Wednesday, October 10, 2012


I remember my dad singing. Saturday mornings while cooking scrambled eggs. I'd hear him whistling or singing old gospel hymns. Or in playful moments, singing silly cheers from his high school basketball years... "shoot em high, shoot em low, shoot em in the basket, that's where they go!" And to the opposing team: "Go back, go back, go back to the woods cuz you ain't, you ain't, you ain't no good!" My dad was a "star" player in his high school basketball days in small town Ellsworth, Michigan. (And by small I mean, population 483!) When he was running late to a game, the coach would drive the bus to his house to pick him up. Which would totally give me incentive to be late to all the games. Recently my 5 year old son asked if he could get a basketball. He hasn't expressed much interest in sports but this is his first year in school and some of the kids bring basketballs or soccer balls to play with during recess. Starting school has been a hard adjustment for him - the long days away from the comforts and familiarity of home. Recess seems to be particularly hard for him to figure out how to join in and he'll mostly just walk around the playground. There has been some improvement since we have had "practice recess" with mommy and daddy and sister during the weekend. And now, a request for a basketball. Hope in a basketball. We jump on it and immediately go out together to buy one. It's been awhile since I've held a basketball in my hand. But it will always remind me of my dad. The echoing thunk thunk thunk of the ball on concrete in the school yard. And playing hoops in our driveway as a kid. After all these years, 10 years now, there is sadness when I hold my son's basketball in my hands. But this weekend, I look forward to playing basketball with my son at his school. And teaching him his grandpa's cheers.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

51 years, with and without

August 4, 2012 would have been my parent's 51st wedding anniversary. My dad has been dead for a little over 10 years now and so even though my parents did not get 51 years together, this anniversary is a marked day, not to celebrate and remember 51 wedded years together, but to celebrate and remember the years they did have together. This past decade since my dad's death, there's been much change in our family. Specifically, in my life, I graduated from grad school, got married, began my professional career, and birthed two children. Not a day goes by that I don't mourn the loss of my dad not being a part of those huge life-changing milestones of my life (and also the normal everyday things). And yet, while my dad is physically gone, the effect of the man he was, the father he was, the husband he was, the runner he was, the provider he was, the health scientist he was, the son he was, the brother he was, the friend he was, the grandpa he was, the sinner he was, the forgiven man he was, the dying man he was, etc., lives on. How wonderful it would be to be able to see my dad today. To talk to him and give him a hug and go for a run and watch him play with my babies. This past week, being Coast Guard week in our beach town, I can see my dad taking part in this week and really enjoying this week... racing in the Coast Guard 10K, walking down to see the ships sail into the harbor, watching the parade. I can imagine him knowing my children and enjoying them and building relationship with them, as well as my husband who he never met. And how much I have changed this past decade. So to have the chance for my dad and I to have had a different relationship this past decade. I still ache because these things can't happen. And I ache for my mom because this anniversary (as I'm sure all anniversaries post-loss) must contain such sweet memories but also sadness for all the years without. August 4th marks my parents 51st wedding anniversary. And yet, they could not be married for 51 years. Even so, today I remember and honor the years of marriage they did have. 10 years after my dad's death, I am still blessed my parent's marriage - in my heart, in my memories, and within my own marriage. My parents were never loud or showy about their love for each other. But I remember a quiet, steady, faithful love between them, that brought me much security. I remember the familiar and comforting routine of their lives together. And while my dad is now gone, that remembrance and that sense of their marriage still affects me today. Especially now that I am married and oh how humbly we view things differently when we're on the other side of marriage and also of having children... Thank you Mom and Dad for your marriage. Your anniversary is a special day indeed, and I celebrate that day, 51 years ago, when my parents said I do, til death do us part.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Running dreams

Last night I dreamed I was running. It was effortless and I was weightless. I could hear my feet slapping the pavement. And my breath - the loud breathing of working out hard and yet controlled because I'm in shape. I miss those days.

And then I'm getting ready to go to a race but I've missed the start. And looking down at my feet I realize I have forgotten my running shoes. I'm not prepared. I'm not ready.

I ran a lot of races growing up - throughout middle school - community and running club 5K's and 10K's with my dad and then meets in high school - cross country and indoor and outdoor track. Not so much in high school but before that, I used to get sick to my stomach I was so nervous before my races. Despite going ahead of time - a couple days before - to run the course with my dad, I was so afraid I would get lost during the race. I was in good shape so I certainly wasn't going to be last with everyone running so far ahead of me that I couldn't see where they were running. And I wasn't the fastest so I certainly wasn't going to be leading the pack. And the races were always so well marked. So why was I so afraid of being lost? I was prepared. I was not alone. And yet sick to my stomach with nerves before every race. I would beg my dad to run the race with me but he was a competitive runner and wanted to beat his latest PR. He always finished with plenty of time for him to jog out to meet me on the course and run the last mile or so with me.

And so the gun would go off and the race would begin and my fear would vanish. And afterward, I'm high as a kite on endorphins. Laughing with my dad, telling stories, eating bananas and orange slices. So relieved another race was over. And I didn't get lost. Would I have done these races on my own? Most likely no. But this was time with my dad.

