Monday, November 16, 2015

All my Memories, Gather Round Her

It's been nearly six weeks since my dad passed away, and life, as she is wont to do, continues to fly by at a rapid pace. It's been the most surreal experience of my life, but except for the rare indulgence in self pity I have mostly been okay. At least I think I have mostly been okay. It feels weird and almost a betrayal to my dad to say that. I'm not okay in the sense that everything is fine, but I'm okay because there's no other viable alternative. If I let myself have an extended stay in that sad place (instead of the occasional visit), nothing good will come of it. Of all people my dad wouldn't want me to dwell in sadness. He'd say, "Sissy don't you worry about me. You have Will to worry about. You're the sick one!" And then he'd take a drink of a beer and go back to watching football because we'd already talked about him too much. 

I feel extraordinary sadness every day, but I also feel so much joy. I have been reminded of what an incredibly supportive man I married. I have incredible friends. My husband and I enjoyed a much needed weekend away together with those of our closest friends, and I was able to laugh about how much my dad would've hated the crowds in New York. For the most part I'm able to think of my dad and what his reaction would be to something with a smile. It may be a smile on the outside while it feels like a vice is gripping my heart on the inside, but I'm able to push through.

Last weekend we went back to West Virginia for the first time since Dad died. I was feeling fine as we were driving there, but as soon as we pulled off the freeway exit to my mom's I started crying. You know the kind...big, wracking sobs. I had a few minutes before we got to her house, and I pulled it together. I didn't want her to see me being sad. Plus I have an 11-month-old baby who doesn't have time for that. He keeps the sadness at bay.

Over the weekend I spent quality time with my mom and brother (who also came in for the weekend). It was both good and weird to be back at my parents' house. Everything feels quieter. It feels tidier. I hurt the entire weekend thinking of how agonizing it must be for my mom to see my dad's things and know he's not there. For her that band-aid must get ripped off every day.
With my brother at Mountaineer Field
I didn't run while I was in Morgantown. I promised myself I'd take a week off after back to back weekends of racing, so I left my running shoes in Michigan. It was a weird and somehow freeing experience. I can't remember the last time I left my running shoes at home.

On Sunday we were packing up to head home. I was in my parents' laundry room putting something in the trash, and I was holding back sobs. I was taking shallow, ragged breaths trying to keep the crying under wraps. My mom was heading to Virginia with my brother, and our son had taken a late morning nap. They left earlier leaving us in the quiet of my parents' home.

I cried most of the rest of the time we were there. Oddly I don't cry that often. I have a dull, physical ache in my chest on a regular basis, but I tell myself I'm alright. Dad would want me to be alright. People experience terrible loss in life, and they deal with it. I can deal with it too. But this weekend my heart felt raw and broken. I could feel my dad everywhere. It was hard, but it was also oddly comforting at the same time. It made me realize that I can be both heartbroken and okay. Those two things are not mutually exclusive.

There are a lot of firsts without Dad coming up this fall: Thanksgiving, his birthday, my son's first birthday, Christmas. They're going to be painful. I'll be constantly reminding myself of positive thoughts and memories, and trying to enjoy the moment we're in. If nothing else I've learned that life is short, and it's important to take a deep breath and take it all in. As my dad would've said, "Might as well; can't dance."

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