This was the Summer Dad Died, and it’s over.

Tomorrow school starts and no matter the official calendar, summer is over. It wasn’t the best summer for me, for my siblings, my mom, my family. Not by a long shot. Not in the vicinity of any kind of long shot.

But summer happened, and I have four kids, and despite the awfulness that will forever mark this summer,  I hope I gave the kids loads of happy memories during this summer they’ll always remember as the summer Pop Died. Forever they will remember Pop Died and This is Where I Was and What I Did. And all of that will be part of their process, part of their childhood, part of what defines them, in even a small way. As is should be, I’m told.

They loved their Pop so much. Oh, my god. They did. They haven’t yet begun to realize how much they love him and how much they’ll miss him. And holy cow, how will I be able to help them figure that out?

After it happened, I wanted so much to give them a regular summer, to be a mom who finished her work and did fun things instead of sludging from a puddle of grief to do something other than let the kids watch yet another marathon session of Psych episodes.

I think I did. At the best I got the kids out of the house for a few hours of swimming every day. We played some games. We went places. We hugged a lot. We all did our own thing sometimes. There might have been some random dancing. I only cried from time to time. Alright, a bit more than that.

My own memories of summer with growing up my family  have inspired me every day this painful season — if nothing else, I have remembered to smile and be grateful. Because that’s what summer means to me. Almost all of the best memories of my life are in the summer, and almost all of those memories involve my family.

The pain of losing Daddy is still raw. He loved every season for what each offered, but wow, how he loved summer (OMG, he was Olaf before Olaf was Olaf! But, not really, I guess.)

And he loved family. And since June 24 I’ve just spent time looking around and saying, dang. Daddy. This has been one fantastic summer. Not hot, not humid, an odd patch of weather for lower New England in the summer. Warm, brilliant sunshine, cool nights, perfect winds.

Then I realized — August has been exactly the kind of weather we enjoyed all of those summers in Mt. Lakes.  Which is a whole different post, I suppose. But, there it is.

Daddy, I’d like to say right now, school starts tomorrow. Mitzi is starting 7th grade and Cooper is entering 6th, both at the brand-new middle school Ray’s worked so hard at making a reality all these years. Ellie is already in love with her 4th grade class, and Joanna can’t wait to show off her ten-inches-shorter-hair PLUS her new cartwheels.

Me? I’m going to spend a couple of very early hours getting five people where they need to be. Then I’m going to take a shower, do some client work, revise some PBs (you’d like this one, I think, with all the puns and wacky sense of humor), and yes, I might take a nap, read a book, go for a run too. Well, maybe not a run, but perhaps a walk or maybe I’ll dust off my yoga mat. Or jut ride my bike around the block.

I’ll call Mom to check in, as it’s been a few days.

Daddy, how I wish you were here. I’d like to think that you’re “here” in the swirling netherworld of passed-on-ed-ness, and that’s good. Beautiful, even. I’m glad you’re at peace — I believe you are, because out of anyone I ever knew, peace is something you have earned, finally, and I have to believe that if peace is to be found, you’re right there.

But I miss you. I am not satisfied with the spiritual. I long for the tangible, not the ethereal. I wish you were here. Every day, for this whole perfectly beautiful summer, I have wished you were here. To see the kids’ backflips, the hands-free biking, to read the stories written, to listen to the newly crafted jokes. To witness the cousin love when we all get together, to watch the bonds forged, to see the miracle of ties knotted. To allow yourself to know, for real, that you had a very, very large part in the miracle unfolding before your eyes, that whatever else you think you didn’t do all that well, THIS happened.  To remind you to relish in the immense family you helped to build.

Aw, Daddy. I’m a writer. All of that is true. But mostly the whole point of all of this is — I wish you were here because I would sure like a hug. Or just to hold your hand for one more nanosecond. I wasn’t ready to let you go. I’m still not.

Daddy, I just miss you so much.

And holy cow, I bet you’d love to see those backflips at the pool.

