because i need him here

Rowboat-on-the-river

{image is a photo of a rowboat in the water}

I know I’ve been talking a lot about my dad lately. I’d say there’s an end in sight, but I’d be lying.

You see, grief is hard. And watching someone you love walk through the hell of losing their beloved life partner, well, it does something to you. And not being able to be there physically to help hold that person together with duct tape and string when you know they feel like it’s all falling apart, well, that’s its own kind of hell.

So I write about him. And in so doing, I bring him here, to the warmth and comfort and safety of Diary. To this place where we huddle together out of the rain, where we know that’s it’s okay to feel whatever it is that we feel, to ask for what we need, to be whomever and whatever we are in the moment.

The day after Noelle passed away, my dad said to me, “I feel like we were together in a boat. And now that she’s dropped her oar, the harder I paddle, the faster I go in circles.”

At her memorial service, I stood at the lectern before the guests and I told them that story. I told them that I was grateful that so many of them had so generously asked what they could do, how they could help. I told them then that this was how: They could pick up that oar.

Picking up the oar means calling. And calling again. It means listening. It means finding a way past our own barriers and the awkwardness and discomfort that we all feel around death and sadness and the weight of grief and SHOWING UP. If there’s anything that we’ve all learned together through this nightmare, it’s that love shows up.

I want to be there with him. I call him every day. We talk often. We’ll be there next weekend. But it isn’t enough. That damned oar still drags.

Noelle was a collector of beautiful things, from her iconic Hermes scarves to the enamel pins with which she adorned them and everything in between. She did not have one of anything. And she left my dad no instructions for what to do with her things after she died. “Take care of it,” she said. She knew he would.

And so it is that he is meticulously meting out the things that she loved to the people she loved. One delicate, well-considered piece at a time, he is sprinkling her possessions among those who helped her live. Yesterday, he had lunch with her “Mah Jong ladies.” Some of her dearest friends, they were a tight-knit group – a little bawdy, deliciously ribald, fiercely loyal. Even in her last days, they made her laugh. She adored them.

He chose a scarf for each of the ladies, along with an enamel butterfly pin. He gave them out at lunch. “The pins were, “because even when things were darkest, you made her feel like she could fly,” he told them.

“They all cried,” he told me.

“Of course they did, Pop,” I said.

Yesterday he paid a visit to the woman in whose cozy neighborhood bakery Noelle learned to create her edible art. He brought her Noelle’s baking supplies. “She had a bag of sugar eyeballs,” he said, laughing through tears. “A thousand of them. Who the hell has a thousand sugar eyeballs?”

“She cried,” he said.

“Of course she did, Pop,” I said.

Little by little, he is finding perfect homes for each of his wife’s things. And with each small, enormous gift, he is honoring her memory, celebrating her life and her friendships, and keeping her alive in the thoughts and hearts of those who loved her – and love her still.

I hope you don’t mind that I keep talking about my dad. Telling stories about how he is doing all the right things in the most wrong situation imaginable. How he is — still — teaching me so very much about life, love, honor, integrity, family, and grace.

But I need him here. In the safety of Diary, where, together, we can help him row.

16 thoughts on “because i need him here

  1. A few days ago marked 6 years since my aunt had died, and seven months since my grandma died. I still feel like I am rowing in circles occasionally but grief truly shows you who is going to pick up the oar and help. Thank you for continuing to put my feelings into words.

    • “but grief truly shows you who is going to pick up the oar and help.”

      yup. as i’ve said to my dad, it’s a chance to weed the garden 🙂

  2. I’m so grateful your dad has you and you have him. Thank you, also, for an example of how to grieve well – to be supportive and supporting of how grief waves and moves and for words that can help others find their own path in similar spaces.

    Your words today were a gift. Thank you.

  3. You are such a beautiful soul. Thank you for sharing ❤ Your prose is inspiring! Your father raised you well, and it is profoundly beautiful to read how you are paying him back – and forward ❤

  4. The dropped oar…I know that one. My son and daughter and grand were my life preservers and I hung on for dear life. What you, the girls and Luau do for your dad is precious…keep on…he will let you know when he is ready to let go. Thank you for sharing your dad, Noelle and your story.

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