I was brave today. I went back to my childhood home, all by myself. I returned to the place where my father passed away unexpectedly in his sleep on Memorial Day, 23 days ago. Since that Monday, the meaning of mom and dad’s house has evolved. Daily life has also definitely changed into what supportive friends of mine have referred to as a “new normal”.
Before May 27th, I treasured the routine of seeing him every morning, Monday through Friday, for a small amount of time before work. It was half an hour at most. The ritual would include a morning hug, a check-in, a chuckle or two as we observed my daughter and son playing, a debrief of the latest family events or our favorite TV series, and of course, the hug goodbye along with, “Have a good day”. This was all part of the transition time when I would hand off my toddler son to him and my mom for the day. He would be under their loving care while I was at work. My daughter would also be with them after school twice a week. I was grateful for all of it.
Today I found the courage to be sad. Going back to the only house my parents and I ever knew throughout my entire childhood, and the place where my own children knew as Grandma and Grandpa’s House brought me into strange new depths of sorrow. My most recent and raw memory of walking through the front door is when I saw my father in the same room where we sat and talked every morning, shockingly lifeless, but peacefully gone. This heartbreaking memory is important for my journey of grieving, but I know it’s also somewhat unproductive.
My actions today however, if I do say so myself, were productive. I was ready to go back. My mom was out of town with my aunt and uncle, so I knew it would be helpful to check on the house, and do a few light chores. I mentally geared up. I took deep breaths and went about life in the new routine.
Months ago, a random stray chicken from the neighborhood found himself in my parents’ front yard and they started feeding him. My dad would have wanted to make sure I gave him some food. So I fed the chicken. It had been waiting for me based on his sporadic and somewhat aggressive clucking and ruffling of feathers. I found odd comfort in this moment. It helped me continue on. It reminded me about how my dad would always find ways to lighten up the mood.
I went inside and powered up the CD player that took me a few minutes to figure out. I played a mixed CD that my dad had burned (compiled) years ago. I blasted the early 2000 jams. I fed the fish and watered the plants in the backyard.
Then, as anticipated, I sat down at the table where my dad and I used to sit, and I cried. My latest strategy for crying is to just take a few deep cleansing breaths, tilt my head back, stare at the ceiling or sky, and just let it out. Amidst the deep sadness, I accessed a feeling that was reminiscent of what I would feel when I sat in that very spot, with him sitting across from me in the mornings. I felt relief. It wasn’t the same kind that I may have felt a month or so ago when he was still here. However, the emotion reminded me that somehow, I can still find peace with any situation, deep, dark, sadness included, as long as I have just a teeny bit of courage.
How have you mourned the loss of a loved one?
■ Elementary Educator for Equity & Cultural Responsibility
■ Collector of Small Moments & Thrifty Finds
■ Wife & Mother
■ Bay Area, CA