Tag Archive | fathers

Like my father

There’s a song on the most recent Brandi Carlile album that starts out, “I haven’t seen my father in some time / But his face is always staring back at me”. Every time I hear it, it’s bittersweet. I miss my dad. After six years without him, the memories aren’t as fresh. They’re faded, like the photos we took thirty years ago. When I make the effort, I can see his face. I can see his smile, hear his voice, feel his hug. But those aren’t automatic, fresh like they were the first couple of years. I know I take after him in some ways. The small jaw that required years of orthodontia? Thanks, Dad. The crazy crooked toes that look weird and caused me to have foot surgery years ago? Yep, that’s him too. There are things I can appreciate, of course: the wave in my hair, or my smile. But what I appreciate the most is seeing my dad in my son.

I don’t talk about the boy much. He’s younger, quieter, not as outgoing as the girl. Not as active in as many extracurricular activities. But he’s just as delightful as she is, in such different ways. He is growing into such an amazing person and I love seeing the changes happen. If there’s a silver lining to the girl going to college (besides her getting to live her exciting life), it’s that it might give him a chance to shine more. I’m looking forward to some time with him, some time to focus on him. (My girl, I know you’re reading this. You, and the rest of my readers, should know that this doesn’t take away from how much I love having us all together. How much I will miss you. It’s like they are two separate things, existing on the same plane.)

Physically, the boy is very much like my dad, like my brother. They are tall, slim in a way I envy and he feels is gangly, I think. He has my hair, those crooked toes (but even worse than mine. Sorry, kid.) and that small jaw (yeah, sorry about that too). And even though some of the features aren’t all the same, there’s something about his gorgeous smile that reminds me of my dad. Most importantly, I feel my dad’s spirit in him. I don’t mean a ghostly spirit. Just…character, or soul.

Like my dad was, the boy is shy, introverted, quiet in larger groups. But get him in a small group where he’s comfortable and his quick wit and delightful sense of humor come out in full force. I don’t know if anyone outside our little family group knew just how funny my dad could be. In general, like Dad, the boy is a gentle person. He is calm and patient, and does his best to avoid confrontation, though being a teenager makes it hard sometimes. It takes a lot to get him fired up. That part skipped a generation: I didn’t inherit that temperament, to my husband’s dismay. I tend to have a hot temper more often than not. It has gotten better over the years, at least.

The boy is smart, and really could do anything he decides to put his mind to, like my dad learning computers early on to support his family. I don’t think he loved what he did, so I hope my son finds something that brings him more joy, but I admire my dad for what he did for us. And I think the boy has that loyalty too, that desire to make sure that the ones he loves are happy. He’s not overly demonstrative with his emotions, not the type to give random hugs just because. But he’s open to affection, willing to accept it, and every once in a while he’ll say or write something so sweet and thoughtful that my heart melts.

He’s my boy, my son, my baby. He got many wonderful qualities from my husband, and I love those things. I see myself in him, and love that too. I love all the things that make him unique. And I love him even more for all the ways he’s like my dad.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Miss you.

I’m in a funk

Today’s my dad’s birthday. He would have been 74 today. Except he’s not because he got cancer and died almost six years ago, and that sucks a lot. Usually on days like this I’d write a thoughtful post about what a great person he was, and maybe something about how I’m processing the grief. But I don’t want to. I don’t feel like it. I don’t feel like going down that rabbit hole because I know it’ll freshen the pain that has softened and dulled. I don’t want to feel it fresh and sharp again. Maybe that’s one more step in the process. I don’t know. I don’t really want to examine it that fully. I’ll just say that I miss him, some days more than others, but at least I know it gets easier to bear as time goes on.

I’m in a funk today anyway, and I’m not sure if it’s the date or what. The dogs have this new thing where they wake up super early, like 4:30. We think it might be Grace needing to pee because of her steroids. We were able to halve the dose a couple of days ago so maybe that will get better. But still, this morning I got up with them, let them out, and then curled up on the couch to doze for another couple of hours. Better than nothing, but not as good as real sleep in a bed. And I have a sinus headache. And I have all the social obligations this weekend, instead of two whole days to knit.

