Today marks the day you were taken from us. From me.
It’s been 30 years.
And there is so much you have missed.
So many of my first days of school. My first camp away from home. My first time behind the wheel. My first love. My first heartbreak. High school graduation. College graduation. My wedding… So many days that I have missed you, too. But perhaps none of those days have been as hard as the days that I had my babies. Two days. Two, “jaw-dropping, life-altering, awe-inspiring, what have we gotten ourselves into” days. Two days when it was so important to have family around us to remind us that we were part of a community of people who love and support us. But you weren’t able to be there.
When we had our twins, I wondered what you would have thought of them. I wondered what you would have thought when we gave each of the boys a part of your name. I wondered if you would have put your arm around me and told me they were going to be okay, as we looked down on their little bodies in their NICU isolettes, maybe commenting that you could tell they were strong boys because of their strong heritage.
When we had our girl, I wondered if you would have doted on her. Would you have told me that she reminded you of me when I was a baby? Would you have told me stories of when you and mom brought me home from the hospital? Would you have told me that you were proud of me and the mother I had become?
I’ve talked to the kids about you a lot lately.
We look at your picture on the wall and they ask questions. They ask me what you were like. I’ve been very open and honest with them about why you’ve never been able to meet them. I’ve tried to explain that I’ve spent the last 30 years without you, but they’re almost 5 and 2, they don’t really get what that means. They listen and I see them processing it. I watch them work through the idea of losing someone and them never coming back, but they’re safe in their little bubble, surrounded by all of the people who love them. I hope they don’t have to experience that kind of grief for a very long time.
One of the boys recently asked me what you sounded like. This question really threw me, I must admit. The worst part is I could easily play your voice for him. I recently received cassette tapes that you recorded when you were in Vietnam, during the war. A form of a letter you sent back about your experience, but I can’t bring myself to listen to them. I’m too afraid. I’m afraid that I’m going to listen to your voice and I’m not going to recognize it. The idea of this is heartbreaking and racks me with guilt. None of which is fair to place upon myself. I was 7 when you died. I’ll summon the courage to listen one day, but that day is not today…
I’ve had a couple of friends that have recently lost their fathers and I’ve shared with them something that I learned during my volunteer time at Judi’s House (a child bereavement center in Denver). At the start of any new session, we would give each of the families two rocks. One of these would be jagged and rough. It had broken edges and sharp points. We would talk about how this rock represented how their grief felt now, sharp and painful at the easiest touch. The second rock would be a river rock. Over time, the river and other objects around it helped to shape and smooth the rock. It was still hard and solid, but now those jagged edges weren’t as rough. Those sharp points weren’t as painful. This river rock would hopefully represent their grief over their lost loved one after their time at Judi’s House. This would help them understand that their grief would never go away, that there would always be that “hard rock” of grief inside of them, but that over time and through talking with others about their feelings and struggles, they could ease that grief and make it more manageable… less painful.
This analogy always made sense to me. My grief of losing you has and will always be with me. There will continue to be days were I think about you and wish you were with me. There will continue to be days that I’m disappointed I can’t share with you, kids birthday parties that I wish you could attend, milestones in our kids lives I wish you could experience. But I still get to talk about you. I get to introduce my kids to you. Show them pictures of you and tell them stories of silly times.
So, on this day, the 30th anniversary of the day you died, I just want to say, I miss you. I think about you all the time. I love you and I’ll continue to share my love for you with your grandchildren and show them the love that I know you would have had for them, as well.
Until we meet again, Dad.