My children love their father fiercely. I think they know they almost lost him a few years ago, when they woke up and I had to tell them that an ambulance took him away while they were sleeping. What do you tell your children when you don’t know if their father is still living? When they are so young and thought they’d be going to the annual oceanside July 4 family picnic so they came downstairs already dressed and eager to jump in the car?
What do you tell your children when their father’s last words to you were, “I’m thirsty.” And your last words to him were, “No you’re not. Let them take care of you,” because somewhere, somehow you remember that before you die you feel very thirsty.
What do you tell your children when you are as scared as you’ve ever been with the unknown and the uncertain and the love that might have no where to go but to them now.
These are not questions. They are impossibilities.
I grew up without hurt. All four of my grandparents–and until I was a teenager a great-grandmother–were living. We had a home and meals and extracurriculars. Parents in a marriage that I knew to be nothing but happy and productive. Friends. A large, accepting family. Traditions and adventures.
When my grandfather died I wasn’t sure what to do, really, but losing a grandparent at the age of 24 seemed not so unusual. It seemed at the time as it still seems now–like one of those life events that will come eventually and that came at an age at which I should be able to cope. I guess I coped. I don’t remember. And then a year or so later my own father died.
I am confident enough about that blow to say now that I will never fully recover from his loss. I am not suffering daily. But I was changed by my dad’s death in a way that will forever impact the way that I see the world in which I live and the choices I make.
I desperately want my children to live a very long time without losing their father. Or anyone else they love. Yet they already know so much more about loss than I ever did at age 26, when I brought clothes to the funeral home for my father’s body to be dressed in.
There’s a fine line between sharing all of the details of a story in one place and not leaving some for more telling in another. The back story of a previous heart attack. That seems important. But what else? My sweetie’s age? 52, the same age my father was when he died so suddenly, but not of heart failure. The messy, small house, not big enough for a stretcher so he had to be strapped to a rolling chair until they got him out the back door, where I insisted he wasn’t thirsty. And told him I loved him.
Do any of us really need a reminder that life is fleeting? I don’t need one. But I’m more able to accept the reminders that come. Because I’ve lived through surviving others and almost surviving others. And I’m more aware now that I have so so so much to lose. It has taken me a long time to allow myself to write even just a phrase about the day that Sweetie was taken off to the cardiac unit. He is well now. Doctors and interventions and prescription medicine saved him and continue to keep him well. But it’s still so difficult for me to write about because with every word or–if I get that far–sentence I feel like I am telling a story that I don’t own. Isn’t it his story more than mine?
This is one of the things that has kept me from the blog. Trying to give myself permission to write what I need to write is so difficult as my children are getting older and my stories are more woven with others who may just want to claim them for their own. And I worry, too, that once I do let go a bit–and maybe I have right here–and give myself permission to get down the first glimpse of–in this case–that horrible July morning, I will keep coming back and sharing the next part of the story. We’ve all read that writers tell the same story over and over. I wonder often if I’ve found mine over and over but have been too afraid to put the words down.
I honestly don’t know what has changed to have brought me here now. I don’t feel ready or brave. I don’t feel unique. I don’t feel much different than I’ve felt for a long time. But somehow the words have decided that they must get out of my head. And my fingers needed to meet the keyboard.
Maybe my story can be a reminder to others who need it. But my reasons for writing these words–any words–are much more selfish than that. My children love their father fiercely. But that’s another story.big thoughts, Jen Writes, motherhood, three kids, writing