Our flights were uneventful. LAX was super crowded and unorganized. (The most horrid thing I heard on the intercom was a ticket counter agent saying, "If you are in need of wheelchair assistance please come up to the counter.") My brother and I used our time making each other laugh. We also talked a lot about ways we could help the family in San Antonio while dealing with our own emotions at the same time.
Dad was waiting for us as we walked to the baggage claim area. We walked right up to him before he realized we were there. He had been zoning. Understandable considering he had just lost his wife of 23 years to long term cancer. He hugged us and cried.
All the way to the house, he talked as he drove.....about the final days. It was as if he had to get it out, sort it all out...for our sake and for his. Dad had never been much of a talker around me so I just let him talk...for my sake and for his.
Family in and out. Hugs and tears. We all agree that it is good to see each other but are so sad for the circumstances.
We all became siblings as teenagers, his two to her three, when our parents married in 1985. My brother actually lived with them for a while but I only visited in the summer. We care about each other and have a few memories together, but really lead completely separate lives. Maybe it is just me, but at times I feel so alienated.
All the same, I am determined to be strength for my father.
The viewing was long....I felt at first that 4 hours would be too long. But as I watched people thru the evening I saw that they all needed that time. They needed the time to find the acceptance for closure with a woman that touched so many lives.
Over and over I saw young people embrace my father and call him "Grandpa". And as I have seen for years, my step-siblings lean on my father for support and give him all credit for being the only male figure in their lives that shaped and changed their lives for the good.
I find myself swimming in 2 thoughts simultaneously. I mourn that our relationship and that of my children looks nothing like theirs, but at the same time I feel pride in seeing how amazing and compassionately he has affected so many people.
Today was the funeral. Again and again I am told how grateful people are that my brother and I are here for our father. They tell us how happy it makes him. I find myself bracing with even more determination to be a quiet strength for my father.....to stay by his side so that in some way I can will comfort and peace into him.
It didn't work out that way though, at least not the way I had envisioned. My step-brother came over and asked my father to sit with them, her children, in the front row. That was a direction that I hadn't prepared for....not being able to be by his side. Intellectually, logically, compassionately...I knew that he had every right and reason to be there with them. He belonged there as the father figure and husband. He needed to be with the people that had walked through the whole long cancer battle with him...the people that would still be in his day to day life to pick up the pieces after I am not around.
But the little girl in me recoiled from the heart slap. I felt the rejection all over again. I wanted to cry out that it wasn't fair to be robbed of that too.
As I sat there listening to the chaplain, God was reminding me of the other times that I have been able to share with my father. HE reminded me of the amazing father figure I have in my mother's husband. Most importantly, HE reminded me that HE, My God, is my forever father that always understands the condition of my heart and never gets stretched thin in His love.
I got up and shared a memory of my father's wife. There were things I couldn't say and things I should have said but couldn't think of while standing there in front of everyone. But I did share about a conversation we had a couple of years ago that God orchestrated to assure me of her eternal peace.
After the service, my father introduced me to several people. Each time, I heard the pride in his voice and saw the gleam in his eyes that showed the devotion that he can never find the words for.
Now that the funeral is finished, tomorrow people will start the long task of rebuilding their lives. My brother and I will be looking for ways to help in the remaining two days that we have here.
We sat around for a leisurely breakfast while talking and reminiscing. It was time for people to start heading back into their daily lives today. There was unspoken hesitation all around in not wanting to leave the safety umbrella where hearts and emotions had stopped the reality of time. From here on out, reality would create new memories, memories that don't include her. At times, that is too painful to grasp.
My father has been using today to gather up memorabilia that he has had marked for me for years...things that he just never got around to giving to me. One item is a cookbook that was created by my precious grandmother and her 3 sisters. In the inside cover, these ladies had written personal dedications to me when I was but barely a year old (December 1971). It touched me so greatly and oh how I cried.
My brother and I found various things to do around the house today that we hope will bless our father.
We spent the later evening with him eating pie, watching a movie, and joking around. It was good to just sit, with no agenda, and be ourselves.
Again family hung around for a majority of the day today. Maybe they were around because of my brother and I, maybe they were there for my father, or maybe both. It doesn't matter the reason. It is all part of moving on.
My step-sister's dog died today. She wanted him to be buried in my father's back yard with the other loved animals. My brother graciously took on the burial task so that our father would not have the burden.
A cousin took us out to dinner this evening. She too said how wonderful it was for us to be here for our father and how things can only get better from here.
Dealing with the death of a loved one always makes people evaluate and adjust their priorities.
We will be flying out shortly for home. I find that there are so many things that have been left unsaid, but now is not the time. It was so hard to say goodbye to my father.
When will I see him again?
Does he truly understand what it took for me to make this trip in my heart?
Or is it even important for him to understand?
What matters is that I did make the trip......and I am glad that I did.
From here on out, it is all brand new.