What I Didn't Plan For

Yesterday my Dad would have turned 67.

Sugarbeet and I stopped by the cemetery in the morning to give him a birthday gift (a paint-your-own-pottery pumpkin she painted) and then she got to stay up after her usual bedtime and have pumpkin pie for dessert (in her PJs). My Dad loved pumpkin pie - and he preferred his birthday candles be put in a good pie than in a cake and so for many years I had the privilege of making him a pumpkin pie for his birthday. It was always the first pumpkin pie of the fall season I made - and sometimes the only one.

I shared this with friends in a FB Group last night:

Somehow, as the time passes and I experience all of life, and especially Sugarbeet growing, I only miss him more. Some of my darkest moments during my 4 years of infertility were when I'd allow myself to imagine my Dad never being a Pap. And though each moment they spent together is a treasured, precious gift, I can't help but feel this is just as bad in many ways. Yes, she is here and they will, God-willing, have eternity together, but he isn't watching her twirl her dresses and signal "touchdown" when the Mountaineers score, and...and..and...the list seems infinite. I know he sees her, and it feels selfish to say, but I want to get to see him, see her. She gave him some of her very first full body belly laughs, and today I'm clinging to the memory of him loving that and saying "she is the best medicine for me."

And this morning as I was thinking more about this, I realized. I didn't plan for, or even consider, this outcome.

I worried so much about my Dad not being a Pap (and all the other roles that might not be realized), but I never worried or thought about having a granddaughter (son) who didn't have him as a Pap. Even when he was diagnosed with melanoma, and when it came back - the sorrow was always over him not ever having a grandchild. Even when we were visiting him in the nursing home, I didn't plan or think much about the future of him not being here. It was necessary to live and be in the moment, and by some grace of God, I realized that and I did it. She laughed and played with him, she showed off her videos of playing in the beach the first time, she shared snacks and toys and some of the biggest smiles I'd ever seen. And so, I didn't plan to have moments where I have to fight back the tears because I want to tell him something about her, and realize I can't. Or to have experiences with her that I can almost hear his enjoyment or his grumbling and feel the loss of a person so tangibly that I actually feel it.

Of all the outcomes my mind imagined, of all the dark possibilities, I never expected that one where there is a child growing up in my home could be so painful.

Last weekend it was the WVU Homecoming parade. Yesterday it was pumpkin pie. Tonight it will be the Night Glow for the hot air balloons that will be launching all weekend in our town. There will always be something. Something of him that I want to share with her, honoring the tearful promise I made him as I sat by his bedside the day before he died - that she would know him, always.

I hope when she looks back, she remembers that it was with joy I shared all of these things with her and that despite not experiencing them with her Pap she somehow, beyond understanding, knows him. And I most of all hope that the lumps in my throat and the tears that pool in the corners of my eyes don't leave marks of sadness for her, that somehow she learns and understands that sadness and joy can exist together, both complete, in the same moment.

No, I didn't plan for this.

St. Michael, pray for us.


7 Quick Takes

1. One of my goals for this year was to read more actual books. I do a lot of article and blog reading online, but I've missed diving into good books. I set a modest goal of 12 books using the Goodreads challenge feature and I'm crazy excited to say I met that goal last week - with 3 months left to go! I've read a variety of books and I'm currently trying to decide how many books to set as a goal for next year. I've really made good use of the Goodreads 'shelving' feature and when I finish one book, I immediately go to my 'to read' shelf and pick the next one. It helps me to avoid 'book hangover' to which I so often fall victim.

What books do you recommend adding to my 'to read' shelf?

