Today I was dusting rather compulsively, albeit quickly, and I accidentally knocked down a folder on my bookshelf. Out fell cards, and pictures, and pages upon pages of memories people had shared with us over the first few days after your passing. Though I have not much time to clean my shambles of a house before Nathan's friends and moms arrive, I took a few moments to read, and now, a few moments to write to you.
I was so angry immediately following your death, dear Dad, that I didn't fully appreciate your career, or the impact you made on this region and the world during your time here on Earth. I was SO angry, feeling that you had chosen to spend the precious time that you had with your career instead of with us. Now that I look back, I realize I shouldn't have been angry with you...you did spend time with us. You did put your family first, if we ever needed you. No, we did not get that time together that I was wishing for, and hoping for, and praying for, and waiting for - time to talk about your life, your wishes, your hopes, your prayers. We didn't get the chance for you to spend some good - or great - days out on the boat that summer, watching Emma jump off the side (and probably Katie and Nathan now, too), watching Natalie and Noah take their first boat rides with their Bubba, and watching darling Matthew with his precious, precious smile take more rides, showing the rest of them how to do it. It wasn't your fault, though, that we didn't get these moments - it was your stupid cancer's fault.
I remember how upset I was that you didn't want to talk, during that last week or two, and now I am sorry that I was ever upset with you about it. I always realized that you were in pain (maybe didn't know how much), and busy dying (I realized that was where you were headed, I just didn't know how soon)...but I couldn't understand how the emotions involved with what you were going through just wouldn't come out. How, knowing in your head that things didn't look good, you just couldn't or wouldn't talk about it.
I think I know now, Dad.
Looking back, I think you probably knew exactly where we were headed, as a family...down the road of loss, and misery, and sadness, and grey days that don't end. You probably could not bear to even think about it, much less talk about it. Whereas I was saying to the rest of us, "we can do this...we'll have the rest of our lives to put ourselves back together, we just have to help Dad now and worry about ourselves later"...you remembered how hard that is.
I was only 12 when we lost mom...and when we lost Grandpa and Grandma and Uncle Mike in those few years before her, they weren't my parents and my brother. Only you knew our road ahead - young parents, with no parents of our own to guide us, or love us, or share these memories of parenthood with us, and no time to even cry (without freaking out the children), or stay in bed for months, or go crazy and sell everything and travel the world like nomads until we find our joy again. We have other people to be responsible to now, others to love while we still carry this heavy, miserable grey load around day after day.
It is horrible, Dad, but you knew it would be...I'm sure of that. I didn't know it would be so horrible - the loss, the memories, the missing parts of myself (you and Mom), and so much, watching my children grow up without you. How much I would love to tell you, and Mom (not just talking to myself, like now) about Emma! How she loves her family, your family - your brothers, your sisters-in-law, your nephews, your niece...how she counts on them and thinks of them and they make her feel safe and proud of herself. I wish I could talk to Mom about my little middle child - the shining star who sparkles and then just as easily explodes...so much emotion and creativity and intelligence in that skinny little body. And Nathan...he is a boy you could really love - he's funny, like you, and crazy, and smart, and can make anyone laugh.
But you, of all people, would know the burden this is...the joy that my children loved you is now my misery that they miss you, my worries that the loss of you is too hard for them, my concern that I won't be able to keep it all together well enough so that I can raise them properly during these precious years.
And believe me, I am now probably happy that I didn't know HOW MUCH sadness was coming my way. It's a different kind of loss, and grieving, when you are 36, with no parents, with young children of your own. It's not at all fun.
So, Dad, it's ok that we didn't talk about it.
Your daughter always,