I loved my father-in-law. I don’t truly “love” (in the deep sense of the word) very many people, but I loved him. I don’t really have much of a relationship with my own dad, so I cherished the meaningful one I was able to build with my father-in-law, and thought of him as my true dad. Yesterday marked one year since he was killed in a car accident. Our morning started off easy enough; the kiddos decided to write letters to Grandpa, and draw pictures, and those made me teary, realizing anew that their time with him was really over – no more adventures with him, no more hugs, no more play time, or scary stories, no more future Grandpa anything. I left their letters laid out on the kitchen table, so Daddy could read them when he got home, and we pressed on into school, with the fun promise of nachos for dinner in honor of Grandpa (nachos were his favorite). But right about lunchtime is when it all changed for me. Something happened that you might not believe – I barely believe it myself. I even felt embarrassed to recall it to my husband last night, but I know in my heart, I didn’t imagine it. So, here we go….
I had just served the kiddos their lunch out on the front porch, and came inside, chuckling about something my youngest fella had just said, and said out loud, “Well, at least he’s honest! Ohhh, I love that boy.” And the thought flitted through my mind that Grandpa would’ve laughed, too – I could picture him standing right there with me, shaking his head chuckling – and right in that instant I heard, in a clear, warm, genuine, quiet voice, “You’re a good mama.” Right into my left ear. I felt my dad’s presence right behind me on my left, and then it moved away. Feeling some powerful emotions being stirred by that, I walked slowly forward, and looked out at the mountains, and then back at the clock. It was almost 2 o’clock, and I immediately thought, he was still with us this time last year….. Working on the Corvette with his son in our garage. And then I completely broke when I realized I couldn’t say that anymore in just a couple more hours. There was a break, a shift, of letting go happening that cut very deeply. He still felt close to me this past year, by being able to think, This time last year, we were doing this with Grandpa…. but now that we’ve moved beyond the year mark, his death feels so final. It almost hurts worse than the pain of first losing him – the sharp reality finally sinking in that he’s not in our lives anymore. So, I hugged tight those soft words, “You’re a good mama,” and walked over to the kitchen sink, and just as I did, I noticed the dark grey clouds had parted, and the sun dazzled, sparkled, blinded me for a moment, and I felt him leave. I had felt his presence by me for just those brief moments when I could feel him laugh, and then speak those words to me, and I’m betting he spent the rest of those remaining moments outside with the kiddos – his little treasures – before leaving us.
Think I’m crazy now? I wouldn’t blame you. I can barely wrap my head around it myself, except for the quiet, inner assurance I have that it really did happen. Of all the things he could’ve said, those words would mean the most to me – and do. So much of my life and energy is invested in my family right now, but I felt grossly lacking in this, last year. Last school year was hard; grieving, adjusting to an unplanned life, completely giving up a longtime dream of living in Europe, moving in with a mother-in-law, getting sick more times than I ever have in my entire life – all culminated into me barely getting the bare minimum done as a wife, mom, and teacher. I felt so inadequate in my primary roles! So very weary, and stressed all the time from our living situation. But this school year is very different (praise God!!). We have our own space now, and our own home is currently being built!! Which means having our own stuff again will soon follow (happy dance!). And so far, my health has been on par (minus a cold this week), so I have the mental and physical energy to be the kind of mama and teacher I need, and so very much want to be. There is a round, full, mellow joy, and a weighty, anchoring sense of contentment and pleasure I get from giving my family my all each day – much like earning a personal best in a daily marathon (and I think these feelings might be intensified, and savored more, because of the sharp contrast of my personal worsts, last year!). However, as is the case with most of us mamas out there, no one sees what I do each day – the time, and discipline, and care I put into everything I do for my family. There are no medals, or trophies, or recognition given for personal bests in motherhood – at least ones that we can see here on earth. So, to hear those words – those specific words – from my dad, a man I loved and greatly admired, meant everything to me. It validated my whole world.
And here’s my whole world at our favorite October place: DD Ranch. Our first visit without our Grandpa here. It’s a New October for us, and it’s turning out to be rather beautiful.
We love you, Grandpa.