Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Stages of Grief

Grief hits in the oddest moments. 

I have been dealing with the loss of my dad in a strangely calm and unemotional manner. This is very unlike me, as I’m the sort of person who cries at the merest suggestion of sappiness. A puppy frolicking in the sun? An old couple holding hands? A hangnail? Yes, yes, and yes. (Well, the last one is a given as I’m not a big fan of pain.)

I’m guessing I haven’t cried too much because I have a lot to do, including making sure mom is okay at the memory care unit where we had to place her, which is close by me, and handling dad’s financial paperwork. I’m cancelling newspapers and cable services and I’m trying to clear out their house, which isn’t easy to do since I’m a couple hours away and U-Haul trucks have had to be involved.

And while I cried many times when dad was in the hospital after his fall in early June, particularly once we knew he wasn’t going to survive the head injury he sustained, I haven’t cried as much since then as I thought I would.

It’s the little things that make me sad and I’ll have brief moments where the tears will fall. Like the weekly reminder that pops up on my phone every Monday to call Mom and Dad – and I realize I won’t ever hear my dad say, “Hellooo, Jane…” again.

Or when his birthday arrived last weekend when I couldn’t wish him a happy 90th and get him his favorite Boston Cream Pie to celebrate.

But the other day I really felt the loss – and it was in the oddest moment. When I called the tree and shrub people to cancel the service for dad’s property, I could barely contain myself while talking to the company representative. And all she said was she was sorry for my loss and that my dad had been one of their longest customers – he predated their conversion to a computerized system more than nineteen years ago.

Fortunately, I was able to finish the conversation without wailing into the phone…but once I hung up, I had myself a good, cathartic cry.

It helped, sure, except that the bags under my eyes now have little weekender bags, too.  Yeesh.

So then today, as I was sifting through the ever-increasing piles of paperwork, I ran across a folder that held information about my parents’ house. The one I grew up in. The one they built back in the 60s when they were a young-ish couple with four children and were building their very first home.

I marveled at their confident signatures on the agreement with the builder and on the bank loan paperwork (my dad’s signature was legible back then; my mom’s looked strikingly similar to the way she signs her name even now).

I laughed when I realized that there was only a one-page document for the loan.  There were no reams of papers that people these days are required to sign in order to purchase a house.

A few years ago, I spent a lot of time scanning all the slides my dad had at the house. Many were so blurry, it seemed almost a waste of time to scan them, but I did anyway.  And now I’m glad I did.

Because after I looked at the paperwork for their new home build, I looked through my digital images of that long-ago time. And found several blurry photos that had been taken in front of our new home when there wasn’t a single bush or tree planted yet and there was only straw on the ground protecting the grass seed instead of the lush, green lawn my dad took so much pride in later on.

I was seven years old and – as evidenced by the photo – had apparently lost my two front teeth.  (Nor did I try hard enough to hide behind my brother!) And there was another slide with my grandparents, who must have driven from Massachusetts to Ohio to see the new home their daughter and husband had built.

I smiled looking at those blurry images, but then – no big surprise – I started to cry again. I cried over the loss of my dad. For the man who signed that loan document so his children could grow up in a nice neighborhood in the small northeastern Ohio town they settled in.

For the man who taught us what it meant to be good, upstanding citizens – not just by his words, but by his actions.

I cried for the man who showed us what true love was by his faithfulness and his love for his wife of almost 64 years. Even though his health was getting precarious as he headed into his 90s, he took the brunt of the daily workload (laundry, bills, meal preparations) because mom was mired in dementia.

And I cried because I can no longer thank him for being such a good dad or tell him that I love him just one more time.

But Dad knew I loved him. And I think he knew how much I appreciated all that he and mom did for us.

I just wish I could call him Monday morning and hear him say, “Hellooo, Jane…”

Just one more time.