Sunday, November 20, 2011

Grief. . . And Gratitude

It's nearly three months since my dad died.  And introspective fellow that I am, it hasn't hit me like the ton of bricks I thought it would.  I was prepared for huge, crushing grief, an utter earthquake in my life.  Dad was one of the very few constants in my life; mothers have come and gone for me (strange as that is to say, and I really don't mean it in the least bit pejoratively toward any of them).  We've changed houses and cities; friends have come and gone, but since the day he adopted me (before my memories of anything earlier had kicked in in earnest), Dad was always there for me.  So I was prepared for some pretty significant emotional churning (and recalling what I experienced when I met my birth-mother, that wasn't an unreasonable thought).

But it hasn't been that way at all.  I miss him.  Oh, without a doubt, I miss him terribly.  Ever since Mom went to the nursing home, I'd had a pattern of calling Dad roughly weekly.  The calls weren't always terribly stimulating; often as not, he'd just keep me up-to-date on his current medical status.  Sometimes we'd talk about recent progress on the family genealogy (and in the last year before he died, he made a really significant breakthrough, tracking our surname-family back across the ocean, into 1600s Germany), or just what my packet of his grandkids (the 'production side' of the family tree) were up to.  It wasn't terribly burdensome - I'd usually call him on my cell phone driving home from work (my daily commute covers many miles of lightly-traveled freeway, so it wasn't a big deal) - and it was always good just to hear his voice.  I miss those calls.

On one level, I've been mentally preparing myself for his passing for the last 20 years; his brothers were 47 and 58 when they died, and my grandpa didn't see 70, either.  So once Dad hit 70, I figured he could be leaving any time.  So maybe that's helped; I don't know. . .

Mostly, I've just felt a sadness.  Not a big, up-front, dominating-my-consciousness sadness, but just a background sadness that's just kinda. . . there.  And doesn't go away (at least, it hasn't yet).  I'm not depressed; I still enjoy my life.  I take joy from my marriage, and my kids (all of them), and my network of good friends.  I'm enjoying the challenges of my job.  I just miss my dad, that's all.

They tell me that, in time, it will mostly go away.  That the sense of sadness and loss will soften and heal.  And I believe them.  But just at the moment, I miss him.  Ever since I moved out of my parents' house, I've often, when I found myself wrestling with some conundrum of life, asked myself what Dad would do about it.  I rarely ever called and asked him directly, but it was always comforting to know that I could.  And now I can't anymore.  But I can still draw on the internal resources that his own strong character provided for me; only now, I have to pull it from my memory of him.  And I suppose that that's comforting in its own way. . .


Thanksgiving is coming soon, and this Thanksgiving promises to be as significant as any we've had in quite a few years.  Perhaps most obviously, this is the momentous First Holiday since Dad died; the first time our family will be gathering for the holidays without our parents.  And who knows how that will be?  But I am gratified that we are all inclined to keep our family connections alive (and given the Yours-Mine-and-Ours nature of our family, perhaps all the moreso).

So, it being Thanksgiving, I am grateful for my family.  And I am especially grateful for 55 years of life with my Dad in it.  I am grateful for his strong character, his sense of duty, and the strong example he gave me.  I can't even begin to say how my life has been better for him having been my dad. . .


  1. I doesn't hurt to be able to put thoughts about it out where others can see them, either. I think I might understand.

  2. I'm sorry....I know that going through each 'first without' birthday, holiday, etc. is going to be difficult. Wishing you a peaceful Thanksgiving with your family.

  3. I follow your blog, albeit in a background kind of way. My deepest condolesences for your loss.

  4. i'm sure going through this first set of holidays is bringing those vague sad feelings more to the surface and the loss is felt more keenly. that said i am glad you had such a good relationship with your dad for so long. it's a gift not everyone is blessed with.

  5. Skip - I think you're right. . .

    Bijoux - Thank you.

    Anon - Thanks. And thanks for de-lurking, even just for a second. . .

    Lime - Yeah, I know; which only makes my gratitude all the greater. Altho, it's really good that we got thru my teens. . . ;)

  6. What would Dad do? I can tell you that 38 years later I still ask myself this on a fairly regular basis and being able to do so is more comforting as time rolls on. There is no doubt I would be a different man had he not passed when he did but I am fortunate in that he taught me a lifetime's worth in the 11 years we had together.

    Keep your family close and your Dad will feel a bit closer as time passes. And remember, he's got a lot better things to talk about now than health, doctors, and medications!

  7. Xavier - Lots of wisdom in your comment, bro. . . Thanks

  8. I'm many months late in saying so, evidently, but I'm really sorry to hear about your Dad. Gotta be rough for the holidays.

    Just wanted to stop in and say hi!

  9. FTN - Hello, Stranger! Thanks for stopping in, and, you know, saying hi. . .

    Thanks for your sympathy. Everyone says that the holidays are the roughest; we'll see. . .

  10. Happy Thanksgiving to you too Craig