I haven’t posted in a while about my dad. There have been lots of reasons for that. Mostly, it’s because I don’t really like talking about it that often. I still talk to Chris about it when I need to, but I haven’t really shared too much with others. Grief is such a personal and indescribable experience. It’s just too hard to try to put it into words to make people understand. I also don’t share much about it because I know that reading about it on my blog sometimes upsets my mom and sister. Coming across a blog post about Dad unexpectedly can be hard to swallow, and so I haven’t felt like sharing much about it here.
Lately, though, Dad has been on my mind. Father’s Day was hard. We went to visit Dad’s grave as a family on Saturday before we all left Pensacola last week, and I was glad that I visited on Saturday and not actually on Father’s Day. Though I was mourning my first Father’s Day without Dad, it was still Chris’s day and I didn’t want my sadness to overtake the opportunity to tell him how much we love him and how thankful we are for him. So, I let myself be sad on Saturday, and then on Sunday, even though I thought about him all day long, I tried to focus on Chris.
But this week has continued on, and I have still had a hard time shaking Dad from my thoughts. I think about him every day. Sometimes it’s about things he told me or conversations we had. Sometimes it’s about things I wish I could tell him, especially when things are either really good or really low. It’s hardest when something happens that makes me call my mom and sister to share, and I become keenly aware when I hang up the phone that I only made two calls, instead of three. Those times are hard.
Usually, when those sad times come, I have to sit for just a minute and let them pass. But when Dad has been on my mind persistently for a while, I know I need to stop and sit in that sadness for a while. I did that the other night, actually. I had stubbed my toe on the side of our pool this week, and one night around 10:30 before bed, I stopped to examine it. And suddenly out of nowhere, I remembered that the last time I’d seen my dad we had been in my pool. He and my mom came down for the afternoon for some reason or another, and he had been swimming with the kids.
And then my emotions flooded me, but instead of having to pick myself up and face the rest of my day, I let myself dwell in the sadness. I think my heart needed that.
I don’t speak to others often about missing my dad, but I do talk to my kids about him a lot. We have pictures of him all over our house and especially in their bedrooms. We talk about funny things he used to do, like cut all the tags out of Bean’s clothes for him when I wouldn’t. We don’t talk long about him, but long enough that they keep his memory fresh in their minds. Bean used to ask questions about Heaven all the time after my dad died. He wanted to understand exactly where Granddad had gone, why he had gone there, who he was with, and what he was doing now. Chris and I have explained to him that Granddad went to Heaven to live with God because he had died. We haven’t explained what it means to die yet and Bean hasn’t asked, but we said that when people die they go to Heaven to live with God because God loves us and has built a beautiful home in the sky for us to live in when we don’t live here on earth any longer. When he asks what Granddad is doing up there, we let Bean speculate. He thinks Granddad is playing golf with the Ninja Turtles, bless his heart. And I always say, “Yep, I bet that’s exactly what he is doing.”
Generally, though, conversations with Bean about my dad are pretty surface level. He doesn’t talk too much about how he feels or his emotions yet because of his age, so our conversations mostly focus on the practical side of Heaven and death. Until today.
Today, completely out of the blue, Bean opened up to me about missing Granddad. It was a beautiful morning with bright blue skies and big puffy white clouds, and we were driving to Target.
“Mom?” Bean asked from the backseat. “Is Granddad up there in Heaven right now?”
“Yep,” I said. “He’s up there right now in Heaven.”
“With God and Lt. Dan, right?”
“That’s right, buddy.”
“Can he see us right now from Heaven?”
“I bet he can. I bet he is looking down at you right now and wondering how in the world you got so big!”
Bean laughed, “Yeah, do you think he knows I turned four?”
That one hurt a little bit.
“Yep,” I said, “He knows you turned four.”
“Do you think he liked my Ninja Turtles I got for my birthday? Do you think he plays with Ninja Turtles in Heaven?”
“I don’t know, buddy,” I said, laughing. “I bet he does, though.”
Bean sat for just a minute and thought.
“Let’s call him,” he said. “Let’s call him and ask him if he plays with Ninja Turtles.”
“Well, sweetheart,” I said, thinking about how to explain this without breaking Bean’s heart. “That’s the thing about Heaven. There aren’t any phones up there, so we can’t call him.”
“Oh,” said Bean. And then a little more quietly, “But I just miss him. I just want to talk to him for a minute.”
“I know, big dude. I miss him so much, too. I miss talking to him. Do you miss talking to him?”
“Yeah,” Bean said.
“Well, how do we talk to Granddad? Do you remember?”
“We pray to God,” Bean said.
“That’s right. We pray to God. And it’s not as fun as talking to Granddad himself, but at least we know God will tell Granddad we are thinking about him and we miss him.”
“Okay,” said Bean. And then he looked over at Gracie and said, “Fold your hands, Gracie. We are going to pray for Granddad.”
And so sitting right there in the McDonald’s drive thru, we prayed together for my Dad.
“Dear God,” I said, and waited while the kids repeated after me. “Thank you for giving us Granddad. We miss him so much. Please take good care of him and make sure he has enough Ninja Turtles to play with. Amen.”
And as quickly as it started, that sweet conversation was over. I ordered my iced tea while Bean and Gracie started talking about what kind of cereal they wanted to get from Target.
Life goes on. I’ve learned that is both the great tragedy of grief and the great promise of joy.
Life goes on, and we carry my dad with us through conversations like these. And even though they break my heart and fill me sadness, at the exact same time they bring me such comfort and joy. I like to think that if my dad is not here with me, then maybe he really is in Heaven, playing golf with Ninja Turtles.