Grief, Dead Dads, and Children

It’s SO MUCH! The poor damn KIDS. I would give anything to change places with my children, especially when it first happened. Anything to take that pain away

It’s SO MUCH! The poor damn KIDS. I would give anything to change places with my children, especially when it first happened. Anything to take that pain away. And it’s pain that stays with them – FOREVER. And, they get the pleasure of re-grieving the loss – FOREVER and CONSTANTLY. Sorry for all the caps but damn, this pain and trauma that children go through with the death of a parent is so big, so powerful, so life-altering. I don’t think it’s given enough attention.

Our losses, as adults, as widows and widowers, are also huge and I’d never minimize it. My girls and I suffered the same loss and yet very different losses. I lost my partner, my husband, my co-parent, my lover, my helper, my friend, my love. My girls lost their DAD. Their dad. At ages 4 and 6. And one at age “negative 9 months”. They have very few clear memories of him. He’s not been there for ANYTHING for years. No soccer games cheering them on, no kudos for good grades on tests, no celebrating huge accomplishments, no singing happy birthday, no accompanying to doctor visits or surgeries. No visiting him at work, no take your daughter to work day. No dad teaching you how to drive, no dad to help you buy your first car and teach you how to pump gas. Looking forward, no dad at graduations of any kind, no dad walking you down the aisle, no dad turning into a grandpa.

And every damn time your kids experience each one of these things that their dad is not there for, they re-grieve the loss. As they get older, they re-grieve the loss.

The side effects of grief are many and they are profound for children. Fear, anxiety, attachment issues, distrust, depression, learning issues, substance abuse. These issues do not effect every person that is grieving but it’s impossible to escape unscathed.

Don’t discount what children and adult children of deceased parents endure. Love helps the most of course. Love and affection. The ability to talk about what you are feeling, the knowledge that whatever you’re feeling is OK. The support felt from your tribe and being with others that have experienced similar loss. The men that step up to the plate and want to be there for your kids in a way only a man can. These children are strong and brave. They become the most amazing adults and parents. They have bigger hearts than most and often enough empathy to fill an ocean. These kids have been to hell and walked thru the fire. Scarred and different, but they are walking tall thru this life as best they can. Let’s not forget that and not forget to give them props for simply walking around upright. They are survivors of the highest order.

Pink – “Who Knew”

“Two Old Fashions and a Glass of Red Wine”

I’m not going to lie – I have had a difficult few months. That is an understatement. There’s no point in lying about it when everyone knows the truth, right? However, my moods have been more up than down lately and I have been trying to focus on what’s in front of me, rather than what is behind me – as best I can. I went out the other night, had a decent time but nothing off the charts – no sparks flew, no amazingness transpired. But after that, I was in the best mood and I couldn’t explain it. I’d had a few drinks and I credited it to that – the perfect combination of mixology. Two Old Fashions and a glass of red wine. I thought to myself that I had found the new fountain of happiness! Two Old Fashions and a glass of red wine.  I even pondered coming up with a unique name for this magical mix – TOFGORW. Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue or sound very inspiring, but it’s my new go to. I tried it a few nights later without the wine, just the TOF. Good but not perfect.  But those TOF that day really helped to push me thru a hard afternoon/evening of memories I was overwhelmed with, that’s for sure. I would never suggest that booze is the fix for all of life’s problems – I have been through too much with those that suffer from addiction to be that stupid. But dammit if it doesn’t help me get thru some serious shit some days. And the happy! I may suggest the TOFGORW as a flight option to a local bar or two.

An Old Fashioned is a very sentimental drink for me. It is a bonafide classic for sure,  and  I have so many memories of my dad making them, for my beautiful grandmother especially. She loved them and my dad was always eager to make one for her at cocktail time. And he makes the best ever. Although, I have had many a good Old Fashioned at some of the great cocktail joints – including the wonderful creation at the Four Seasons here in Seattle. But none compare to my dad’s – because tasting his takes me back to such wonderful times at my grandparent’s house in Connecticut. I love when a food or drink can transport you to a memory that brings you happiness. It’s rare and so special. My parents and grandparents are and were so old school (obviously) and enjoyed cocktail hour and fabulous cocktail parties. My brother and cousins and I were relegated to the back rooms of the mid-century home just outside NYC during the big parties, but we’d watch, listen, and sip occasionally when we could. Those times were classic and imprinted in my mind forever.

So when I started drinking Old Fashions in recent years, it was because they were delicious, but also because that delicious taste brought me such good feelings and memories. My dad will still make them for me when I visit and regularly makes them for my mom. He is 88 and still the best bartender on earth.

So I don’t know if it was the perfect cocktail combination or what that got me in such a great mood that recent night. But I couldn’t stop smiling.

Driving home late that night, I was talking with Steve a bit – as I often do in the car. Seems like that is our office space, our meeting room.  As I was talking to him, one of his favorite songs came on: Life by the Drop by Stevie Ray Vaughan. That song always makes me cry and always makes me smile. Both/And. It is such an evocative song about struggle, loss, deepo connection and living life to the fullest. It’s bare and raw and beautiful. Before long I realize, as I am singing the song and coming up on a red light, that the car in front of me looks familiar. And then I realize it’s the car that I bought in 1995 – a sporty AF Nissan that was so badass back then. A 240 SX. Same color, same everything.  I remember the night I bought it so clearly and remember Steve and I driving home in it, saying, “We are not cool enough for this car.” It was my favorite car ever – and there it was right in front of me. Another great memory. And I certainly had listened to that song with him many times in that exact same car.

I will often see the car that he drove before he died at very particular times and I feel like that is him letting me know he’s there. Not his car of course, but the make and model. When I see it now, it makes me smile. When he first died, it would rip my heart open to see it on the road. I can remember one time years ago that I was having a hard day and I saw his exact car driving next to me on the highway. It was brutal – made me so sad. The car gradually pulled in front of me and for a few minutes I allowed myself to think he was in that car, allowed myself to pretend that he was driving next to me and that everything was ok, he was still here. That car eventually pulled into an exit lane and got off the highway. It is amazing I wasn’t in an accident that day, as I watched it as long as I could, tears streaming down my face. Grief is so fucked up.

The same recent happy night that I heard the song and saw our old car, there was supposed to be a meteor shower. I got home and got out of my car, stood in my dark driveway and looked up at the sky. I craned my neck and waited and waited and didn’t see anything, despite the clear, crisp midnight air. I thought I had missed it and was about to go inside the house. I kept looking for another minute, smiled and said, “Love you Steve” – and a shooting star went flying across the sky. I sucked in my breath – couldn’t believe it. No more came, that’s the only one I saw. Now that is another great memory I have to stockpile away with the rest. Feeling happy that night and into the next day was such a gift because 24 hours later I was deep in it again. Memories from recent times took me down. My lesson today is that you have to take all the happy you can, if it comes from TOFGORW or a beloved song or a great memory. Sometimes it lasts and sometimes it doesn’t. You have to try appreciate the hell out of it when you’re in it. And try as best you can to let those good vibes and good memories carry you through the hard times. I am grateful for all the good memories I have, grateful that I got to experience all the love and happy that I have had in my life. Gratitude is everything. It takes faith ❤️

“Life by the Drop”

https://open.spotify.com/track/4baw6m9OhZ1W8fPqWinZ3L?si=uwcwCokDRPaWajslXSA6EQ