2. Running. Ah, running. It continues to be a struggle to find and settle into a groove. Fortunately Sugarbeet loves to put on her 'running clothes' and settle into the jogging stroller pretty much anytime I offer it to her, so that helps. We've run a few races together now and, despite the fact that while running instead of cheering 'go Momma' from her stroller she cheers "Yay Daddy!" (probably because she knows he'll be waiting for us at the finish line), she's a great race buddy. She's also participated in a few Toddler Trots and loves to get her medal at the finish line.
After the Steelers 5K and before the Toddler Trot
With her medal after the Steelers Toddler Trot
3. There is so much swirling about Pope Francis, and Amoris Laetitia, it seems a week doesn't go by without someone taking an extreme position one way or the other. R and I spend many evenings discussing whatever the latest headlines are - and typically getting very frustrated at either the bad reporting OR the dishonest twisting of the Holy Father's words. Then, last week, as a little gift from the interwebs, I found this article (written last year), Why Doesn't the Pope Answer His Critics and I found it balanced and within it, aas the person who shared it simply stated, "Sanity." I am sorely tempted to just start sharing the link anywhere I see a conversation related to AL and leave it at that. In fact, R and I were having another discussion about it last night and we just said "that article though" and were able to move on to a new topic. It was refreshing and I'm grateful for moments of clarity and sanity on the interweb these days.

4. I am proud to say that whenever football is on the TV (whoever is playing) Sugarbeet proudly says "Let's go Mountaineers!" We took her to a game a couple of weeks ago - she loved the band, doing the first down cheer, and the frozen lemonade! The game was a Noon start, which is usually also the start of naptime. She made it until the 3rd quarter to get her picture taking with our cousin who is in the band this year and then we headed back to the tailgate tent to watch the end of the game on TV so she could get a nap in her stroller.

5. My Nan. Oh, it seems so hard to write this one. Her dementia continues to progress. Fortunately she is well cared for and loves living at the Suites (a residential care apartment, right near our house). Unfortunately, she now needs a 1:1 aide each morning to help her get dressed and get to breakfast and lunch. Fortunately, she has accepted this need happily and isn't giving anyone a hard time about it. She loves visits from Sugarbeet and we try to get there often. I will admit that sometimes I handle this by avoiding it. It's a stressful visit for me, trying to make sure a 2 year old and an 88 year old with dementia have a nice visit together - especially since Nan just wants to hold Sugarbeet and Sugarbeet just wants to run and play. More often than not it works out well and they enjoy their time together. Anytime Sugarbeet pretends she's calling someone it's always Nan - which I find especially beautiful since Nan is the one person I never call on the phone (she gets very confused if you tell her things on the phone). One big difference is that Nan has reached a point where she doesn't get as frustrated by her memory loss, and doesn't seem to be aware of it as much, leading to less frustration. Yes, this indicates a progression, but it also means she's happy to ask the same question over and over again and receive the same answer without being frustrated that she can't remember. So long as those of us around her remember to just answer with a smile whether it's the first time or the tenth time, our times together seem to be much  more enjoyable.
Nan and Sugarbeet snuggling on the couch watching Curious George together.
6. I use Feedly to organize the blogs and sites I follow. I've had it sorted a few different ways over the years, but recently felt like I needed to change it up. There are a lot of places I read that I mostly just lurk, but there are other places where I'd like to comment regularly, but it isn't always easy to comment using my phone or I'm reading while rocking Sugarbeet or cooking dinner and it's not really a great time to try to leave a comment. So, I now have 2 separate groupings - "Comment" and "Lurk" - where I can select whichever group is appropriate for the time. It may seem silly, but this simple switch (that took a ridiculous amount of time to complete) has made it so much easier to comment where I want and to just read where I want. This is one of those things I wish I'd figured out a long time ago, so I'm sharing in case anyone else has this same struggle!

7. There is a new post from last week at the private blog. I've sent invites to everyone who requested one, I think. If I've missed you, I'm sorry! Please email me.


Invites Sent

I think I have sent invites to everyone who would like to follow the private blog. If you didn't get it OR if you requested it via a comment on my last post but I do not have your email address (if you don't have it connected to either your Blogger or Google+ account, I can't access it), please either comment again below or email me with your email address and I'll add you.

