Happy 4th of July

No blog post this week due to a very full and very fun weekend at Legoland. Hope everyone reading had a spectacular holiday or, if you’re not in the U.S., a decent Sunday.

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What I Want You to Know About a Life Unfinished

I used to get on the roof every now and then to blow leaves out of the gutter or trim back the overhanging branches from the neighbor’s tall tree. It felt a little, well, reckless. I’ve heard enough stories about dads and grandpas falling off houses to know I shouldn’t be up there alone, wearing tennis shoes and no safety gear, but I did it anyway. It just felt easier than hiring someone to do it. For every person who fell and was seriously hurt, just think of all the people over the years who have been fine, I thought to myself.

Since your mom died, however, I have been afraid to go back up there.

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What I Want You to Know About Being “Just Daddy”

On this Father’s Day, I’ve been ruminating on what several people this past year have told me. Something along the lines of, “You’re not just the dad now. You’re the mom and the dad.”

I know what they are trying to say. They are trying to say that I now play both parental parts. That I have to cover for the things that your mom normally would have handled. That you have the same needs as before, if not more, and it is on me to fill them all.

All of those things are true, but I still cringe whenever anyone tells me I’m playing the roles of both mom and dad now.

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To my wife, on the anniversary of her death

My Dude,

You’ve been gone a year. The enormity of this anniversary has loomed for a while but now that it’s here I’m having a hard time coming to grips with the reality of it.

A year without you. I lived twenty-two years without you before we met. Then sixteen with you. And now I’m back to accumulating years in the “without you” column. It was easier to pile those up when I didn’t know what I was missing.

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What I Want You to Know About All the First Year Milestones

We’re a few days away from the one-year anniversary of your mom’s death, which means we are almost done with all the first-year milestones. Father’s Day and Mother’s Day; each of our birthdays; Thanksgiving and Christmas; the wedding anniversary; the one-month mark and the six-month mark; the first and last days of school. We’ve done them all. And on Wednesday we will hit the final mark and will have gone through a year full of days without your mom here with us.

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What I Want You to Know on Your Seventh Birthday

Every loving parent has two warring instincts which, during normal times, reach a sort of uneasy equilibrium.

First is the instinct to give your child everything under the sun. This starts during pregnancy, when parents convince themselves that a new baby somehow requires a five-setting stroller with all the latest technology. It only gets worse from there. You really don’t expect to be that parent, searching out a discontinued Lego set because it contains a minifig of a character that your child has recently become obsessed with, but somehow that’s where you find yourself.

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What I Want You to Know About the Noise

A few nights before the last day of school, you stub your toe coming up our stairs, and the toenail chips and pulls partly away from the skin. I am outside pulling weeds when it happens, listening to an audiobook. I hear a noise faintly through the earbuds. At first, I think it is a neighbor’s toddler resisting bedtime but, as I pause to listen, I recognize the sound of your cries. Their cadence and tone. Immediately I spring up, taking the stairs from the yard to the patio three-at-a-time in a panic. I run inside and I am relieved to find you holding your toe. Although I am initially afraid that you may have broken it based on your level of distress, I come to realize that it is the sight of blood that is disturbing you. I try to comfort you as best as I can, telling you it’s not broken, hugging you, trying to make you laugh. None of it works, so I opt for another tactic: distraction. I take you out for food at a favorite restaurant. When we get home, I see that in my haste I have left the back door wide open. My gardening gloves sit, mud-side down, on our sofa.

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What I Want You to Know About Being Your Surviving Parent

I binge watched After Life, a show about a man whose wife has recently died from cancer, about a month into the pandemic. A strange coincidence, since we didn’t know about your mom’s metastatic breast cancer at the time, let alone how quickly it would lead to her death. The main character in the show is suicidal but manages to go on living out of a sense of obligation to his pet dog and father who suffers from dementia. The show is irreverent and full of cringe humor, as I expected from a Ricky Gervais production. What I didn’t expect was that it would be insightful and heartwarming. And, while I haven’t ever had suicidal thoughts, not even close, I have found that some of the themes of the show have played out in my life in the time since your mom died, and I relate to the characters and their struggles.

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What I Want You to Know About Persistence and Grace

I attended a writing workshop online yesterday that was gifted to me by some of your mom’s best friends. As an ancillary part of the gift, they took you out for a fun afternoon of shopping and playing while I sat and listened to Anne Lamott talk about a “shitty first draft” and other lessons for aspiring writers such as myself. Her words indeed inspired and enlightened me. They also encouraged me to continue on with my one-post-a-week commitment.

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What I Want You to Know About Mother’s Day

The first Mother’s Day or Father’s Day after a parent has died signals a change of remembering. No longer is it about remembering to put cards in the mail, to order flowers to be delivered, to wake up early and make the parent breakfast in bed, or to create sweet posts on social media. Instead, the remembering is of a bittersweet kind: eating a favorite meal in the person’s memory, talking about the good times you shared with that person, connecting with other loved ones sharing in the loss. 

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