Friday, February 20, 2009

Love Letters

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.


Ginaagain said...

Oh Karen! Nonchalant or trite? Never! When you write about your Father your words are so touching, so filled with love and loss that I cry with you. You are dealing with your grief in your own way and I suspect that the personality traits that shine in you and allow you to carry on despite your grief, to find joy even in loss, to put your love for your family and concern for their welfare at the top of your priorities, are traits that you learned from your Dad. What an incredible gift he left for his grandchildren.

Corrine said...

to see that empty chair brings a tinge of sadness to my heart, i understand the chair thing, and not sure I am ready to have an empty chair, sending love, to help you through this time.

Shawna said...

Your love for your father shines through so clearly that I feel it in MY heart . . .having never met you or your father and being hundreds of miles away. Every holiday, every family gathering will be hard, especially the first year. But for you to be able to pay tribute to him with such loving words . . .your grieving is right on track, if there is such a thing. Cry all you want to, when you want to. I still burst into tears every once in awhile when I think about my mother--and it's been 7 1/2 years. The heartache will never go away, but that just goes to show how special our loved ones are to us.

Tara R. said...

My heart goes out to you and your family. The letters are wonderful, and I'm sure your children and the other grandchildren will always cherish them.

Kami said...

Oh Karen, you are handling this exactly as you are supposed to. You need to cry when you need to cry and you need to be strong when you need to be strong. Keep plugging through your grief, you are absolutely entitled to it!

And I am wiping tears. What a sweet sweet man that would take the time to dictate letters to his grandbabies. That just makes my heart glad that your family had the privilege of sharing his life!

Kami said...

Oh and ps a good friend of mine just started a blog chronicaling her infertility journey. They just started the IFV process...I thought of you and your wonderful success with L and G. I have posted about her today, if you have a chance will you check it out?

She's a lovely person and she also loves dancing...she is the one who gave me a crazy dance cardio video that reminds me of your body jam! BTW, you compared to me is like Madonna vs Pee Wee Herman!

C said...

Oh, Karen!
This post had me bawling my eyes out :( It's so clear how close you are with your family and how much you loved your father. What a touching post and so beautifully written.

Okay, I'm off to cry again!!!

Hugs xoxo

C said...

P.S. I wish I were able to be there for you if you need me to. A shoulder to cry ear to listen or just to give a hug or two if you need one :)

I think that crying is cathartic. Have a good cry if you need to. Know that you've got a great support system with your family, friends, and even with your blog friends.

Thinking of you guys. XO

Kat said...

You're so lucky, Karen. That may seem weird to say right now, but it is the thing that strikes me hardest when I read you writing about your family. You're so lucky.

What a beautiful thing your Dad did, writing a letter to the grandkids. He'll be with the good guys, where ever he is.

Cherry said...

Your writing is so beautiful and touching. You are not showing as someone who has moved on or is being trite to us. The love and loss you feel is real and it is so evident here.
My heart aches for you Karen as I choke up with tears.

I do want to thank you for writing about your grief and your joys. It helps me more then you know.

Many Hugs to you Karen.

Beck said...

And I'm crying with you. xo

Denise said...

Ack! the empty chair did me in!


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