Today is Dad’s birthday. This morning Facebook showed me the picture I posted of taking Dad’s dog, Petey, to the nursing home so he could have a piece of forbidden pecan pie with his best friend on the front porch. It made me sad because I realized it was the last time those two were ever together.
Before Dad’s death, Mom and Petey’s relationship was, shall we say contentious. They spent a lot of time yelling at each other, and Mom did a lot of cussing, but their love of Dad kept them together. Petey’s grief was palpable, though, and in the period after Dad’s death, Petey and I spent a lot of time holding each other. Now, Mom and Petey are friends.
That picture made me think of all of that.
Today was going to be an emotional day. I felt today looming in the future like an emotional boogeyman waiting in the dark to creep up and grab me. Some people try to ignore days like today, pretend like they aren’t happening, but I’m not a person who can do that well. My emotions will out no matter what, and I’ve learned it’s better for me to face them. If I don’t, I never how they will manifest, and that shit could get wild.
Mom and I decided to face today head on. I have some sort of bronchitis and sinus infection from hell that I spent yesterday at the doctor’s office getting stronger antibiotics for, so we decided it would be best if she came over here. We didn’t plan anything big or elaborate, just the two of us facing an emotional day together.
So, I got up this morning to shake the Viking out of bed and put on a roast. Facebook showed me last year’s picture. I went back to bed. I woke up and realized something I didn’t expect about today’s emotional day.
My two strongest emotions today were hope and love.
Losing Dad wrecked me. My father and his love were one of the pillars of the world. It was one of those unshakable truths like gravity or the sun setting in the West. Then one of those foundations of the world felt gone. The world felt wrong and scary. I got lost.
Maybe it was finally getting some sleep and feeling better or facing that picture, but I realized I have healed through some of my grief. When I was my most lost and things were the most dark, I felt like I would always hurt, like there was always going to be this toothache in my heart. I’m going to school for computer technology, and everyday I am surrounded by things that remind me of him. Six months or so ago, being reminded him as much as I am now would have had me on my couch desperately watching Bob’s Burger or Archer to calm the pain and panic, so I could breathe. Now, I still miss him, but I don’t feel like a desperate and rudderless ship. I’m not going to drown in it. I realized I’ve been feeling hope more lately instead of just the panicky struggle to find a way forward. The sleep and antibiotic are really good, too.
Tonight I found myself sitting on the couch with the Viking and the fuzzy wiener and my mom in an arm chair beside us as we were watching some British mystery. I realized how much love I have in my life and how much love I had surrounding me right then. Hope and love for the lost girl. I wouldn’t have traded it for any book deal, amount of money, or Caribbean island.
We spent the day remembering him. We ate pecan pie. And, most importantly, we loved each other. I think Dad would have considered it a fitting tribute for his birthday.