17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

May 16, 2000

That was the day I lost my dad and found my life.

I had a great dad. He was the dad who nailed a wooden basketball hoop to our backyard shed for my eighth birthday and didn't worry that I was the only girl on our block whose birthday wish list did not include Strawberry Shortcake or a My Little Pony. Dad would sneak me out of the house to run errands or go to ball games with him before my other brothers and sisters could be jealous, because he knew I needed a break from being the oldest. One year, he stayed up past midnight helping me finish the Christmas presents I was making for my friends.

He did the funniest impression of my junior year English teacher, Ms. Kullbom, where he slid his glasses down his nose, squinted his eyes really tight and scowled like an old bird. One year, for Halloween, he dressed up as a nerd and went into his office wearing broken glasses, a pocket protector and taped toilet paper to the bottom of his shoes. He was the CEO of the company.

Aloe-scented after shave, warm wool sweaters, Simon & Garfunkel, eggnog french toast, NBA games on lazy Sunday afternoons, magical summers on the beaches of Maui....these things will forever represent the life I had with my dad.

A tragic fall from a roof, sleepless nights and jigsaw puzzles in the ICU waiting room, my brother's tearful goodbye...his fingers caressing my father's cheek, my mother's house bathed in flowers and casseroles, and a very large and public funeral with no time left for mourning....these things will always represent his death.

My sophomore year at BYU, Dad surprised me with a trip to Washington, D.C. for my birthday. He had a conference to attend, but we managed to do a fair amount of sightseeing together. While we were walking near the US Capitol, we watched a fleet of limosines pull up to the Capitol building. I remember him saying we should wait and see if anyone important comes out....and I replied, "I am already looking at someone important." Such a cheesy line, for sure, but I really meant it.

Dad had always loomed large in my eyes. And understandably so, he had accomplished a great deal in his career, in his public life, in his home. I spent a lot of time during high school and college trying to live up to what I perceived to be his impossibly high standards. No GPA was high enough, no career choice perfect enough, no guy good enough to bring home to him. These weren't things he ever said to me, but expectations I placed on myself. The year before his death I felt particularly lost. I was finished with my undergraduate degree and had no clear idea what to do next. I felt battered down by my college boyfriends and wondered if I would ever find true love (ridiculous to think about now considering I was 23 at the time). And then one day I went to work and got the call that changed everything forever, my dad was in a coma and he wasn't coming back.

The days following his death are still a haze of grief and shock and anger and exhaustion. Walking down the street left me winded, catching a ball felt shaky...even though a week before I had been in nearly the best shape of my life. I never realized how physical grief could feel. Have someone kick you square in the stomach and live that feeling for an entire year...that was my grief.

And then eventually, between the waves of grief, a new, unexpected emotion emerged....Relief.

Not relief in the variety of "thank goodness he is dead." Even eight years later, I crave him. I want so badly to share the life I have built with him. I want him to play with his grandsons and to sleep in our guest bed and talk sports with DH. The relief I felt was a kind of freedom. Freedom of expectations removed. Freedom to start living the life I wanted for myself.

And that I did. Over the next two and a half years, I got married, graduated from MBA school, moved across the country and had a baby. Talk about putting your life on fast forward.

Initially, a lot of guilt accompanied these feelings of freedom. Since then, I have read that this is actually a pretty common reaction to losing a parent. I've read stories about adult children making huge life changes soon after a parent dies, everything from quitting a smoking habit, to changing careers, to moving abroad, all resulting from the relief of expectations removed.

I fully anticipate I will feel free of another set of expectations when my mother passes away.

And I will also miss her terribly.

And I hope that when I am dead, my own children derive some peace and happiness from their own newly found freedom.

But not too much.


  • This comment has been removed by the author.
    posted by Blogger Beth at 5/18/2008 11:20:00 AM  

  • Wow Jen, that is beautiful. I am very teary-eyed. What an insight into the life you have lead, and the relationships you have that have helped make you who you are today. And I feel like I have a vision of who your dad was. Thank you for this.
    posted by Blogger Beth at 5/18/2008 11:20:00 AM  

  • I'm not teary-eyed, I'm teary-cheeked. Thanks for sharing what you have learned from your pain.
    posted by Blogger marian at 5/18/2008 12:31:00 PM  

  • Your dad sounds like an amzing person!! This is a beautiful piece of writing... I love the insight you give and all the emotions that are in it. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself in such a beautiful way.
    posted by Blogger Claire at 5/18/2008 12:33:00 PM  

  • thank you for sharing something so personal. it was beautifully written and im touched by your father, your relationship with him and your willingness to share it.
    posted by Blogger kristie at 5/18/2008 03:55:00 PM  

  • Oh Jen, this was so beautiful...and raw and honest. I'm teary reading it and also so impressed with the woman you are. Your dad is so proud of you and the life you have built for yourself and your family.
    posted by Blogger Chloe at 5/18/2008 06:01:00 PM  

  • I always wondered just who in the world I would be if I weren't my mother's daughter--and I have had the chance to find out. I hope the person I am is making her (and Dad, who went first) proud.
    posted by Blogger Kathi D at 5/18/2008 06:41:00 PM  

  • Thanks guys...words still don't come easy when it comes to my dad. I just reread this for the first time since I wrote it and I wasn't happy at all with it and want to rewrite the whole thing...but it's here and I'll let it stay.

    Kathi D, your comment said everything I wanted to say in just a few words. I guess you have to experience it to know it.
    posted by Blogger Jen at 5/18/2008 07:52:00 PM  

  • Thanks, Jen. But you did an excellent job all by yourself. It was bittersweet to read what you said about your dad. (and I am sure he is as proud of you as you are of him)
    posted by Blogger Kathi D at 5/18/2008 09:42:00 PM  

  • Jenni. Thanks for sharing. I imagine there is something here that my DH relates to as well, he lost his mom shortly after we wed. I sometimes feel sad that my kids can't know their grandma, but I also have a sense that she does know them quite well indeed. Don't go back and change it, I think that not a word was wasted.
    posted by Blogger Kage at 5/19/2008 07:01:00 AM  

  • Jen, that was beautiful. I'm glad you had such a wonderful relationship with your father and that you were able to learn so much from your pain and grief. I'm betting your dad is very proud of you.
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 5/19/2008 07:17:00 AM  

  • So beautiful Jen. I had never thought of that aspect of losing a loved one. Especially someone you had such a great relationship with.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 5/19/2008 01:19:00 PM  

  • Your thoughts mean a lot to me. I still have both my parents but your perspective made me reflect on our relationships.

    I appreciate your honesty and introspection, two things I really admire.
    posted by Blogger Chelle at 5/20/2008 04:42:00 PM  

  • Thanks, Jen.
    posted by Blogger sunny at 5/22/2008 03:48:00 AM  

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