Friday, October 9, 2015

Dear Dad - Happy 62nd Birthday

Dear Dad,

It's now October. Your birthday was in September. If that's not belated, I'm not sure what is, but in all fairness I started writing this letter before your birthday. I'm pretty sure time is of no matter to you anymore, and all of these things I want to say are better said late than never.

Another year, another birthday, come and gone. We all "celebrated" the best way we knew how, trying to feel happiness on a day where mostly what we feel is your absence. I had my little cry in the bathtub the morning of September 22nd, while shaving my legs. Not so much for my present, as for our past: what we were doing two years ago on this day - saying our earthly good-byes.

For your birthday, Margaret, Mom and I all went to get pedicures at The Retreat. They still take lovely care of us all there, thanks to your many years of keeping their pedispas in working order, and almost every time one of the girls or the owners mentions you. It wasn't important that our feet look beautiful on your birthday, just that we just do something together. Margaret brought lemon cupcakes. Afterward, Mom and I got coffee from 2Tarts Bakery, and then visited the dog park to see your bench. Of course, someone was enjoying it and we didn't want to disturb them, so we moved on. It's still the very best bench, under a beautiful oak tree.

A day later we left for our trip to Port Aransas for the weekend. We rented a nice house, just steps away from the beach, on a very colorful street and with an eagle's nest deck up top. It was a lovely weekend with nearly perfect weather. We had fun family times horsing around in the pool, playing in the sand and waves on the beach, and roasting wieners and s'mores over a bonfire on the beach the last night with Debra. We minimally got on each other's nerves. Side note: maaaaan, I remember the ferry at Aransas Pass being SO MUCH FARTHER across. We'd barely gotten out of our cars before we'd reached the other side.

It was a really good weekend. It just felt wonderful to have no plans, take naps, read, and hug on my favorite littles - furry and human. Last year this anniversary was so awkward. It felt unorganized in the worst way. Almost disrespectful. No one knew what to do or say, so we did nothing and said nothing, and then we all felt badly about it. I mean in one week we're tossed between celebrating your birthday and three days later marking the anniversary of your death. It's just hard to know what to feel.

But this year, this weekend was so good. We've all learned to let each other grieve and remember and honor you in our own ways. I write you letters and make your pancake recipe and bake birthday desserts and get everyone organized enough to end up in one place. Others of us go for early morning walks on beaches or long hikes to commune with nature. We group text anecdotes and memories and old pictures and new pictures. It all serves the same purpose, we just have different ways of accomplishing what we need to say or do to feel like we've recognized both your impact on our lives and your absence from them.

But this weekend, I started to feel your presence in ways more than your absence.

You know how people always say "it feels like forever ago, but also it feels just like yesterday"? It doesn't very often feel like yesterday anymore. It just feels like forever. I think I have lived more, changed more, learned more in the past two years than any other two years of my life.

In some ways things have gotten easier day-to-day, but in many ways - new ways - I'm realizing it will always be hard. I try not to think of all the things in my future that you won't physically be there for - those are the hardest. I cry every time I think about any children I might have, and that - no matter how perfect my descriptions are of you, or how many home videos I play for them of you - they will never know you. Nothing will ever be able to fully replace getting to see you as a grandfather to my kids. You were always there to witness everything I ever created or performed in, but now this - the ultimate creation - I would never be able to place in your arms and see your look of love and deepest approval. That is the greatest wound. If I ever have children, this will be so hard.

But we are finally finding a new groove. I think you'd be proud of all of us for how far we've come, and the new dynamic the family has established. We aren't perfect, and we don't get along perfectly, but we never were and never did before either. In some ways we are still tiptoeing around keeping the peace, deferring to Mom always, but especially when *your children* can't seem to agree. And Mom makes decisions! You know I don't mean that condescendingly. She was always capable, but now she makes up her mind without being backed into a corner or bullied into it. And she's running your company and keeping it successful! Lots of (!!!). I know she misses you desperately, but like us all she's finding that there are ways in which you will never fully leave her and wisdom you left behind that will go on giving. I always knew her to be strong, but now I know it for different reasons... and it's glorious.

The evening we got back from Port A, a Super Blood Moon Lunar Eclipse happened. Yeah - it's a mouthful. It was a supermoon, very close to the earth, but also a total eclipse which turned the moon red. We didn't see a lot of the color like some other parts of the country did, but the supermoon was so fantastic it didn't matter. Mom let us bring your old telescope home and after a bit of fumbling we figured out how to make it work, and I figured out how to take iphone pictures through the lense. It was a once in 30 year experience, and I will not forget it.

I kept staring up at that moon, so bright, so close, and feeling like you were just there. It was not describable with words. A shared moment. It was the most comforted I have felt since you left this earth two years ago. I whispered "Hi, Dad." Did you hear me?

I can and do frequently imagine you in another place. It takes different forms in my imagination, but usually it's a garden. Far be it from me to define it or even title it, but I believe it's there and you are preparing a place for the rest of us. This brings me peace, and that peace is often embodied in gifts from the natural world. The birds on my bird feeder, the super moon, a lighting storm on the beach... when I catch glimpses and reminders of all the ways you're still showing up to share moments with us.

Thank you for the moments. I need them desperately.

Happy Autumnal Equinox. Happy Fall. Happy Super Moon! Happy, happy, happy 62nd birthday, Daddy.

I love you, always and forever.