My family recently hosted a mini family reunion at our house in Flower Mound, Texas. As you can imagine, a lot of thought and preparation went into this event from the food to drinks to entertainment to family outings. Add in that the only four-day time period that worked for everyone was right before school started for us (our kids started school the morning all of our guests left), and you can imagine the level of stress. Plus, I was so busy with all of the preparations in the weeks leading up to this visit, that I completely neglected the mental health side of things.
How often has this happened to you in your personal life as well?
The first night, we all went to the Fort Worth, Texas rodeo, which was entertaining and brought back fond memories from my own childhood. I remember going to the rodeo with my family and how much my dad enjoyed this fun family event.
The next day we drove out to where I grew up, in the country, far south of Dallas, Texas, to see the house we grew up in (which, all these years later, has surprisingly changed very little, while we’ve all grown and matured into adulthood), our old schools which have grown with the growing community, and the downtown which is now totally unrecognizable. Memories of my dad surfaced again here, as he was such an integral part of these formidable years of my childhood.
The rest of the family visit we spent at our house, swimming, grilling food, celebrating, reminiscing and simply spending time together. This is where the void of my dad no longer being with us really hit me, because these were the things he loved the most in life. These simple moments are so often the most important ones.
If I had given myself some time to prepare mentally for this visit, I would have expected the grief to surface at my childhood home (which it did). However, here’s where the wave of grief almost knocked me over, when I was at home doing the dishes and cleaning up the kitchen after one of our big family meals (two tasks that I despise, but that were definitely mine, as my husband had taken care of all the food prep, grilling, etc.).
It took me a while to figure out why I was missing my dad’s presence so much in that particular, seemingly insignificant, period of time. I soon realized that he would have been in the kitchen with me. Not so much to help, although he definitely would have helped me out. More importantly, he would have been there to connect with me. To spend time with me one-on-one so he could hear what was really going on in my life, the good, the bad and the ugly. He would have been happy to have his daughter all to himself, if only for a short while, as he understood how precious those little moment truly are, and how rare they are to find with adult children who are raising kids of their own, working, running a household, entertaining guests, etc.
While I was processing all of this, and trying not to get knocked down by this completely unexpected wave of grief, a funny thing happened. One of my kids noticed I was missing from the game everyone else was playing at the time, and reminded me that I was missed.
In that moment, I saw so many of my dad’s positive traits in my own kids, in their empathy towards others, their warmth and kindness, their sense of humor and in their zest for life. In that moment, I saw these positive traits in myself too.
I no longer have my dad here to remind me about what’s most important in life, but I’ve come to realize that I have taken his knowledge to heart. In accepting these gifts from him, I’ve been able to start instilling them in my own children as well.