 

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Get Your Yoga On

Love yoga?  Love music?  Get your fix of both this Saturday, Feb. 13, at Yoga in the Square.  Yoga instructor Checka Antifonario will join with chant vocalist/musician  Irene Solea Antonellis for a 90-minute vinyasa yoga flow to live music.  All levels are welcome. $15 drop-in ($12 w/ student ID) – Yoga in the Square class cards welcome.   What better way to get your heart (and spirit) ready for Valentine’s Day?  

Yoga in the Square
249 Elm Street
Davis Square, Somerville, MA
Saturday, February 13th, 2010   1:15 – 2:45 pm

Enlightenment

We seem to be living in a greener, more enlightened world. Or at least, in a world that wants to be greener and more enlightened.

I used to be earthy, crunchy. I did yoga daily, hiked, and took long walks. I held memberships in the Sierra Club and the World Wildlife Federation. Sadly, as my life unfolded, these passions got lost in a small-city shuffle after I moved to Boston. Getting married and having kids somehow overshadowed my guitar-strumming, mantra-muttering self. I guess I wasn’t someone who could readily reconcile those identities, though plenty of fine women do. All right, I was also a little bit lazy.

But this past year taught me a little bit about staying true to who you are, as well as spending some time on enlightenment. Well, if not enlightenment, then spending some time on clearing a little mind clutter, stepping outside of yourself to the bigger world. Doing this may mitigate some of the daily stresses we all feel, or so I’m told.

Lately I’ve revisited yoga and meditation and some old, familiar writers like Natalie Goldberg, who in her search for her writing self stumbled across her true self — through writing practice and Zen Buddhism, Natalie embarked on a lifelong journey we all must face at one time or another. Or something like that. “Be here now,” wrote Ram Dass in his book of the same title. (My cousin Marcello gave me this book about 15 years ago, when we were both exploring the same world. Alas, it was lost in a basement flood a few years ago.) The message is, of course, to be mindful of the moment, do what you’re doing. Make a peanut butter sandwich without focusing on the bills to be paid or what you need at the pharmacy.

I’ve been trying. It flies against every modern thought of multi-tasking, the fuel on which we contemporary moms thrive. Once upon a time, moms were applauded for their ability to talk on the phone, help with math homework, cook dinner, fold laundry, and look beautiful, all at once. These days, while multi-tasking is a necessary evil of parenting, I have been striving for a more peaceful, Zen approach to my daily duties.

For instance, today, while changing Joanna’s diaper, I think only of the tush, the rash, the cream. I actively ignore the sound from the living room, the smack of hand slapping on arm, as Ellie defends her toy from her brother’s grasp.

I sigh, apply cream. The cream is white on red rash, I think. Yelling erupts from adjacent room. Be here now, I whisper, aligning diaper with rear end. Something heavy lands with a thump nearby; lack of cries indicate object is inanimate, not human. I fasten diaper, put legs in pants. The sound of sobs, soft and sniffly, waft to my ears, hallmark of a fight ebbing. I stand Joanna up and give her a kiss, send her on her way.

Natalie Goldberg’s teacher Katagiri Roshi, in response to her description of an overwhelming emotion she was having, told her, “Pay no attention to that. Continue to feel your breath, bow, drink tea.”

Having finished the task before me, I pay no attention to the noise from the other room, which has resolved itself quite well without me. With an almost undetectable bow, I head to the kitchen and turn on the stove to boil water for a cup of tea.

Of course, as students we often fail. Not all days am I able to watch my breath, meditate, and allow the chaos of parenting to flow around me. On many days, I sit on the couch after tucking the children in their beds, a glass of red wine by my side. Recently, I stood by the counter and mindfully swallow bite after delicious bite of the chocolate birthday cake we had for Cooper last Saturday.

I haven’t decided which way is better. But whatever way, I hope that I can be present in my life, the moments that flow too quickly. Breathe, drink tea. Be grateful and bow.