Today is the sixth anniversary of my dad’s passing. In the years since his death, I never felt like I really grieved. In fact, I wondered if there might be something wrong with me. Shouldn’t there be bone-crushing sadness at the loss of my father? He was a great dad and I loved him as much as any daughter would. When I look back over my childhood, there’s nothing but fondness for his memory. (Except when I think about him helping me with my algebra homework. Apparently a non-math kid is a bit frustrating for an engineering parent.)
So I decided to dive in and really consider my feelings. This is not an easy thing for me. I am pragmatic to a fault – something I think I got from him, though my mom’s not given to drama, either. And what I came up with was this. I grieved his loss in the years leading up to his death. Dementia stole him from us long before death did. It felt like forever that my mom and sisters and I prayed that Jesus would take him home and make him whole. It was terrible to see this once-brilliant man unable to recognize us or speak or ramble about little men coming out of the hole in the wall. There was sadness when he passed, but it was overshadowed by relief and even joy. Relief that he wasn’t suffering anymore and joy that he was finally him again.
I know grief changes over time and looks different for everybody. So when I read a book or watch a movie that he would have loved and I have that tug of melancholy – that’s grief. And when Todd calls me Earl because of my grand procrastination skills, that little twinge even as I’m laughing – that’s grief. And as I read about current events and wish I could talk to him about his thoughts – that’s grief. It’s not the same as it was while he was still alive but already gone from us.
Or maybe that’s not grief. Maybe that’s just honoring his memory. All I know is that I do miss him – the him he was before dementia took him. Whether that’s grief or something else doesn’t really matter.