Dad, Grief

Empty Spaces

My Dad wasn’t much of a cook growing up. Our dinners almost always consisted of one of the following options:

  1. Dinty Moore Beef Stew
  2. Frozen Fish Sticks
  3. Frozen Egg Rolls
  4. Sandwiches
  5. Canned soups

About once a year he would buy a pot roast and throw it in the crock pot with some potatoes. That was always awesome. And then there was Thanksgiving. Dad would buy a turkey, stuff it with boxed stuffing, and cook it with no extra or fancy treatment. He would usually put it in early and by lunch we’d be chowing on turkey and stuffing, sometimes with a canned vegetable or two. It was awesome in every way you can imagine. And I could not stop thinking about it over our own Thanksgiving week. I started cooking several days in advanced. I brined my turkey for 24 hours. I made mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes from scratch. I baked dessert. I made three casseroles. All of that effort for one meal that was no better than the basic turkey and stuffing my Dad used to make. It definitely came no where near to good enough to even keep me from missing his turkey and stuffing. God, I missed him so much. I knew it would be hard, but I don’t think I realized how hard or how many different things would trigger memories of him.

I was starting on Christmas cards this morning and going through my mailing list. I came to Dad’s name and stopped and stared at it. No need to send a card to that address, it would just get forwarded to my house. Because he’s gone. I stared at that entry for a bit just thinking about that. I didn’t need to send him one. He always loved my annual family letters updating everyone, and this year it mentions losing him. Yet still, until I saw his name and address in my spreadsheet, it didn’t hit me that I wouldn’t be sending him one. I deleted his name from the list. And cried my eyes out, texted my brother, and cried some more.

He’s a part of everything I do over the Holidays because we spent so many of them together. If we were in Huntsville, he did his best to be here as well. He was here last year for Christmas, he watched us put reindeer food on our front yard and he helped put toys together Christmas morning. He loved leftovers and never minded eating them every meal for days. He always thought we way overdid Christmas for the kids. But he never criticized us for that. He just wondered if we were ever disappointed with our own Christmas as kids. I lied and said, “No.” I felt selfish for immediately thinking of the Christmas that I wanted the sweatshirt with Opus on it that I had seen at the mall. Dad evidently waited too long and they were sold out. I’m very glad he went to his grave not knowing I still think about that damn sweatshirt. It would break his heart.

It’s amazing how fresh the pain feels these last few weeks. It hits me so hard, brings me to tears so fast, that I sometimes feel as though I just walked out of the hospice after saying goodbye to his lifeless body. It feels that raw, that painful. And I hate it because I don’t want this sorrow to ruin the holidays for me, there are too many other people in my family counting on a happy Christmas. Dad would want me to give them a happy Christmas.

So, I cry a lot…but I also hug my kids a lot. I’ve been trying to keep myself busy with things that make me happy — like Christmas activities with the kids. And beer. Sometimes there are tears hiding behind the smiles, but other times there are smiles hiding behind the tears. It’s the best I can do right now. I can not escape the holidays without any sad moments missing my Dad, no matter how much he would want me to. So, I just carry on. Cry when I need to cry, but not let those tears blind me to the joys of the season as well. Joy and Sadness are not always mutually exclusive, I’m learning. Sometimes the richest joy is wrapped in the thickest sadness because sometimes it takes a loss of one love to remind you to cherish the others.

Dad on the Green Mountain Nature Trail

18 thoughts on “Empty Spaces”

  1. I promise, it gets easier. The year of firsts, that is the hardest. But it DOES get easier, it just takes time. So cliche, but true.

  2. Beautiful post, mama. I don’t know if you ever watched The Wire, but one character, Bubbles, had this beautiful piece of wisdom to offer: “Ain’t no shame in grief. Just so long as you make room for something else.” I think you’re doing just that.

  3. I still have both my parents but I did lose my Grandma in November 2007, she was the one who was passionate about everything her grandkids were doing – no matter what it was. She’d listen to my brother talk about electrical bits that he sells in his job, and she’d listen to me rabbit on about the latest performance that I’d been in, I miss her everyday. Last Christmas was the hardest – the year before and the year before that Grandma and Grandad helped me and Dad with the washing up at the carol service. Last year my Grandma had gone and Grandad couldn’t help. I stood in the kitchen and nearly burst into tears on one occasion if not two.

    I agree with VHMPrincess it is cliched but it does get easier and it does hurt less but some days it’s worse than others while it does get “better” (if thats the right word!)

    It is okay to cry. You are allowed to – never let anyone tell you not to cry – sometimes it’s the only way to feel that little bit better 🙂

  4. As the others have noted: beautiful. Your Dad was such a fantastic, real Father. I am so sorry the pain is fresh again. Hoping it passes and your Holiday season is filled with love and memories.

  5. I lost my mom shortly before you lost your dad and I have been dreading the holidays since she passed. Mom did everything so well and I never stopped to learn and process how to “do” everything and now it’s too late.

    i think she would want to know that i was trying to be happy though. of course she is saying to herself “if you had only paid attention rather than stuffing your face, you would know how to MAKE this stuff rather than just eat it”…but i was stupid.

    your dad would want you to enjoy Christmas and make it special for your three babies. and they will understand your tears…


  6. I’m BALLING right now, you have expressed exactly how I have been feeling. I too lost my dad 6 months ago, and he was also a big part of my life. I am so dreading the holidays. What was once such a happy time is now something I can’t wait to be over. Thank you for this entry, you are such an inspiration.

  7. This will be the third x-mas without my dad. Every Christmas, I’d go home for Thanksgiving and we’d put up the outside decorations the weekend after. The last Christmas we spent together, we ran to ran to the store for the good after christmas sales and bought all new lights for the house to use for the following year. The only problem was that he wanted white lights and all the strands were colored. So we bought all the boxes of white bulbs to switch them out. The following Thanksgiving, I was taking all the lights down out of the attic and in his usual, organized and label happy way, I found the lights we had bought the year before. When I opened up the box of colored strands, he had already went and switched out the colored bulbs. The tears started rolling. It will be hard, but no that your dad is watching down on you and your kids. Hugs!

  8. I read this and cried, because I feel it, too. We lost a close family friend in March. Someone with whom we spent every holiday since time began. Last August she was diagnosed with cancer and by March she was gone. She was family. She was our other mother. Every so often I come across her phone number in my cell phone. Why can’t I delete it?

    Christmas will be hard. She will be missed. We’ll remember her in all our traditions because she touched our lives so profoundly.

  9. Beautiful entry. I always love to hear you write about your dad. I hope the pain will ease, but the memories remain strong and ever present.

  10. I want to thank you again for your post about taking pictures. I did a MUCH better job over the Thanksgiving holiday with taking pictures of my kids with their grandparents and various other special people. And it was all because of your post. It kept pushing me to get up and grab the camera.

  11. I’m sorry.

    The holidays are always hard – especially the first set. I miss my dad most in those moments when you sit back and see how awesome your kids are from an outside perspective. It makes me ache that he never got to meet them and that they won’t know him.

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