Ahh, the holidays. A time of light strings, scented candles, and lots of rich, yummy food (I think stuffing would be my last meal). It's also a the time of the year of family. People travel across miles (or drive down the street in our case) to spend time with those people where love is unconditional and you can unbuckle that top button comfortably when you eat too much. You can reminisce about old times or make plans for the future together. The key word here is "together." I just love the holidays. At least, I used to until it unfortunately became a time of great difficulty for me.
On December 18, 2001, my father passed away after a fast and furious battle with myelodysplastic syndrome. After our last Thanksgiving together, he entered the hospital with a lung infection. While I was taking my final exams at school he went to the ICU for breathing assistance and the night I came home from fall semester was the last time I spoke to him awake. Suffice it to say, his passing gave the holiday season a completely different feeling to me.
I knew that having a child would be hard when I thought about the gaping hole that my father would not fill in Julian's life but I didn't realize how hard it would be for me to have a son that would never know my father. It's hard enough that my husband never had a chance to meet him, but now my own son? Granted, Julian doesn't realize there is a hole but to me there is a huge one. A great, big cavernous hole that we can only attempt to fill through stories and photographs but know it will never be enough. It is a pain beyond one I've ever felt before to think that our family will never truly be together again (leaving any discussion of life-after-death for another time).
Last night when I got home from Thanksgiving dinner at my mom's (pictures to follow, I left my camera there) I was the saddest I think I've been since my father's passing. As an eternal optimist it is uncharacteristic of me to think of the things that I am missing from my life....but really, how can it be the holidays without the number one man in my life to share it with us?
Thad is such a trooper. He sits with me while I talk about my fond memories of my father and he hugs me when I cry (which, since I became pregnant last year, has been quite often!) and does his best to understand me when I say that my life will never be the same.
My father loved the holidays as well. He loved hosting family and sharing memories with me and my brother. I spent every new year's eve with my parents in high school, eating miniature hot dogs and singing karaoke until the ball dropped. It may sounds geeky that I preferred to spend time with my parents than my friends (most of the time) but now that he's not here, I am so grateful I did as those memories are what carry me through my rough patches.
Oh, he would have loved Julian. He would have loved teaching him about music (I still know too much about music from the 50's-70's for not having been alive during those decades), how to play tennis, how to dribble a basketball, and how to grill when it's snowing. Boy did he love grilling during winter. What is it about men, an open flame, and meat that makes them so happy? I'll never understand it but I will have the image of my dad grilling in the rain holding a beer emblazoned in my memory forever.
Ultimately, he was my hero. I'm sure I'm not the first to talk about a daughter's love of her father and I reach out to my fellow females who understand the absolute love a girl can have for her dad. My father was a great man....now that's the understatement of the year. He was the benchmark by which I have compared every man I have ever met and will continue to be my guiding light. I will continue to live my life in a way that I know he would be proud and now with a son, I will do my best to raise him with the same love, humor, and wisdom my father raised me.
So to all of you who have your families near and dear this holiday season, give your parents a great big hug for me. If they are not near, well, I pray that you will have the chance to give them that hug the next time you have the opportunity. I love my father and while this holiday season will be tough without him here, I look forward to showing Julian a season my father would have been proud of.
I love you, dad.