Mother’s Day is just around the corner and believe me, I’m thinking about you. I’m not alone. Lots of people think about you, talk about you, miss you.
Dad misses you like crazy. How could he not? He misses you and Todd and the life you had together at the lake. He talks about how lonely he is without you. Sometimes he hints at dark thoughts, wishing to join you. I told him the other day that I thought God had a plan for him and maybe it was better to leave Him in charge. We had a good laugh over that because who wants to be in control of all things? Dad, of course.
But you should see him, Mom. He’s better. He’s so much better. Last month when Brent and I were there we spent a lot of time with him at Briarwood. One of his favorite things is to do is go to church on Sundays. They have church services every Sunday in the same big open room that they have Happy Hour on Friday. It’s pretty darn cute! It’s held in the building right next to Briarwood called St. James. It’s for people who need more care than assisted living. They have this tunnel of sorts to get from one building to the other. Dad sure knows his way around there! He leads us everywhere with his electric cart.
On our way back from church, when we finally got out of that long hallway and into the lounge in Briarwood, there were a bunch of ladies congregated, waiting for lunch to be served in the dining room. Dad pulls up in his electric cart, parks, and folds his arms on his lap like he’s settling in for a while. He starts teasing them with his catchy lines. They tease him right back. He chuckles. They all chuckle. It’s so fun to watch. That’s the Dad I remember! While you’ve been missed, he’s been missing, too.
Boy, he’s really in need of your fashion advice! One day Brent and I were picking him up to go have lunch. He was waiting for us in that same lounge. I took one look at this fleece jacket full of cat hair and marched him back to his apartment to change clothes.
He lost so much weight when you died, but wow, it’s coming back on. He’s practically busting out of his shirts! I joked with him. “Are those the Oreos I’m seeing?” He does love his Oreos. He grinned and chuckled that adorable chuckle of his. Gosh I love hearing that!
I was talking to Brent one evening after we’d left him in his apartment with furry Lucy on his lap and drove back to the lake house where we were staying. “I bet Mom would have loved it here at Briarwood,” I said. He agreed. It would be a little like the small community of Hastings where you two grew up in North Dakota. That town was awfully small but the friendships were awfully big. I could see you visiting now with the ladies in the library or lingering over lunch with refills of coffee as you and Dad visit with your new friends. Maybe you guys would go outside and visit on the white wooden rocking chairs just like you used to sit in the recliners, going over the details of the day or sharing memories from the years in Hastings. And then you’d still have all that togetherness time in your apartment where you’d have everything decorated just so. And Dad would be looking great in his everyday outfits.
You know the really crappy thing about death? It takes you away! You’re not here! You’re in my dreams, you’re all around my house. I see all the things I bought for our Sonoma home with your advice: knick knacks from our trips to Vergas, MN and the Quiet Cricket. And of course, there are all the rosemaling pieces that you helped me pick out at the Norsk Hostfest in Minot, ND every fall. Every room in the house has your touch in it.
I’ve heard people say, “I’d give anything to spend just one more day with my loved one.” Oh gosh, I know exactly what they’re longing for. What joy it would be to have one more day with you. Dad would be there too, of course. You guys rarely went anywhere without the other. I’d gladly share you with him.
I’d savor every bit of banter than you and Dad had with each other. I always told my friends you two were like George Burns and Gracie Allen. Dad would say something bold like George would and then you’d say something that sounded meek and innocent but wasn’t, just like Gracie.
You and Dad would be sitting on the couch together in the front porch at the lake house. Dad would be in shorts with those spindly legs of his. He wouldn’t have a shirt on because he’d have come in from outside. He’d be at the edge of the couch with the recliner part keeping his feet up. You’d be in your white cotton pedal pushers with a bright yellow crinkled top. When you’d deliver that catchy line of yours, Dad’s belly would be moving up and down while he chuckled that chuckle. You’d both have coffee cups in your hands. Maybe it would be the fourth cup of coffee of the day, but who’s counting? It’s visiting time! We’re visiting!
You two made visiting look like an art form. You could teach classes in it these days when everyone is missing out on visiting while they’re silently looking at their phones. But I’m not going to bring up technology on our special day together.
I also can hear how you reigned Dad in. He’d be dreaming up one new business after the other and trying to get you to sign up for it too. That was in his 80s already! One time it would be about raising pigs across the road in the barn. Another time it would be about using that extra land to fix boats for people living along the lake. The time he came up with the idea to build another house on that property behind the barn you said, “Over my dead body!” That last big project, remodeling the lake house when he was seventy-five years old, was the last one he’d tackle as far as you were concerned. You were ready for downtime.
He never could quite let go of that itch though, the itch to create another entrepreneurial endeavor in his lifetime. And Mom, it’s still like that. He’s 91-years-old but he’s still coming up with yet another business idea. It keeps him up at night. He got all wound about an idea a couple of weeks ago, one that sounded well out of reach. I said, “Dad, can I ask you a personal question?” He said yes. “When you’d get all wound up about something, was Mother able to calm you down?”
“Yes,” he said softly, like he was remembering some of those times. That man can be stubborn, but you know that. You admired his engagement with life, his never ending drive, even though it drove you crazy sometimes.
Gosh, I didn’t mean to spend all this time writing about Dad, but like I said, you two go together like all good things do: love and marriage, the moon on the lake, Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson, s’mores and campfires.
I’m doing well. Russ is great. The kids are great. We were all together on Easter for cottage cheese blueberry pancakes here at the house. Yum. I’m sure the kids have something planned for Mother’s Day. It doesn’t matter what it is: Everything feels right in the world when the family’s all together.
I have to say it feels all wrong that you’re not here. I will be spending some time alone with myself on Sunday, looking at pictures of you that I brought back from the house last month. I’ll have a Kleenex box next to me. I’ll ask Russ for extra hugs when I need them. I’ll get through the day without you. I’m not sure how, but I will. I’m built of strong stuff just like you, Mom. The day we’re together in heaven will be a very joyous one, won’t it? In the meantime, I’ll be here in Sonoma doing what I do and loving you.