I Lost My Dad This Week

Jun 26, 2020

Relationships are interesting…complicated…and sometimes, hard…really hard!

On Father’s Day, my family lost a man who had joined us about 40 years earlier when he married my mom.

From the beginning, he seemed to be nice, personable, and caring of Mom….and she of him. I liked him, but I was skeptical because there had been others before him who were not so nice. It took me awhile to see that he truly loved my mom and before long, he loved my whole family, but especially the children, his grandchildren.

Don’t think I’m going anywhere twisted here, because I’m not! He was a very good, loving, and kind grandpa and uncle to the children in our family. That was one big reason he stood out to me and I learned to love him as one of the leaders in our family. He called me “Sis” and I happily responded.

The early years were sometimes tumultuous. They both had kids and ex’s. My little sister was a handful and he had one too…and the rest of us were grown with families of our own.

My new and only dad loved my mom. He went along with her gypsy treks, sometimes three hours away for a piece of delicious homemade pie and a cup of hot steaming coffee. It was not unusual for them to drive miles to try a new, little, independent restaurant, she heard about. She followed him around the western U.S. with his work requirements. They had both learned a lot through their life experiences and knew they had a good thing in each other.

Dad was funny and fun loving. He always wanted one of us to name our newborn “Skillet”. He thought it was the perfect name for either a boy or girl. Needless to say, it never happened, but he talked about it often. We still laugh about it!

He enjoyed spending time with the kids in the family, took them camping, fishing, driving, and he loved to play games with them. He was a big kid at heart and I’m so grateful for all the memories.

When I talk about my mom and dad here, I’m not suggesting they were perfect. Like all of us, they were not, but they were good, loving, supportive parents and they were all-around good friends, neighbors, and people.

I was there at the hospital when my mom passed away unexpectedly, and I was the one who told my dad she was gone. I saw the pain and disbelief in his eyes. He literally pushed me away. It still haunts me. But then, he asked me to stay awhile and help him for a few months afterwards, and it was a time in my life I could adjust to make that happen.

We were both grieving and there was lots to do. Honestly, Dad’s health was not so good, and we all thought he would be the one to pass away first, as did he. It was a shock for all of us when Mom was suddenly gone. He and I would share stories about mom, hold each other’s hand when we had a breakdown, and I did my best to take care of him while we did what needed to be done.

It’s not so unusual that our lives got very complicated as we went through the grieving process. We went through Mom’s belongings and made our way through the months after her death. Dad and I broke each other’s hearts, said, and did some things that hurt each other. I’m not at all proud of these moments, but I acknowledged what I did, and we often spoke about it. We both apologized to one another over many different conversations. We forgave each other and promised that we would keep it to ourselves, and not make it “family” gossip. I’m proud to say that I kept that promise to him.

It was not easy to put away my own ego and shame and own up to what I had said and done. I was so very upset with him and had to work hard to put myself in his shoes, to see life from his eyes, and let go of my disappointment and anger. He felt the same way.

Sometimes we fall apart. We do things we normally would not consider doing. We take out our heartbreak and our anger on others. It’s not an excuse for bad behavior but it happens. We’re human beings. When we have the courage to talk to each other honestly, open up our hearts to one another, and take responsibility for our own actions, we can finally let go of our pain and  judgement of ourselves and others.

In the years since then, we have talked each week from our different locations, sometimes revisiting memories, stories, and pain. It took courage on both of our parts to answer questions, soothe the pain, and apologize repeatedly. Our goal was to heal ourselves and each other. I am grateful that my dad was able and willing to help me, and I did my best to help him.

That’s what I mean – life is bumpy, scary and freaking hard sometimes! When we concentrate on our own well-being, our own actions, responsibilities, and healing, we contribute to the good of our families and our world. We learn to forgive ourselves and others. We stop perpetuating pain onto others because we learn from our mistakes and let go of the shame, anger, and fear, and move forward more open-heartedly.

Dad... this was not the first lesson we learned together but it was definitely the most powerful! Give my mom and my sister the biggest hug. You have made a difference in our lives and you are loved!

Love is ALL there is!

- Diana

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