(un)happy father’s day

This is my first Father’s Day without my Dad. I can’t escape the barage of commercials and advertisements suggesting the “perfect gift for Dad”; my heart breaks and I change the channel quickly. This year, as I visit my Dad at the cemetery, I am painfully reminded that everything is different. There will be no family BBQ, or “Whale of a Dad” Carvel ice-cream cake, which my Dad loved so much (those chocolate crunchies were his favorite!); no sentimental card with a boat/fishing theme (because that was his favorite thing to do when he was healthy), and no brightly covered gift of pajamas/shirts/shorts/slippers, or whatever Mom thought he could “use” that year.

This Father’s Day I am working, so today Shea and I, and our dogs Riley and Gracie, visited my Dad and planted flowers at his grave. He always enjoyed it when we would bring the dogs to visit, and he loved Riley so much; she never left his side during his final days. He didn’t get the chance to meet Gracie, but I’m sure that they would have quickly bonded, playing fetch with tennis balls, and some belly rubs too of course!

I brought my Dad a stepping stone and solar-powered cross to decorate his grave, and I thanked him (again) for being such a great Father and Pop-Pop.

 

My Father and I didn’t always see eye-to-eye, especially when I was a teenager growing up in Jersey City. He was tough; very (very) strict. When Mom got angry and said “wait until your father comes home!”, we knew that we were in big trouble. Times were very different back then, and for better or worse, we were literally afraid to misbehave. He did the best that he could, and I don’t think I fully appreciated or understood that until I became a parent myself. He looked out for us from the day that we were born, and protected us until his dying breath.

After my Dad became a grandfather, or “Pop-Pop”, as he was called, I saw a completely different side to him, which was pretty awesome. He adored his granddaughters, and he learned to be comfortable saying the words “I love you” out loud (which was not common as I grew up)… and those words later evolved to “I love you more”, which we knew, deep down, that he sincerely did. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to grow close to my Dad and have him in my life for as long as I did. I was able to witness seeing him open up his heart to the life of being a beloved, generous, supportive, loyal, dependable, (and really funny!) Father and Pop-Pop.

Happy Father’s Day in Heaven Dad!

I love you and I miss you everyday, but today even more.

me and dad

Blue Christmas

sad christmas

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas for those who have a light heart and jolly spirit… for others, it seems like work to wear a smile and “go through the motions” that most people expect during the holidays. This year everything feels different. It feels empty to me. I lost my Dad three months and 21 days ago and I have missed him every single day since. My Dad REALLY loved Christmas. Each year he tried to out-do the previous year. He would always leave a voice mail message on my daughter’s cell phone (even at the age of 24!) saying “Ho Ho Ho! Have you been a good girl this year Shea bird? Santa Claus is watching!”… and always with the warning that “if you’re not good, you’ll get coal in your stocking!” Shea still has last Christmas’ message from my Dad, her Pop-Pop, saved on her phone. It makes us laugh and cry at the same time.

I truly believe that my father knew that last year would be his last Christmas. He asked each one of us to think about something special that we wanted. Instinctually I knew that he was “preparing” and wanted his last gift to be memorable and to always serve as a visible reminder how much he loved us, and was always with us, even when he could no longer be. I chose a pair of earrings which I have worn every day since he gave them to me last Christmas Eve. I will treasure them always; they are a reminder of a Christmas past that will never, ever be the same.

As for this Christmas…I just want it to be over. It hurts too much. Thanksgiving was difficult…but Christmas is much harder. I recently found a Christmas ornament that symbolizes the loss of a loved one and says that this year “they will be spending Christmas with Jesus”. Did it help? No. It just made me cry.

I am receiving beautiful Christmas cards in the mail and I am struggling reading them all. I can’t seem to sit down and write out my own greeting cards. I am still grieving. I hope everyone understands.

This year, I am working on Christmas Day. It is ok though. The distraction will be good and I will not be able to withdraw into my own thoughts or sadness. It is a gift to be able to serve others and have a purpose. I will be spending the day with amazing people who selflessly work in a profession that no matter how much you give of yourself, you always receive more in return.

I know that I am not alone in my sadness this year. My friend Susan shared this song with me today and it expresses everything that I am feeling… everything that I was trying to say in my blog, but stumbled along the way with broken thoughts and memories. Susan knows the pain because she just lost her father yesterday… another friend just lost his beloved service dog last week… The thing about grief is that it is so overwhelmingly painful by itself, but going through it during a time that is supposed to be joyous and hopeful makes the sadness feel even more profound and lonely.

Merry Christmas in Heaven Dad. I miss you.