A little over a month ago, Lee’s sister Kaylan came home from DC to visit for a few days. She came over one afternoon because Mary Bullock had been begging Aunt KayKay to paint her nails. So, while I was making dinner, Kaylan was with the kids, and the next thing I knew, Tucker had lavender nail polish on his toes. He was delighted about this.
It’s so funny, you know, because if I look really closely at his toes now, I can still see bits of that lavender nail polish, and all I can think about when I catch a glimpse is that I’m stunned at how my life has changed in the last month.
I mean, practically, very little has changed. The children still wake up way too early in the morning and start demanding waffles and shows and water cups (with ice!!!! I said WITH ICE!!!!!). Diapers need changing, lunches need making. My car is still a rolling trash can.
I mean it. There is a week-old chicken nugget in one of the back seats.
But when I think of the world without my dad in it, absolutely nothing feels the same.
I’m not the same.
Most notably, I think, is this (and I hope you don’t take this personally): I am probably not listening to you when you talk. At most I am half listening. I will not remember most of what you said when I walk away.
The thing is– I’m thinking about my dad. It’s constant. It’s like I’ve pulled out all the dad files from my brain and strewn them on the floor. I can’t figure out how to put them back, and I’m not sure I want to, yet.
Like this: My dad was a songbird (I get this from him). But there were all these songs he sang growing up, and he would only sing one line of them. And they were old songs, so the only lines I had ever heard of these songs were the lines he sang. For example, whenever we exasperated him (which was often), he would sing Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz? And because I also have terribly exasperating children, they already know this one line of that song. But it occurred to me the other week that I didn’t even know what that song was or where it had come from. So I googled it. Turns out, it’s Janis Joplin. And it has nothing to do with exasperating children at all! Who even knew? And that made me smile and even laugh a little– I mean, my dad? Janis Joplin?
But when I’m not rolling around in my memory, I’m looking at the future without him and that is so much worse. You’ll know I’ve gone to that place because I’m looking at you like all is well– no really, I’m fine– and then WHAM I’m crying. Tucker will grow up not knowing my dad? That’s tough to accept. I can hear him just like he’s right next to me: COME HERE TO GRANDDADDY, TUCKA WUCKA!! But of course Tucker won’t remember that, and that part really sucks.
But you know what else I was thinking? I was thinking: all of you who have never met my dad, and my children, who will have little, if any, memories of him? There is hope for you. All is not lost.
If you’ve ever heard me sing one line of a song over and over and over again, until you want to smack me? And then instead of stopping, I start humming and/or whistling? That’s my dad.
If I’ve ever made you laugh? That’s my dad.
If I’ve ever told a story you thought would never ever finish and by the end you felt like you were actually there? That’s my dad.
If I’ve ever made you so mad you wanted to curse me? That’s also my dad.
If I have ever been so dadburn stubborn that you wished I would burst into flames? That’s my dad.
So, I might have to point him out in pictures to my children as they grow, but they’ll definitely know him.
At least a little.