We had my family over for dinner on Valentine's Day last weekend, in honour of Valentine's and Family Day and because I hadn't had my family over in ages. It was lovely. The arrival of the little girlie cousins turned the main floor into a mini-kindergym almost instantaneously. We had to take several trips to the basement to dust off some push/ride vehicles to ensure that each child had something to ride. And adding to the ambiance was the incessant roaring of the plasma car on our porcelain tiles as my son did the racing circuit around the kitchen/dining/living room. With the parade of vehicles following his trusty lead.
And just like old times, my Mom brought along something to cook; a 1.5 pound bass and some chicken and ginseng soup. To go perfectly with my sticky pineapple ribs and rice. But then it's always a bit of a smorgasbord when my Mom is involved.
So it was just like old times. Except it was so very different. This, sat empty:
My Dad always occupied this chair whenever he came over. It's a very cushy, comfy chair, perfectly positioned to watch CNN, the Stock Channel, TSN ... and keep a peripheral eye on the grandkids. Also perfectly positioned in the corner such that catching a wink or two while everyone else was partying wouldn't be noticed. Or so he thought.
It's been almost a month now since he's been gone. In some ways it seems like he's on a cruise, or an extended trip to the casino. It's still very surreal.
Whenever I run into people who I haven't seen since I shared the news, or if I meet others that I haven't seen in a while and I bring them up to date, I'm always told that I appear to be so strong, to be handling all this with such grace. I don't know about that. I don't know if I'm dealing with this well at all - do I seem too cheery, not sad enough, too nonchalant? Does my telling of this crazy ride seem too trite, like I've moved on and things are normal already?
Because things, well they are so not normal.
I'll cry in the shower. I'll cry while driving. I'll cry. Whenever I'm alone.
During his last days, all of those closest to him got to spend alone time with him. We came pretty close to losing him so many times in a period of a few weeks before he finally succumbed. But he considered it a blessing that he had the opportunity to say what he wanted to say ... and I tried to take that opportunity to say everything I wanted to say too. Truth be told, I said a lot of it to him while he was asleep in the hospital room, through my heart as I couldn't talk without breaking down in front of him.
The one thing that Dad really wanted was to watch his grandchildren grow. Besides my mom, they were who he was really fighting for. They are so young still, his grandchildren. My boy, his first grandchild, he will certainly remember. But my little G, while she talks about her Gong-Gong now, and she knows he's not here with us anymore, she knows he's in heaven playing with all the good guys (is he with Elvis, Mommy?) ... but these things will fade. The baby girls, unfortunately, won't know him.
But they'll all have a piece of him.
About a week before Dad passed, although very winded and experiencing difficulty breathing let alone talking, he dictated four letters to my sister. One letter for each grandchild, a special message from their loving Grandpa.
And on Valentine's Day this year, my sister gave my kids their letters. It was a happy but bitterweet and emotional evening.
So indeed he was here with us last weekend. In his words, he reminded us that he's in our minds and in our hearts. Where he will always be.
And on that note, I'm off to cry again.