Everyone loves this time of year, but it’s not so much my favorite. My father died in March of 2003 and as much as I don’t want to be the sulky drama queen, attaching sad faces to every interpersonal interaction, I struggle. I remember one particularly horrible evening when he was still alive and suffering, I drove down a dark road SCREAMING and sobbing. I’m sure that if I saw a recording of myself, I’d bust out laughing at the sounds I was making. I shrieked and yelled and bawled and repeatedly bashed the steering wheel of my car, realizing that if I didn’t pull over, I’d crash and quite possibly beat my father to the grave.
It was the first time I’ve experienced a grief that raw, real and heartbreakingly painful. I’m sure it isn’t the last time.
And so March REALLY comes in like a motherfucking LION for me, pouncing on my spirit and roaring through my soul, weakening my ability to appreciate the warmth and brightness of the increasing sunshine.
FUCK YOU, CANCER.
I recognized this pattern of March madness when my youngest child was still in diapers. Of course she was in diapers until she was five years old, but the point I’m trying to make is that being aware that this time of year tends to create a shit storm of emotional wreckage in my life is a GOOD thing. I know the black wave of dark and twisty is heading in my direction so I am able to get my metaphorical surfboard ready for the rough ride. This year the gloom didn’t even sneak up on me. I started anticipating the predictable bag of crappy grief that burns on my front porch MONTHS ago. So I decided that I’d do some stuff different this year because having a depressed and irritable momma is NOT so much the favorite part of this time of year for my kids either. They deserve better and quite frankly, so do I.
I started today, early in the morning when I decided to dedicate the entire day to nurturing ME. I started by doing:
I sharpened up all my daughter’s colored pencils and got to work as my coffee was dripping into the pot. I imagined myself still a kid, free to waste countless hours in the pursuit of the perfect combo of plates, trying to think back to a time when messing up a design would be the worst problem I’d have all day –possibly all week. It felt awesome! If my dad was still here, he would be lathered in bliss, knowing that I was enjoying myself. The thing I know best about my dad is that his entire life revolved around making sure that my brother and I were happy, safe and well cared for.
The next think I did was watch:
Because I love sparkly fucking vampires and shape shifters with ripped abs. Like I said before, the drama queen in me is temporarily in charge. I went full on fantasy today for a good 4 hours while eating this:
I ate this puffy goodness straight out of the jar, occasionally dipping it in my coffee so that I could get every last bit of the sticky plastic stuff off the spoon. I’m not a fan of wasting food and neither was my dad. I’m sure he’d approve. We had many a discussion about our mutual frustration deciding whether to use chunky or creamy peanut butter on a sandwich. WHY IS IT SO HARD TO DECIDE? My beautiful father no longer has to decide anything other than to be at rest and at peace, wherever he may be.
However, if he were still here, I’m sure we’d be discussing all things mysterious and serious. Every day since he’s been gone I think of something I want to ask him or tell him or show him, but with each passing year I’ve found that the intensity of my longing for him is less. Today I merely have a lump in my throat, thinking about how proud he would be of my husband today, taking our daughter to the “Daddy-Daughter Dance,” at school.
That knob that bulges in my throat on occasion is a miserable feeling, but nothing like the agony of reality that ripped through my soul that night in the car when I realized that my father was really dying. Preparing to tolerate the lumps makes me feel connected to him, because when I’m a strong and stable force in the lives of my children, I’m doing exactly what would make him proud of me. I’m being there for my kids by taking care of myself.
ME. I felt THIS good after taking some time for healing.
I’m lucky. Lucky that even when I grew up and became a mother, I felt protected and comforted knowing that my parents were still alive and willing to provide me with conversation, comfort and even cash at times. I leaned on them during difficult times, not realizing how un-grown up it was to let them baby me. My “babies” are now too old for me to be allowed this type of luxury. They NEED to see me weather any storm. They NEED to see me take responsibility for my actions and words and for THEM, even when I am grieving.
And I need them to see that I do grieve, that it’s a natural and important part of life. We will all grieve at some point and during those times I want them to know that it’s perfectly okay to ride the wave of gloom, even choke on the overwhelming surges as long as them don’t let the torrent pull them under.
So that’s why I spent my day in middle of the road melancholy, yearning a bit for the past when nothing but me mattered with a guilt –free float in my own little sea of happiness. I drifted all day while they were at school, letting the tears flow while creating fantastic fashions with my old toy and feeling glad to have marshmallow fluff instead of blood to eat. I had SIX WHOLE HOURS alone today to grieve in my own way without having to be brave or parental. I needed it.
However I was very ready and extremely happy to see their faces when they walked in the door, reminding me that life DOES go on. I have so much joy to celebrate in my life. It reminds me that the pain passes. Time goes on. My children and I talked about what we did all day, and I let them know how I spent mine and why. Giving myself the day off gave me the energy I needed to turn ON for them the rest of the day. They still need me to be super-mom, able to handle any problem and to always make them feel safe and cared for. I am creating a relationship with them that matters, full of love and trust that will someday be something worthy of their grief when I am gone.
Of course I’m also using this as an excuse for having a metric fuck-ton of toys packed away in storage containers in my crawl space. I don’t sort it out or clean it up. Hell to the N O P E! I just shove it in a 15 gallon tub and make it disappear under the house. The way I see it, I’m doing them a favor by hoarding all this crap, squirreling it away for the future when they inevitably ride the waves of grief themselves.