Since my dad passed on December 10th, I simply haven't been myself. Occasionally, I've been short tempered, weepy, and often extraordinarily fatigued. You know, normal grieving stuff.
My mom died when I was much younger, for that and other reasons, I've always been a "Daddy's Girl".
My Dad and I had a jagged relationship when I was a child, on through to my early adult years.
That is, until I finally understood what P.T.S.D. is.
Through no fault of his own, my dad carried a mountainous weight from serving in the Korean War. He saw atrocities and experienced horrors the likes of which no human being should ever have to be a part of. After he was honorably discharged, he experienced nightmares, flashbacks, insomnia, survivor guilt, and deep seated hurt and anger for many years post war.
War had left it's mark on him. How could it not? It would've done the same to any one of us.
As a kid, I just thought he didn't love me. He couldn't explain what he was going through, heck he didn't even understand it himself. How do you articulate the realities of war to a civilian who has never seen a battlefield? Much less to your own children? There was no diagnosis back then, and no help to be found.
When I was thirty-two, Dad shared with me certain parts of his story. I was horror-struck and yet honored that he would trust me enough to invite me into that part of his world. That place of agony. That hidden precipice, behind the wall he so diligently built and dutifully maintained all those years. He was the weary watchman on his own walls. He tried so hard not to let anyone in. He was so afraid. He wondered who in their right mind could possibly understand and love his fragmented soul? Then he found out that God did. And his family did.
One miraculous day, he let his defenses down long enough to tell me. I'm still not quite sure how it happened. He must've felt safe somehow. He asked me to forgive him for the pain of my childhood. He took responsibility for his part of that pain. I did forgive him and I never took it back. He told me parts of his story that helped me understand why he was who he was.
We wept together and it was the beginning of healing for both of us. He told me that the prayers of his mother and the grace of Almighty God were the only reasons he had any sanity left at all.
Since that day, we grew closer over the years. The same man I had run away from as a young girl, became a safe place I ran to as a young woman. My father became one of my best friends.
Now, I've learned that grief is just love with no place to go.
I want to call him. I still have his number in my phone and I can't bring myself to delete it. I want to tell him the funny thing that my grandkids said the other day. I want to tell him that I made his baked salmon recipe and ask him how much brown sugar and butter I'm supposed to use for the glaze, even though I know the recipe by heart.
More than anything I just miss hearing his southern drawl. Phrases like "fixing to" and "pert' near". I even miss his grouchiness at the paper boy for missing the porch. I miss...loved, our father-daughter talks. They went on sometimes for hours before his mind began leaving us. We'd talk about anything or nothing and he would always, always offer encouragement whether I needed it or not. It seemed every talk circled right on back to when we lived on the San Joaquin river in California. Horseback riding and barrel racing. Merle or Johnny Cash playing on the radio. Playing horseshoes in the warm summer evenings, eating watermelon right off the vine from the garden, and hearing the river rush by when the water was high. God, I miss those days.
I remember in the early 70's when he got a CB Radio. It was all the rage. So modern! I can still hear him call out, "Breaker, Breaker, one-niner. Good buddy, ten-four come ahhn." What I wouldn't give to skip back in time. Even for just a few minutes to hear him try to be wall-to-wall-and-tree-top-tall on that Citizens Band.
Greif comes in waves, and today I'm swimming in these bitter sweet waters. I was crying a lot this week. Not only is he gone, but at times, it feels as though his love is gone, too.
Then my husband, Chuck, reminded me; that would be impossible.
"Father love never dies, Lis," he said, "The love is never gone."
If you've lost someone, if they have passed on- please let me remind you of that truth.
Real, pure love is always alive. It is the one thing that never dies. Real love... it's more powerful than you realize. It's really and truly always alive. Always. That means it's never, ever, ever, ever, gone. Love lives on.
My dad and mom, they live on. They're in my heart. Their love is never gone.
Love never dies. People do, but love lives on forever.
So, don't forget to remember, you are so very, very loved.