My sisters and me with our dad at Christmas in 2006. Hard to believe that was five years ago.
I’ve had this post rolling around in my head ever since I visited “home” for Thanksgiving. I don’t know why I haven’t written it yet except that it really is still hard to think about my dad sometimes.
Something that struck me about the time I spent with my sisters and our significant others over Thanksgiving was that we were able to share stories about our dad. Good memories, funny little things we remembered, even a few things we wish had turned out differently.
And I was able to reflect on my dad and who he was (and who he wasn’t, for that matter) without feeling like the walls were closing in on me.
Up to this point, the postpartum depression I’ve dealt in recent months was so much in control that I really couldn’t even think about my dad without facing a downward spiral of crappy emotions. And that really kept me from even being able to grieve for him because I basically just couldn’t even think about him. And when I did, those thoughts quickly turned to me — what I was doing wrong, how bad my life was, what was wrong with me.
This is not to say that I feel at fault for this or that I could have done anything about it at the time. But I am really glad that I now feel like I’m able to grieve for my father.
Christmas was one of his favorite times of the year. I will always remember (and this is so silly, but it’s a fun memory for me) him wrapping presents on random nights in December and then knocking on the bedroom door, indicating that he wanted me to come get them. I would race down the hallway to get the wrapped-up presents, hoping to catch a glimpse of something unwrapped on the other side of the door before he closed it. I never did catch that glimpse.
I think about being a kid and loading up in my dad’s truck, bundled up against the cold, to find a Christmas tree. We’d take a saw and drive out into the woods somewhere near our house, looking for the perfect tree. We’d decorate it with every Christmas ornament, string of lights, strand of garland and piece of tinsel we owned, and by Christmas, it would be almost hidden behind stacks of presents.
Today when I was trying to get Noah’s attention, I caught myself saying, “Psst!” That’s something my dad always used to do. He would say, “Psst!” and then when I would look at him, he’d wink. I have a feeling I’ll be teaching that to Noah.
One of the things that makes me saddest is that Noah and my dad never got to meet. Never got to go fishing together. Never rode down to the river or threw a baseball. Noah never got to see him play Santa Claus.
But one of the things that makes me happy now is that I can actually process this, and when the time comes, I know I’ll be ready to share my dad with Noah.
I think visiting family at Christmas will come with its own set of challenges, and I hope I’m ready to face them. It has always been such a special time for my family, even though it’s been different in recent years. And I want Noah to get a glimpse of what it used to be like.
I also don’t want PPD to take away from the joy of my little boy’s first Christmas and our first Christmas as a family of three. I’m going to do my best to focus on the good and to leave the worries behind in Tuscaloosa. I’m going to embrace the craziness of the holidays with my family and remind myself when I feel a little overwhelmed that everything is going to be OK. I will take some time for myself while allowing Noah’s grandparents to have a little extra time with him (AKA babysitting).
It’s going to be a different Christmas, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a good one. And I want to honor my dad and my little three-member family by celebrating.