Dad sent my brothers and I an email last Friday afternoon, the subject line read Bad Afternoon. Almost two months to the day after mom passed — the period of relief has begun to lessen, all the business and busy work that followed the memorial has been accomplished. Their house is suddenly bigger and more quiet than he ever imagined it would be without her. No matter how many people invite him to dinner or to join him for a show, it’s not enough to fill the space she occupied for 58 years. Loneliness has set in, my father has realized what his wife and companion meant to him for so long. With all that room in the house that they built together, there is now room for grief. It’s time for that to happen.
Dad sold both of their vehicles a few weeks ago, a Toyota Tacoma truck and a Kia Sorento SUV, bought himself a Nissan Frontier truck with all the bells and whistles.. his “Cruck” as he calls it. He is like a kid with that new vehicle, fretting over the little tweaks and details to make it right for him. The guy shelled out $800 for new tires over the weekend, just to make the ride a bit more quiet. Then he came home, realized he couldn’t tell mom about it, couldn’t beam and brag to her. She was happy when he was happy.
Friday afternoon can be relaxed for me, the work week winding down. So, after I read Dad’s email, I decided to give him a call. My father was reaching out to his boys and I am glad he does. There is a strong bond in my family, so evident during the past few months as our mother became more ill. We know each other like family, share our good and bad, rejoice and fret together. Not once ever has there been a case where there is jealousy or judgement, a testament to the cement that has brought us together — our parents.
Dad and I celebrated that together during that phone call, with joyful tears mixed with our grief. I told Dad how grateful I am that I can look at him and my brothers, see what it has meant to each of us to have a mother who cared to teach her boys to be men. It took me about five minutes to get that sentence out. It felt good to say that while knowing what I said is completely true. What we are seeing is complete support, transparency that you might not expect from four men, all possible because of the acceptance we experience through each other. We had a mother who pulled no punches, encouraged us to talk, listened and acted when she needed to. It shows. She also pulled no punches when it came to her faith in God, expected the same from all of us (including Dad, who came to a saving faith through her), and as a result there are four men in this world whose faith is rock solid.
Dad and I can relate to each other right now, that common bond mentioned during that phone call. We have both experienced and are experiencing the challenge of being alone. I faced years where more and more I was alone, or felt that way, as my marriage began to disintegrate. Reality that eventually I would be alone was something I feared, the eventuality and finality I avoided with dread. Dad saw a while ago that mom’s health was failing, has always known that when that happened that she might give up. I think he feared being without her in the same way I feared being alone. The pain that led up to the reality is nothing compared to what the experience is like. The day I moved out of my house and was alone was mixed with relief as well as incredible pain. In the months that followed, I had to accept the pain as necessary to purging the poison that had built up. Pain precedes healing. That is my experience.
Dad is in the midst of the pain that heals. He felt it coming, welcomed it in his own way, but I don’t think he was prepared for the intensity of the silence. Comfort comes from friends, from memories, from the love of 58 years that will always be with him.
Steve, I guess I never fully realized what we had together. Our relationship was never perfect, we fought at times, didn’t always see eye to eye, but she always supported me and showed me an intense loyalty. I did not think about what a friend she was to me until she was gone. We did everything together. Your mom was always with me. Now I know how important that was to me. I am a blessed man. God gave me the best woman for me.
I was a little astonished to hear that from him. What he said about their relationship has always been obvious to me. Yes, I remember the period when they fought intensely, how they came together and supported each other even during that period. I can see how the way they quarreled strengthened their relationship instead of tearing it down. Their love was clear to my brothers and I, had to be just as clear to each other. My dad could make a family decision as could my mother without any question of doubt from either of them, probably because they made their decisions together. When it came to discipline, rarely was it a singular act from my parents, never was discipline questioned by my mother or my father. They were a team.
I told my dad something during that phone call that I have always wanted to tell him —
Dad, what you had with mom is what I wanted with my wife. You both set the bar very high. I wish I would have had what you had. The expectations I had for my marriage came from watching two people love and support and need each other like my parents. If we had come close, I would have been a very happy man. I am jealous of how happy my mother made you.
Dad is becoming what mom was to my brothers and I. Mom loved sending emails and texts. While dad has always communicated with us, we are getting a barrage of messages from him every day. I laugh. I know my brothers are too. It’s fun to see.
Like me, Dad is recovering with the help of friends, family, his church, as well as a healthy dose of God. We are a lot alike, two gregarious extroverts who love talking to people. I draw my energy from the people I know and meet, a personality trait I know I share with him. My kids have said the same. I like that. I like that I am my father’s son.