Holidays are the hardest, people say, especially the first holidays after the death of a family member. Even though I hadn’t spent a Thanksgiving with my Dad in 25 years, I still feel an extra pang of loneliness today.  I recall how he loved the big turkey dinners my Grandmother prepared, how he and I would watch the Hudson’s parade together on Thanksgiving morning and what a treat it was to have him home in the daytime instead of working.

Gratitude is often felt but rarely expressed. There were so many things I appreciated about my father – his generosity, his unwavering support for everything I did (even when he had misgivings about it), they way he encouraged my interests in music and reading and writing, his unfailing good humor and playfulness that never faltered even after long hours of work. I learned a lot about being a parent from him – about having patience and letting your children follow their desires and make their own decisions. But, as often happens, I let the opportunity to thank him for those things pass me by.

As adults, we can look back at our parents’ lives and learn from them in entirely different ways. I am now approaching the age my father was when he and my mother got divorced and he started his “second act.” From my current vantage point, and I can see his reasoning a lot more clearly than I could when I was 30. Cliched as it is, I can see how he was longing for something new and exciting, how he felt as if life would soon pass him by and he needed to make the most of it. I can see the warning signs that he chose to ignore and instead speed through on the way to his exciting new beginning. I am grateful for that insight, even though it came at the price of our family.

There were years when we were at odds with one another, my Dad and I, years we lost touch completely. I am grateful, especially today, for the grace which led us to reestablish our relationship. Grateful for the times we spent together in the past few years – for the day he spent teaching me to play poker, for the time he talked for hours telling me stories about his youth that I’d never heard before. I’m proud of the way he fought to live, with a strength and determination that amazed all his doctors.

Because he died very suddenly, I didn’t have an opportunity to express my gratitude or say a real goodbye. I say it now, hoping somehow he listens, somehow he might know.

I am grateful.


5 thoughts on “Grateful

  1. All those trips you took to Florida? He knows, Becca, believe me he knows.

    Thanks to you, btw, for this tender and insightful (and deeply affecting) series of posts about your father and the hard, sudden grief you’ve faced in his death. Sending loving thoughts your way for peace of mind and heart.

    • Thanks so much. As is often the way for me, I only figure out how I feel or what I think about things when I write about them. It’s good to know my words make some sort of sense to others as well.

  2. Grief is an ugly monster that never goes away. You never “get over it” but you do learn how to live with the pain. I am sorry for your loss Becca. We lost our 10 yr old daughter to cancer back in August 5 of 2001 just before the World Trade Center was attacked. Our daughter, Jessica , would have been 11 on September 11th. That day has a double meaning for us. Jessica has left a mark on our family. Our lives will never be the same because of her. We have so many loving positive memories of her life. We shall never forget her as I am sure you will never forget your dad. Dad’s have a special love for daughters. Trust me when I tell you this. I think that most folks feel as if fathers do not have emotions or that they do not feel anything with regards to their kids and that only mothers are capable of love. They are so wrong and misguided. As for my parents, they were military folks who adopted us out of an orphanage in Germany. I am so thankful that they rescued my sister and I from that place but they were clueless on how to love us kids. They provided for us but they never really loved us in a real tangible way. When my father died of lung cancer in 1990 I tried my best to make amends and talk with my father but he and I did not know how to do that.

    • Thank you for sharing your experience. The loss of a child is unfathomable to me, and I admire your courage in the face of it as I pray for your strength in your grief.

      I think it’s often hard for men to show the love they feel for their children, especially men of our parents generation who often were never shown much warmth from their own father’s. I hope you have some good memories of your dad, and can find peace there.

  3. Hi, Becca. My mind is all muddled now, but I stopped by yesterday morning and didn’t have time to comment or last night and was too exhausted. I understand this post very well. I felt this way when my mother died. I was only three years out of my teens, and you know how teenage girls are with their mothers. She didn’t live to see me become a more sympathetic version of myself. She died suddenly, and I never said all the things I wanted to say, all the things I didn’t even know I wanted to say. I’m sure all of that influenced how I was with my father in his last years. When a loved one dies and things are left unsaid, it feels so final and yet unfinished. You’re a parent and you know how much your son loves you. I believe your father knew how grateful you were and are.

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