Now he's lost. And I don't run anymore. And I'm missing those days.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Apple of My Eye

I carry in my wallet the last thing my father ever wrote to me. It was a note from Christmas 2002 that read, "Merry Christmas. Your still the apple of my eye. Love Dad" My father always wrote in such beautiful cursive handwriting; this was chicken scrawl. He was losing his ability to write. Less than 4 months later he was dead.

My father was a quiet man, a man of few words, giving power to those few words. Growing up, I knew my father loved me, and yet, I didn't really know in my heart. Even many years ago as I read these very Christmas words, I didn't truly comprehend what they meant. Until today. He's been dead for almost 10 years now, but today, I opened my wallet, saw his note and thought, "well, what does that mean?"

Do you know what it means to be the apple of someone's eye? I looked it up...

The Center of Someone's Life

This is what my father was communicating to me as he was dying. He's been gone for a decade, but today, I was given new understanding of the depth of his love for me. My heart has been stretched and filled in new ways these last 10 years, especially since meeting my husband and becoming a mother to two apples of my own eye. Perhaps today, my heart is more open to receive such a father's love. What an amazing blessing. How lucky I am to have had such a father's love... to have such a Father's love.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Ordinary Days

His 9 year anniversary came and went without much more than an acknowledgment of the day. Then, 3 days later, on an ordinary Tuesday, I had a friend over for lunch; I took my son for a haircut, and I found myself missing my dad. When he first died, the focus of my grief was on MY loss - I no longer have a dad, my relationship with him will never have a chance to get any better, etc. Then I married Rob and my grief was focused in relation to this new man in my heart - my husband and dad never met, will never know each other, will never have relationship. And it stretched out to my relationship with my father in law and my initial struggle to really let him into my life because of this loss. Now that I have 2 children, who have taken OVER my heart, my grief seems to focus on my children never getting to know their maternal grandfather or having relationship with him, and there continues to be such sadness there. Perhaps as we get older, our relationship with our parents grow through the relationships they have with the people most dear to us. I miss things about our relationship - I miss seeking his advice, sharing with him about my life, having a meal together, going for a walk, sitting together at the lake. But the picture becomes so much more alive (and therefore heartbreaking) when I think about the things he and my children could be doing together. I once had those things with my dad; my children never will.

Since my dad's death, other people have entered into my heart that I love just as passionately (if not more) than my dad and dad has taken second stage. But isn't that what is supposed to happen with our parents? Aren't we supposed to let go and move on to become healthy, capable adults? Aren't I suppose to transfer that love to my husband and children? And how can I if I am still pining away for a father's love? I don't need my father anymore as I did when I was a child. He is gone and I really am okay without him. But on these ordinary days, I WANT him in my life - to talk about my children, God, running, books, relationships. Perhaps my grief is maturing. Or am I just maturing? It's not all about me and my loss. I am not the only one affected here. Generations are affected by his death. I never met my maternal grandparents. They both died before I was born. The older I get, the more I realize what a loss this is. So much history, story, relationship buried with the dead. So today, 9 years and 3 days later, I'm wishing for just an ordinary Tuesday with my dad.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Fading grief is still grief

It's been 8 years since my dad's death and he is fading. I still miss him. I still love him. I still long for him to have relationship with my children and with my husband. I still long for a continuation of our relationship as I have grown and changed and how that could have affected our relationship. But life has gone on and that is both a relief and a sorrow. I feel the sorrow most when I think about my children never knowing their maternal grandpa. I can envision them playing basketball and running together. Watching boats together on Lake Michigan. And I feel loss for them that they don't yet know to feel.

But life has gone on and life has let him go. And in the day to day, I don't think much about his absence. And that's ok. And it's also ok that the words, "goodbye dad" still get stuck in my throat. He is fading but I'm still holding on, even if most days, I don't realize that I am.

Friday, October 9, 2009

There is no and/or... it's both

A friend asked me today where I was in my grief journey regarding the loss of my dad. I am touched that he asked me this as it has been 7 years since my dad's death. Not many people acknowledge after that length of time that I could still be grieving. Yet when you lose a loved one, no matter how much time goes by, it never stops being a loss.

In response, I told my friend that ever since having my son, I have entered into a new layer of grief... there is great sadness that my dad will never know my son; that my son will never know my dad; great sadness that I can't experience my dad as my son's grandpa. And at the same time, now that I am a parent, and have experienced the kind of love a parent has for their child, I have realized how much my dad LOVED me. Not because of anything I did or didn't do but simply because I am his child. (And I don't stop being his child, just because he's gone). There has been great comfort and healing in that.

And peace. A peace that has been given; a peace I've had to receive. I am grateful for the peace. And yet, in conversation with my friend today, he asked, what happens to the longings for your dad... longings for him to still be a part of this life and a part of your son's life in the midst of this peace? And I realized, the longings are still there. They don't go away just because there is peace. Nor would I want them to go away. So there is sadness and there is peace. Seven years.