique Julia is and continues to be. He would have gotten such a kick out of all three of them. Katie needs his job advice and wisdom. His daughters miss him. His wife aches without him.

The truth is I've been especially missing my father a lot this past month.

In early June I went back to New England for a very good family friend's high school graduation. I realized it was the first time I had been back in over six years for a happy occasion. Every other visit previously had to do with my dad being sick or dying, or fulfilling some obligation related to his death. It was nice to have a happy reason to go back there.

I was caught off guard though. I didn't anticipate it being so difficult to be up there. We had plenty of down time while we were there. Time to just relax. Hang out. Drive around. Visit. Explore. Reconnect. Have fun. And although we weren't staying in Lancaster (the town I grew up in), we went over there one day. Before going, I hadn't given it a single thought. I just figured it'd be nice to be back up there and to see the house and to visit with my dad's best friend who still misses him and thinks about him every day. But as we approached Lancaster my heart started tightening, my stomach crawled into a knot and tears started forming in the corners of my eyes.

First we drove by the garage he parked at for work. Tug.

Then we rounded the corner and drove through downtown. Tug tug.

We parked on Main Street and crossed the street to go into Simon the Tanner, a store my dad loved. Tug. Tear. Deep breaths.

We piled back into the car and drove up Elm Street. Deep breaths. Tug. Tear. Tug. Tug.

As we turned onto Winter Street and drove by our house, we all looked to see how it had changed over the years. How it seemed worn down and a little worse for the wear. Tug. Pinch of anger. Tug. Tear.

We flipped the car around and pulled into the driveway of our next door neighbor. She pulled all of us into a hug and was delighted and happy to see us. Grateful that we stopped by. Tug. Tear. Deep breaths.

We made it to our lunch destination. Deep breaths. Big hugs. Relief. Sadness.

As we moved into George's home, I saw Katie's moose antlers (a souvenir from the car accident when my Dad was teaching her how to drive that George is holding onto, Katie made sure we told George she wants it written in his will). Tug.

I saw a photo from an ice storm my dad took set on the wall directly next to the TV. "I look at it everyday and think of your Dad." Tear. Tear. Tear.

And then my eyes land on a chair I haven't seen or thought about since September of 2004. I couldn't believe this chair was sitting in George's living room. It didn't go with the decor for sure. But this was basically where my dad spent the last few months of his life. Every meal he ate during his illness was done from that chair. Later when I asked my mom about it, even she didn't remember how it came to be George's. When I asked George about it he said, "The chair is just my way of being together hope that doesn't sound silly to you." Insert more tears. He made that chair fit in an already full living room against the wishes of his live in love.

We were blessed with exceptionally wonderful (and cool) weather. Being there was a reminder of how beautiful it is in that corner of the world. I realized how much I missed it. And how easy it is for me to live my everyday life out here in Santa Monica without being saddened by my father's death. He never came out here in all the years I lived in California. I don't walk down Montana Ave. and think about his favorite store on that street- I'm certain he wouldn't have one! I don't have reminders around every corner that tug at my heart.

I think of him every single day, but I'm not confronted with memories of him out here. So being back home was difficult in that way. And I think the sadness of that has been sitting with me for a few weeks now. So that when I got to today, his 61st birthday, that sadness is still here.

I'm okay with that. But it's definitely a more difficult day than I anticipated. Just like the way my emotions approaching and driving through and being in Lancaster bubbled up to the surface with barely any warning, it's happening today and I just need to go through that.

For now, I'll leave you with one of my favorite pictures of my Dad. This was taken at Kara's wedding:

We miss and love you Dad.


Robin O'Brien,  July 4, 2010 at 1:00 PM  

This is so beautiful! You are an amazing writer and I felt everything you wrote as I read it. Im sorry you have these hard moments and days as time goes on. I cant imagine what you have been through. I have no doubt your father is watching you from above and smiling his Irish eyes. ;)

blwagers July 4, 2010 at 2:01 PM  

What an incredible blog post honoring your father. Today, as I was feeling a bit off and missing my mom more than normal I stumble upon your post. I tell myself, "see Betsy, you are not the only one that feels this way at no particular moment". Thank you for sharing this and helping others to know that grief is not textbook and having an "off" day is ok.

Anonymous,  July 12, 2010 at 4:02 PM  

Hugs to you, mols! Wish you didn't have to be without him.
love, ccook

cari July 18, 2010 at 9:03 AM  

Molly, Molly, Molly - have never heard anyone put it better. Mad love to you and many thanks for putting my heart into words.

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