So yes. I’m clearly in a funk and need to find a way out. Maybe I’ll spend some time with my socks this morning before I have to do all the things. I finished one sock last night, one for the girl, and it’s good. I like it.

IMG_5757You can’t see the sparkle, can you? But know that it’s there, a twinkly little strand of stellina. It’s in my Wonder Woman sock, too, which is quite fun to knit.IMG_5758

With any luck, some sock knitting and extra tea will brighten my morning and make the rest of the day go smoothly. And even though the dogs are buttheads sometimes, being around them is usually a treat too. They’re good. I like them.

Grief Redux

Grief is a tricky thing, isn’t it? You think you’re making progress, and really, you probably are, and then something comes along and takes you by surprise and kicks you in the gut. And when that happens, it can feel as hard and as fresh as when the grief was new.

I lost my dad a little over five years ago. No. No more euphemisms. I didn’t lose him. My dad died in April of 2012. I’ve been able to say that, in my head and out loud, for quite a while now, without needing to cry or feeling the sharp twinge in my heart. I felt like that was progress. Still do, actually. It took a long time to move past the vague euphemisms, and when I did, it often made me tear up just to say it.

So, yeah. I’ve been making progress, doing well. I’m happy. My life is full and rich, with as many up as downs. I still think of my dad every day but not with the sharp pain, more like a faint ache that I know will always be there. Some days it’s stronger than others, but it’s not crippling. It’s just…a brief sadness.

I’ve recently gotten back to my pen hobby. For years, I’ve collected pens. At first it was any fun pen, but it’s gotten more refined, and now I think it’s fair to say I’m a pen snob. I love beautiful, high-quality pens. I love gorgeous fountain pens. And when I was cleaning out my collection, culling some I no longer wanted, I started poking through all the pen boxes I’ve got, and I found the box for my MontBlanc. Inside, I found a letter from my dad, from when he gave me the pen for Christmas one year. It was a company gift and he’d used it for years, until passing it on to me.

That letter ripped off the scab a bit, and it hurts. I miss my dad. He was a wonderful man, a kind and gentle person who gave everything to make his family happy.  There’s so much I wish I could share with him now. And I can’t, and that sucks so much. I’d gotten to a point where I didn’t remember how much it sucked, and being reminded is…not fun.

But I’m grateful to have the letter, which I’ve tucked back inside the box to discover again in a few years. And until then, I’ll write with his pen and remind myself how lucky I was to have him as long as I did.

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Grief Takes Away So Much

This morning, as I lazed on the couch with my cup of tea, I was idly scrolling through Twitter when a tweet caught my eye. “It didn’t surprise me, when my parents were dying, that I couldn’t write. But it shocked me…that I couldn’t read.” It was a teaser with a link to a NY times column, and it was so unexpected, and so close to home.

Four years ago, I was working full-time as a retail manager, but I was also a bookaholic. I read as much as I could. I’d grown up with books, worked in my mother’s used-book store for years, even went to a seminar for antiquarian book dealers. And even though I was no longer in the business, I still loved books. All kinds of books. My parents and I shared a lot of authors, too, mostly mysteries/thrillers. We shared Ridley Pearson, Carol O’Connell, Philip Margolin, Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane, Kathy Reichs, Linda Fairstein, and so many more. I shared a lot of fiction with my mom: Maeve Binchy, Nancy Thayer, Elin Hilderbrand, Kristin Hannah.

Then, as many of you know, my father was diagnosed with lung cancer. I still worked, but managed to get out to Arizona for a few visits. I remember one trip, on the way there, I read my first Lee Child book. Lee Child was my dad’s absolute favorite author, and he’d said this book was the best. I read it, and it was thrilling and gripping and tense, and I had a grand time talking to my dad about it when I got there.

My dad died in spring of 2012, and I stopped reading. For a very long time, I didn’t really read anything. I watched a lot of TV, I played stupid games on my phone. I learned to crochet a few months after my dad died, and that was my outlet. Then knitting. It was creative and soothing, and didn’t remind me of him at all.

