Only a few of you know that I sent my dad pictures every single day for the last five years. It was something that started as a Christmas present in 2012 and just kept going. In the last five years, I sent dad 13,166 pictures. In all that time, I only missed 6 days and 2 of those days I was in the hospital.
Each morning, he would look at his digital Ceiva frame to see what I had been up to. About half of the time, he would send me an email with the exact same heading, “Question,” then he would ask something about the pictures I sent:
– who were the kids on the monkey bars?
– did you really have ice cream twice in one day?
– what movie did you see?
– did your chili turn out well?
– why don’t you hire someone to rake those leaves?
It wasn’t anything special, but it was constant, this exchange we had. Even though we were far apart, I liked that Dad knew what I was up to.
But now, for the last few weeks, I have stopped taking pictures.
I forgot dad was gone and I took this photo of Vanessa and her man coming to take my sleeper sofa away after I posted it on Facebook. She said she had been sleeping on the floor the last few days – I did not ask, but I was glad to help a sister out. When they were ready to drive away, I took this picture, thinking, “Man, dad’s going to like this one.”
But, it won’t get sent to the Ceiva frame and it will never be seen by dad.
Sometimes, when I let myself be unrealistically optimistic I can hope that mom and dad are together somewhere eating chips and sitting around talking to each other. That Papa and Grammy, from both sides, are there too. And that Aunt Jean, who my mother adored, shows up too. But, I know that’s not exactly the way heaven works.
Maybe the energy of dad has found the energy of mom and they are swimming around each other again. That’s the best I can hope for, pray for.
I can’t let myself think about Thanksgiving or Christmas, when dad loved gifted us with his presents. I can’t think about the trip we would have planned for the fall Amish Country tour. I can’t bear to think about aged cheddar, or Gin Rummy, or giving a sermon without dad in the wings. Today I am sad for today. Today, I am sad that dad will not see this picture and laugh – as he putzed around his condo in his slippers tomorrow morning. Today, I am sad that he will never know again that I am thinking of him.
There have been many blessings of this too – knowing who and how people show up. Seeing the love others had for dad. Being a solid team with my brother. Appreciating dad’s organization, his friendships, his simple grace. Reconnecting with old friends. Spending so much time with Jean and my nieces and nephew. Understanding how little material stuff matters. Absolute thanks for longterm care and hospice workers. There is always good in the hard, of that I am sure. But, I do not feel any of that goodness. I just feel the bones of loss jabbing me in the ribs and causing tears to rise up on the waves of sobs. I miss you, Dad tonight. So much. I hope you know that – somehow, I hope you know.