Last Sunday, Mom would have been 80 and today marks a year since Dad died. Things haven't felt normal for awhile. If you have lost one or both of your parents for whatever reason, you will understand the kind of pain I'm referring to. The following blog post is a letter I wrote on Christmas Eve 2017, but never sent out because I just couldn't find the energy and strength to stick it in a card or address it or put a stamp on the envelope. Well, today seemed like as good a day as any to put my thoughts out there. Maybe you can benefit from them somehow.
Here's to the next 365 days hurting less than the previous ones have. "Time heals. It takes a year," I hear. We shall see...
"Dear friends and family,
Until this morning, Christmas Eve, I was at a loss of what to say in this letter. My father died in April, so what can I possibly say about 2017 other than that? Besides, creativity awaits inspiration. It can’t be forced. Of course I can write about how Nick, Donovan, Desmond, Jasmine and I are all extremely busy with the responsibilities of work and middle/high school, theater, sports, and helping out as best as we can around the house. I can ramble on about how Nick and I spend most of our time driving over Bethel Mountain to cart the kids to various events, and that by this time next year, our oldest will be the chauffeur.
As the snow and ice accumulates on the bandstand outside, I sit snuggled beneath a burgundy and brown quilt that my mother made for my father’s parents as a 50th wedding anniversary gift. Warm, I write or read. My mother sewed, “DOROTHY MOONEY 1932 1982 JOHN BRAUN” across the edge of the quilt in brown thread. I would have been in high school at the time she made it (around the same age as Desmond is now) and hardly remember her working on it at all, but it must have taken her months to cut the triangular and square pieces, line them up perfectly, sew them together to create a top, line it up with cotton batting and a bottom, pin in place, and hand-stitch its entirety. Then she sewed the binding around the edge, which would have been done mostly by hand, and because she was the way she was (a perfectionist), she made sure the corners were lined up and the stitches were tiny and evenly placed. It is now worn thin and ripped in some spots, but I don’t concern myself with that.
My father was a splendid storyteller… one of the best. He was well-read, well-traveled, won practically every Trivial Pursuit game he ever played, shouted all the answers at game shows on TV with fervor, and even in his last days, he claimed he could “kill with his bare hands.” My urge to learn things, see things, and get the stories in my head written down came from him. When 2017 began, we all had no idea that it would be our last with him on the other side of a table or phone line. We felt the loss of a tremendous lively and youthful soul when he took his last breath.
The temperatures where we live in Vermont are going to dip below zero this coming week, but we’ll be armed and ready with quilts and stories. When one of my family members crawls onto the couch and puts his or her big feet near mine so we can share a story and space, I feel at peace. It’s as if we are cloaked in a big warm hug that spans the generations and time stands still. Our time living under the same roof is limited and I know it now more than ever.
I will never be as talented or meticulous as my mother was or as well-traveled or know as many languages as my father. It seems as if I’m focused on what has been lost this past year, but I don’t mean to.
I am leading toward a point, I promise. May you have many blessings in 2018 and please consider these words as I have:
“All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.” H. Havelock Ellis
PS Here I sit beneath the above mentioned quilt on April 13, 2018, and as I type these words, the tears are flowing, there is a cat on my lap, and all the snow I referred to in the above letter has melted away. Time marches on. My kids are elsewhere right now so I can have a good cry and not worry it will scare them. It's all going to be okay. I miss Mom and Dad, but they gave me the skills I need.
To move on. To let go. To hold on.