On Tuesday, March 17, 2014 my father passed away. I wrote about it on Family Fusion, of course, and on HVFH I had two posts, Part I and Part II. Today it has been a year since his passing. I can’t believe an entire year has gone by since I’ve heard his voice. I’m not sure when the sound of his voice began to fade from my memory. I remember almost everything he said to me, but the exact tone and cadence of his voice that were once so clear in my memories have faded like yellowed vintage photographs. I wish I would have taken at least one video of my dad. I wish…there are so many of those. I try to stay away from those thoughts because when it comes to the loss of a loved one, regret only leads to sorrow and self-torment, and I know my dad wouldn’t want me to do that to myself. Instead I thought I would focus on what I do remember.
I remember waking up in the inky darkness when I was around six or seven, my heart thumping wildly behind my ribs. More noises erupted from the other room, as they often had every night in that house. My dad and I would meet in the hallway. He heard the sounds too, and he never made a big production out of them, so I was not really as frightened of the unexplained sounds in the middle of the night. If my daddy wasn’t afraid then I had no reason to be afraid. I figured whatever it was had a reason to be there. My dad would pour me a glass of milk and take me back to bed. On some nights, I woke to find my milk already poured and waiting on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. Those nights I felt safer near my parents. I crept into their bedroom and slept for the remainder of the night on their floor.
I remember running after him in the field with my stick-horse, watching him disappear over the horizon on horse-back. Just as I would start to turn back, my dad would appear over the horizon again, heading back my way. He always came back for me.
I remember every time I had something negative to say about myself, my dad had several positive things to say. He was always my biggest cheerleader, even on the days I probably didn’t deserve it. You are such a fantastic mom. You are the best daughter. You’re a talented artist and writer. You are kind. You are beautiful. He didn’t say these things to me all the time, especially during the last few months when he was feeling so lousy, but he said them enough for me to know them by heart.
This morning I took my dad’s ashes with me on a drive after dropping the kids off for school. Just me, with music I know he would have loved, I headed down country roads. The tangerine sun peered over the sleepy hills. Willie Nelson sang soulfully in the background, and I snapped pictures. I even found an abandoned house on the way home. I don’t think losing a parent gets easier over time. I will never stop missing my dad. In my experience, grief isn’t something that ever really leaves you. It isn’t like an old pair of shoes you can just get rid of and forget, but more like an amputated appendage. It takes time for the wound to heal, to learn to function without it, and to get used to the pain. The pain never completely ends, it only lessons over time, and there will always be a scar to remind you of what you once had.
An entire year has slipped by me. I don’t know how it went by so quickly. The first few months were some of the most difficult of my life. The guilt sat grew so heavy on my shoulders, I could no longer see anything else. I played the memories of that final weekend back in my mind on a loop, analyzing it, trying to figure out where I went wrong and how I could have made you feel more loved.
One weeknight, well after midnight I flopped around in bed unable to sleep. An awareness came over me. I knew you wouldn’t want me to torture myself or live my life dwelling on the pain of your loss. I know how unhappy you were toward the end of your life and you just wanted to be free again. You would have want me to concentrate on the positive parts – the good memories we shared, and the good years we had together. You wouldn’t want me to spend another moment beating myself up.
I know what I want for my daughters. Above all, I wish for them self-love, self-acceptance, independence, inner-peace, self-forgiveness, and patience for others. I know you would want the same exact things for me. The best way to teach my children is to show them by example. By taking care of your daughter, I’ll teach mine to be strong, independent, caring, people.
I remember our weekly talks. I never realized how much I enjoyed just talking to you about the little details of my life – the day-to-day boring stuff was always what you were interested in. I think you thought the important stuff was buried inside the details and you never wanted to miss anything. Those little moments that we don’t even realize how great and important they are until they have already happened. I didn’t realize this as much until you were already gone. I try now to cherish the moments.
I don’t need to tell you we lost Brian a few months ago, because I’m sure he is right beside you. Over the last year I have started taking photographs of abandoned houses and buildings. You are in my thoughts every time my truck hits the open road. I think one of the reasons I enjoy doing it so much is I feel a little closer to you somehow. I only wish you could see the pictures. I really think you would love them. I’ve also been restoring old trunks and I know you would’ve liked to watch the process.
The girls are getting so big and growing up so fast. Ali is learning how to drive, and Cami won another award for robotics. Every time I take Ali out for a drive I think of the day you gave me a two-hour driving lesson with a stick shift in Santa Fe. That poor Dodge Colt!
I will spend the next year enjoying the moments, taking care of myself and my family. I will live the best life I can every single day. I promise to make you proud.
I love you, Daddy!
“The more we see, the more we know, and the more we know, the more empowered we are. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”-Joseph Marshall III
All photographs by Trish Eklund.
Trish Eklund is taking a nontraditional approach to parenting children after divorce and remarriage. Raising her two daughters of twelve and fifteen with her husband, ex-husband, and his wife, they consult one another on all parenting decisions. Trish is the owner and founder of Family Fusion Community, and Abandoned, Forgotten, & Decayed. Trish has been featured on www.playground-magazine.com, www.bigblendedfamily.com, and, www.herviewfromhome.com. Follow her on Twitter: @trishiewriter, Google +, Pinterest, Instagram, and LinkedIn.