Over time, I started picking up books again. My mom and I still share a fondness for fiction, and we swapped what we called “light, frothy books”. They were fun, didn’t require much thought, didn’t challenge me or push any of those grief buttons. I’m so glad I had you, Jane Green and Emily Giffin, Sophie Kinsella and Susan Wiggs, Debbie Macomber. I still love you, still read you all religiously.

I shared some YA books with my daughter. I’ve always loved YA books, and even though these were often darker subject matter, it was okay because it was different. Thank you, Sarah Dessen, Rainbow Rowell, Laurie Halse Anderson, Veronica Roth, Suzanne Collins.

After a couple of years, I started reading heavier books again, ones that made me think and cry and feel extreme emotions, and it was good. And just the other day, the boy and I went to the library, and I came home with six books, and I plowed through five of them within a week. It felt marvelous to fall into books like that again, to get that feeling of utter escape, that feeling where you close the book and you’re still thinking about the characters hours later.

For so long, I wrapped myself in the soft cushion of yarn crafts, and it saved me. I still love it, still knit more than I read, probably. But I think I’m at a point where there’s more of a balance. I can be a knitter AND a reader. A yarnaholic AND a bookaholic.

But I still can’t read mysteries. Well, no. I take that back; I’ve read a few. Harlan Coben is still a favorite. But they’re few and far between. I’ve never read another Lee Child book. I have an O’Connell and two Fairsteins in my To-Be-Read stash, and I pick them up periodically, read the description, and put them back. They’re too dark. There’s too much pain and anger and ugliness in those worlds. And of course, they still remind me of my dad. I think I’ll get back to them, someday. Until then, there’s still a whole wide world of books to explore, and I’m so relieved that I could find my way back to it.

Three Years Gone

Today marks three years since my father died. I still hate those words. I will always hate those words. I’m not in pieces today, not like I was two years ago. Today it’s a mild, pervasive numbing sadness. It still hits me at times with a shock: he’s gone? Wait, how can that be possible? And there are times when out of the blue I just miss him. Miss his hugs, his smile, the way he loved all of us so much. But there are many more times that I can think about him, talk about him, with ease and fondness and laughter. That part has gotten easier in the last three years.

Part of me is just sad that he doesn’t know me now. I’ve changed so much in the last three years, grown so much. I’m a different person in so many ways. I put my family first, and I try to appreciate every family gathering. I value truth and honesty and loyalty, which I always did, but now I don’t put up with the bullshit, the liars, the fakers. I worry less about how I may appear to to strangers, and more about how I’m treating the people I love. I’m not perfect, never perfect, but I try to admit it when I’m wrong. I apologize. I find more joy in a family dinner than I ever did at work. I live a quiet life now. A peaceful life. It’s a much richer life, and for that I’m grateful. I wish it hadn’t taken something like that grief to make such a difference, but at least it happened. I read somewhere that you don’t truly grow up until you lose a parent, and I can’t help but wonder if that’s true. It’s profound, or at least it was for me. Who else is such a big part of you? Who else is so instrumental in shaping who you are?

Today I’ll look at some old pictures, relive some memories. I’ll cry, but I’ll smile too. Tonight we’ll go out with my mom and siblings to have Mexican food and margaritas, his favorite. And when we raise a glass for a toast, in my head, I’ll thank him for bringing us all together. img031

Missing You

Yesterday was my dad’s birthday. It was the third we’ve had since he died. He would have been 71. And I made it through the day. It wasn’t pretty, wasn’t fun, but I did it. It helped that I had errands to run, doctor appointments to deal with, things that kept me busy and kept my mind occupied. Of course it was always in the back of my mind, but I didn’t have much time to dwell on it. And when I did have time, it was a different kind of grief than years past.

The first year, I kept thinking I was forgetting something, something I was really supposed to do that day. And then I’d remember: I was supposed to be calling my dad, but couldn’t. It was a series of sharp pains throughout the day. The second year, that feeling of forgetting something was gone but the loss was still sharp. We might have had cake but I’m not sure. This year the pain itself had softened, but it was joined by a pervading sense of permanence. No way around it, he’s really gone and I really won’t get another birthday with him. It was just a sad day from start to finish.

