A Christmas letter to the folks

I miss our house. I miss decorating our tree. I miss my childhood chore/love, vaccumming up pine needles and how the warmth of the machine would make the room smell even more intense.

 

I miss you. I miss your navy blue robe with white piping from years ago. I miss your sleepyhead look, yet joyful Christmas morning smiles. I miss you collecting all the gift wrapping to recycle.

 

I miss your pancakes. I miss your starting a fire by 9am in the morning, just this one time a year. I miss your only watching “A Christmas Story” on the 24 hour loop- never on VHS or DVD.

 

I miss Christmas. Our Christmas of the years past. With the flow of many friends and family into our home, our hearth, our safe place.

 

I need this Christmas to be merifcul. I need the ache to not be so intense. And yet, can I ask that of this day? Will  it listen?  With Advent, I anxiously await.

 

So then,  I need to be mericful. I need to allow the pain to be present, even if it is intense. I need to allow this Christmas to be this Christmas- even if all I want is one more with you both.

 

Merry Christmas- I miss you both.

 

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How to do death

“I don’t know how to do this” has been my refrain for the past two weeks. I don’t know how to grieve the impending death of a parent, while we still loose the other.

Even writing about Dad’s new prognosis feels like a betrayal. I don’t know why. Sis and I have remained a strong force in recognizing how brutal this tumor is and how certain it was that it would return with vengeance (as per all medical advice). It is not as if me stating this is slaughtering the last vestiges of hope. But still, I feel something amiss.

And while this news is barely two weeks old, it feels as if that was a lifetime ago. Not because Dad has rapidly declined- he is only more tired thus far- but that the exhaustion of grief is incredible.

Each day is a difficult one. A struggle to face the day, to do the simple tasks: get out of bed, make meals, be happy for the sunshine, find time for self, breathe. They are filled with unknown territory to this young adult: find hospice care. keep up correspondence with all family members and parent’s friends, write an obituary.

I don’t know how to do this. Still. 

I while I recognize that no one, ever, probably “knows” how to lose a parent, I am still adrift. I still grieve not one, but two loving parents while they are still in front of me. One whose time is closer than I ever imagined, and the other to whom we have been losing in pieces over the last five years. I don’t know how to do this. To loose one parent, while the other is still here yet evermore borrowed by Alzheimer’s.

One beautiful piece I stumbled on today was an article in the New York Times written by a grief counselor. I loved this sentiment:

I see a healing shift occur in people who feel that they have found a
way to remain close to someone they’ve lost. This seems to allow
people to accept their loss better, and find consolation in the idea
that they are still connected.

I don’t know how to do this. But I want to try. 

 

15, 30, Forever Love

I hadn’t been back. I hadn’t been to the concrete court since probably 4-5 months before your hand oddly stopped working as it should. You’d be holding a glass, let alone a racket, and it would just drop.

But now it is 16 months “after. Post- treatment, post-surgeries, post living at home, post-walking. And I return.

Today I am back at our court. The place I first learned where to play. Where I took lessons, then walked over to the town pool. Where I could see my grammar school and church where I had all my sacraments. The place where in the last few years, we’d go to escape and hit balls for an hour or so.

One of my best memories of the adult Dad-Daughter relationship was our match after Christmas. You WHOOPED my ass! Since you were healthy and playing two times a week (God, that kills me to think how healthy you were pre-tumor), you could run circles around me. I loved that you beat me without a doubt, and bragged to my friends how my 60-something year old Dad just creamed me in tennis…because he is that good.

You must have been good, because it is how you met Mom. A story you were getting ready to share the other day when I was leaving the nursing home. The afternoon activity was sharing the “how you met and fell in love” tales of everyone’s lives.

Tennis.

So I find myself at the wall. The daunting, towering slab with the sun playing hide and go seek, adding visual tension. Every bounce of the ball, emotion rises up in me. Every swing of my racket lands your voice in my head “Great shot, Kate!” or “Again- but remember to follow through”.

I miss you so much and yet I am lucky to have you present. I know that. But in this moment, I just want you here. Coaching me, while also being my equal. I miss learning from you and finding moments to carve out slices of life that we can both enjoy; separate from illness, responsibility, or caretaking.

My serves were amazing. Honestly, I don’t think my starts have ever been as consistent. Each round, I try to focus on this hit. This return. Not the emotion, not the anguish of not having my favorite tennis partner here today.

Your words follow my moves and I realize this is truly what I miss. Another avenue to you that just isn’t as accessible right now.

 

I barely make it to my car before the grief takes over. But I’m proud. Sweaty and proud- because I found more depths of strength and lost pieces of you.