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. . .