There is a new post up over there today, as well.


A Private Path

I have so many half-written and completed drafts that I want to share, but I find that a public blog just isn't the place to do it. There are a lot of reasons behind this. So, I have started a private blog. If you would like to read it, please leave a comment or email me at rebeccawvu02 (at) gmail (dot) com and I will add you to it.

I am still going to be blogging publicly - in fact, I think by having a private place to blog, it will free up some of the things that I can and want to share here. I know how hard it can be to follow a private blog, so I will post reminders here when there are new posts there for those who choose to read both.


11 Months

Sugarbeet placing a golf ball at my dad's grave on Father's Day, 2017.
When I wrote my recap of 2016, I shared how 2016 will always be a year of both/and, of joy and sorrow. One of the joys was that, despite my dad's death in August, it will always be the year that he was last on this earth and so a year of joy because of the moments spent together.

As August 18 creeps ever closer, one month from today, I find myself realizing that the ability to say 'last year, dad and I..." or to look at the calendar and remember a day shared with my dad just one year ago is something I'll never experience again. That no longer will he be as close as 'a year ago'. That time will move forward and he will forever move farther away from this life. As Memorial Day approached, the anniversary of Dad entering the hospital due to inability to feel his feet because of tumors pressing on his spine...only to not leave the hospital/rehab again until his last trip home to say goodbye.

It catches my breath when I think of all he has missed this year, and all he will miss in the years to come. And of course, he hasn't really missed it, but rather I have missed the experience of sharing in this earthly life with him.  And it is in this realization that while he moves farther away from this life, I move closer to seeing him again.

Before Dad died, I never really understood why people visited cemeteries, nor exactly what one should do when visiting. In the last year, though, I have found myself drawn there. Most often on the 18th of the month, and for holidays or other special days. And, as so many times before, I have found so much comfort in the treasury of prayers offered to us by the Catholic Church. Whether it is a simple recitation of the St. Michael prayer, an offering of our family litany of saints, or the rite of prayers prayed for the dead when visiting a cemetery. I take such comfort in the prayers and am reminded that while I do not know if he is in heaven or purgatory, dad and I can continue to pray for one another. The relationship doesn't end with death.

Last year at this time, I was preparing for our annual beach trip. Dad had little to no appetite and was moved from a rehab facility to a nursing home where he could focus on healing and receive some therapy. Looking back, and having more knowledge of end stage cancer, I see that his body was losing its fight. I think I'm glad I didn't know then what I know now. Yes, I was worried upon leaving for vacation, but I didn't really think we only had a month left. And when we got back, Sugarbeet and I took the laptop along with us for our visit and he enjoyed seeing the photos of her first trip to the beach. He was so proud of her willingness to play in the waves and loved her enthusiasm for miniature golf. So many of my best beach memories growing up are with my dad - sand castle building, ocean wave jumping, raft wave riding, mini golf playing, and roller coaster riding. I only hope that Sugarbeet remembers these vacations with as much joy as I remember my childhood beach vacations.

And so, this week, this year, once again I am packing for the beach. Only this year, I know that when I come back I will be facing August 18. This year, I'll know what that date will mean to me, for the rest of my life. And on August 19, no longer will there be 'last year with Dad'. Yes, everyone says the 'firsts' are hard and just making it through them is important. Somehow though, it seems that instead of things getting easier, as time moves on further away from 2016, they get harder.

As this year of firsts comes to a close, I will cling to those moments of peace and hope I had as Dad passed from this life to the next. I will continue to offer prayers for his soul and ask him to pray for me, for that is how our relationship remains in this present time.

Almighty God and Father, it is our certain faith that  your Son, who died on the cross, was raised from the dead, the first fruits of all who have fallen asleep.
Grant that through this mystery your servant, Michael, who has gone to his rest in Christ, may share in the joy of his resurrection.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. 
(Closing prayer from "Order for visiting a Cemetery")