My father died on New Years Eve, 8 years ago. Time of death was 10:20pm although the death certificate had a different, later time. I remember looking at the digital clock that still rests on the left side of the bedside table and seeing the number. I remember I was on the phone with my mother and she said “it’s done.” For a few seconds I was confused, a steak is done. My dad was gone but that’s the only way she knew how to tell me. Today is about loss, New Year’s Eve will always be about loss. For most people loss is not unfamiliar to them. I an envious and jealous of those who do not know what grief and loss tastes like, looks like and feels like.
My dad is gone and even though there are times I think I see him, or smell his cologne, he isn’t here on this physical earth anymore. I try to forget about this date but I know I can’t; I think I am over the crying and the sorrow but of course I’m not. The remembrance candle burns dimly on the old kitchen stove. My father is with me in spirit and sometimes ,but much less often now, he sends me messages in dreams or songs or smells. What I do know is this, when I need him, really need him, he is still always there for me. For this, I am eternally grateful.
Leaving and loss go hand in hand. My children are in the process of” leaving me” in a year or two, they are getting ready for it and gearing up. I know they should, they are 15 and 17 but I find the adjustment terribly difficult; more difficult than I thought it would be but I always get upset way before things happen. When the time comes, I’m a star; strong and proud. I can cheerfully wave good-bye with a smile on my face and jump up and down with joy as they practically skip to summer camp but this is very different. This is the start of a new life for them as well as for my husband and me. And, we all know, change is not one of my strong suits.
The moment a child is born, they are already leaving you, second by tiny second. You coo over the tiny pink shoes for your new sweet daughter, you feel a rush of euphoria when you find the right Thomas the Tank Engine for yours very special little two year old boy. You applaud their independence, their first step, their first wave good-bye…..you just don’t know at the time what it really leads up to. No one ever tells you what it is like later on. People want babies desperately as we did. But no one ever told us how hard it would be when they grew up. It sneaks up on you, believe me, but somehow the children don’t feel it in the same way; they can’t wait to grow up. If you were crazy enough to tell them this, they would, as expected, laugh in your face. Didn’t we do the very same thing?
Loss is very lonely, any type of loss. All things end up with you being alone in some form or another. On one side it’s frightening, on the other side it’s reassuring. It’s all we have, we need to take hold of ourselves and hold on, for whatever light that will guide us and keep us. I am scared to death with life without my husband and my children, family members and close friends and my dog, but I prepare for it in my mind. Some would say this is crazy, others will say it’s strategy. I think it’s both. We all do what we have to do to go on, another day, another week.
There’s no need to put me on suicide watch; some days and nights are harder than others. Especially tonight. Tomorrow is another day, an endless day but a new one. The start of a New Year, 2010, that I pray will be better than 2009 was. I have to believe in that.
What’s left of the old are family traditions, jelly doughnuts and chocolate glazed doughnuts once a year on New Year’s Eve. For those of us who can’t make it to welcome the New Year, our own New Year is at 9pm. Tonight, it will be just my husband and me. Most times, I like to hide under the covers and welcome the New Year in from my comfy bed. The four of us used to jump down from a higher surface to a lower one to honor the passing of the old to the new. We would celebrate with Martinelli’s apple cider together. But tonight, it’s just another day of breathing in and out, until all the pain and the anticipation of pain, leaves you calmly, slowly, and very quietly into the dead of night.
A series of very powerful and moving entries! My dad died, unexpectedly, on March 8, 1991. I can remember clearly learning about his death: I had a night class and used to go to a friend’s after my day class for supper, conversation, recharging then off to learn about American Colonial History. That day, a message was waiting for me from my husband — to give him a call right away. “Your mom called and your dad is dead.” Not the first death in my family, but my first funeral, first tombstone, deep loss.
My dad and I had been close when I was very young — he took me for Sunday drives to give my mom a break and taught me songs — some of which were a bit old for a two year old to sing!. As I got older, we grew apart and he was often away. Later, after his heart surgery and retirement, a new, more outgoing, more communicative, more understanding father emerged. The last years were filled with funny family dinners, watching baseball and hockey, talking about history and me being back in school, discovering and enjoying just how wicked and warped his sense of humo(u)r really was.
My dad missed my 2nd, 3rd, 4th university graduations, the joys and sorrows of graduate school, the thrill of teaching and research. So, while he missed the highlights, he also missed the “lowlights” of sudden job loss, betrayal, my declining health, the alteration of my mother, and other “lesser” events.
Over time, the actual day he died has become less of a memorial (for many years I hosted a “Dad Memorial Party” with friends); other days (the world series, the stanley cup, watching a tv show he would have found funny, a tidbit of family history) have become his memorials.
The tradition of donuts and candles is a good one — the past, whenever possible, should be remembered with sweetness and light.