Monday, September 12, 2016

334(ish) Days

I'm convinced that terrible things almost always happen on beautiful days. Obviously there are exceptions, but maybe when something awful happens and you walk outside into a beautiful day it hurts a little less. Maybe it makes one appreciate life a little more. I'm not sure.

While watching 9/11 coverage last weekend I was reminded of how achingly perfect that morning was. A few years ago I blogged about a death in my dearest friend's family, again happening on a stunningly perfect day. It's been 11 months since I lost my dad. When he was in the hospital for a week before his surgery, the weather was flawless. The day of his surgery and days after were cold and rainy, but I don't really remember them. When I think back to that awful time nearly a year ago I think of those brilliant days before he had surgery.

This photo of my dad and my son in his last healthy days makes me lose it every time. 
I am a lot like my dad in many ways, and one of them is to not dwell on things (in general...there are exceptions). I feel endless sadness and anger at my dad's sudden departure from this world, but I don't get bogged down in it largely because if I surrender to those emotions it'll be hard to pull myself out of them. I've visited West Virginia many times since he died, and it's started to feel less weird that he's not there. The home he shared with my mom feels more like hers than theirs. It's tidier. It's quieter. 

Last week my son and I spent the entire week at my mom's, and I had the hardest time that I've had since we lost dad. It was a week of lovely days - sunny, hot, beautiful. I felt my dad everywhere every day that we were there. 

Last year my husband, son and I walked from the hospital where my dad was staying to Mountaineer Field for a game. In this season's opener I could barely stop crying. I thought of the games my dad took us to as kids. I thought of how much he loved football. I thought of the weekend before his surgery where I went over to the hospital late and we watched football together. I got us coffee from the nurses at 9 pm because just like my dad I can drink regular coffee any time and still get a good night's sleep. 

I witnessed brilliant sunsets from my mom's deck and knew Dad was there. I went running in my favorite place - Deckers Creek Trail - and felt the same way I felt last fall in the nearly month I spent in WV. I visited my dad's grave for the first time (it's an hour from my mom's house) and could not process that he was there even though I saw his casket ready to be lowered into that same ground. The air held a hint of autumn in the mornings, and it smelled the same way it did last year when we were home.

My son at the cemetery. My heart aches that he won't remember Pap Pap.
The week was not all sad; far from it. We had a great time with my mom. We went to two Mountaineer football games, a WV Black Bears baseball game, and ate at all my favorite restaurants. My son had a blast at the play area at the mall, and we caught up with friends at the Children's Museum in Pittsburgh. I took naps. I read novels. I was almost relaxed.

With my son at a Black Bear's game
WVU home opener against Mizzou
The Daniel Tiger exhibit at the Children's Museum in Pittsburgh
WVU v. Youngstown State
This face! Loving the play area at the mall.
A quiet run on the Deckers Creek Trail
But my heart hurt, and I expect it's an ache that will never go away. It's been nearly a year, and it feels like no time has passed and yet so much time has passed. It's a feeling I cannot explain. All I can do is live the best life possible, one that would make my dad proud. Carl Jung said "the word 'happiness' would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness." The sadness makes us appreciate those achingly beautiful days, and that beauty helps us survive the grief.  
A beautiful sunset from my mom's deck. I see you, Dad.

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