I’m glad it’s over, really. I woke up refreshed this morning, eager to have a better day today. No big plans, which makes for the best kind of day, doesn’t it? I see yarn in my immediate future, maybe a trip to Half Price Books.

The Magic of Baseball & The Kansas City Royals

I’m not thinking much about knitting today. I’m thinking about baseball. I’m thinking about the Kansas City Royals, my lifelong baseball team. I was lucky enough to go to the game yesterday, and I got to see them sweep the Orioles and become the American League Champions. This was my view from the club level, right next to the broadcasters’ boxes.IMG_5211Craft was involved a little bit, I guess: I was carrying a handmade purse I bought over the weekend at the craft show, and I was wearing the Royals fingerless gloves that my SIL made and I stole. IMG_5166 IMG_5210It was an amazing game, but I might not need to tell you that. I’ve been to a lot of baseball games in my life, and this was easily the best. The joyousness in the crowd, the unwavering belief, the collective breathlessness…it was magical to be right in the middle of all of it. There were big moments when the Jumbotron urged us to get loud, but we couldn’t. We were all holding our breath, silently urging our boys in blue to get this strike, this hit, this out, this game. And when they did, when they won…WOW. High-fives everywhere. People were jumping and yelling and crying, and nobody left. There was no big exodus to be the first to leave the parking lot. We wanted this magic to keep going. We all stood and watched the team celebrate on the field. We saw all the players’ wives and kids come out, and the little kids ran around the bases and played on the field like it was just an ordinary playground. Thanks to a cameraman in the locker room, we got to see the champagne celebration.IMG_5213Once the players went into the locker room, some fans started leaving. We stayed. My friend and I stayed, watching from the balcony that is the club level, until they kicked us out. Then we went downstairs, and saw the players reemerging. Salvador Perez was on top of the dugout, talking to fans and giving away his hat and shirt. He took photos with fans. When he jumped down to do a lap around the stadium, high-fiving fans along the way, Nori Aoki took his place. We were behind the visitors’ dugout by then, and as Salvy came around in front of us, I stood on a seat so I could see him as he went by. He was beaming. I thought too late that I should get a photo, but I was too busy enjoying the moment. I watched Nori jog out to center field and lie down, clearly savoring it all. As he leaped up and jogged our way, I got my camera ready.IMG_5228Nori is my favorite Royal, I think. He’s not the big-name, big-moment guy like Moose or Gordo or Cain. He’s not flashy like Dyson or consistently amazing like our bullpen trio of Herrera, Davis and Holland. He gets pulled late in the game so that Dyson, a speedy base-stealer, can go in. But he’s steady, and he’s good. Nori can be so very good, but people don’t always recognize it. And I think that’s true about the Royals too. It has been true all this season, maybe longer. They were, are, so good, but they’ve been the joke in baseball for so long that people didn’t figure it out until near the end of this season.

We’re not the joke anymore. We’re the feel-good story. We’re the proof that success can come to those who keep pushing on. Finally, everyone else gets to see what I’ve been seeing for years. Yeah, we’ve had rough years, and there have been times I’ve joked too about the Royals being the farm team for the other major league teams, but in my heart I believed, and I know there are a lot more like me out there.

So why is there so much emotion tied up in this? I’m not sure. But I know I’m also thinking about my dad right now. In 1985, he worked for Marion Laboratories, owned by Ewing Kauffman, who owned the Royals. Thanks to Kauffman’s generosity with his employees, we got to go to a lot of games as a kid. I remember the cotton candy, the roar of the crowd, being silly with my siblings. I remember eating hot dogs at home early so we could leave as soon as Dad got home. I remember my parents going to the World Series and watching the Royals win, and even then, at 9 years old, I was aware enough to be excited and jealous. So now, with my dad gone over two years, I wish he could be here to see this. I wish he could be there at the watch parties with my mom and my siblings. But I’m so thankful that he helped bring this game to my life. I’m so thankful that he helped it become something I can share with my family and my friends. Maybe that’s where the emotion comes from, from having these experiences be so intertwined with the people you love.

I’ll be watching the World Series starting on Tuesday, waving my rally towel and cheering on my underdogs-made-champions. I want them to win. I believe they *will* win. But in so many ways, they already have.

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