Saturday, August 23, 2014

in an instant

Back in the day: Dad with my (now 18-year-old) girl, who starts college next week.

My daughter moved down south to attend college two days ago and I gotta admit, it's hitting me hard — this is my baby girl we're talking about! Lucky for me, I'll be relocating to the same city in a matter of weeks, moving in with my man, and starting a new job there. My last day working at the magazine was yesterday and, although I'm moving on to bigger and better things, it was more than heartbreaking to say goodbye to my family of coworkers. I'll miss them dearly! Oh, and leaving my son and many, many good friends and family members too ... losses upon losses!

So why am I so consumed with thoughts of my dad lately? Is there really room in my brain for this? He left us 10 years ago (this month) and I find myself reliving the day I learned of his death. We'd just experienced the death of my brother and months later, my marriage ended (rather abruptly ... see other blog entries) — and now this. I was running a home preschool then, it was midday, and I had only one little girl in my care. She was sitting at the dining table and I was fixing her a snack. My phone rang and the man on the other end introduced himself as the coroner. "Is this Kirsten, the daughter of Tim? We are calling to tell you we've found your father and he is deceased" ... or something to that effect. The words I heard were so massive I couldn't begin to process them. And in a way, I still haven't. How is it possible that in one day, with one phone call, one's world can change so completely? It appeared my dad experienced a massive heart attack, they told me. The business of informing my mom and sister, and cleaning up the room he'd died in (he'd been there for days) needed to be attended to. I kicked it gear and decided I'd deal with the emotions later.

I'd just spoken to dad days before receiving the phone call from the coroner. Later I realized that we talked on very night he died. He was giddy with excitement — he and my mom had just sold the house they were living in and he'd met with a realtor that day to see a new home doors down from the home of his childhood friend. He couldn't wait to show the place to mom, who was visiting her sister in Michigan. Normally, and especially then, our phone conversations centered around my life and my news, and he was never short of a listening ear and great fatherly advice, which I always desperately needed. But that night he was simply calling to share HIS good news. After all he and my mom had been through (would take numerous blog entries to adequately explain), they were finally going to have their happy ending — I couldn't be more thrilled for him!

Later, when my mom, sister, and I went to my parents house, there were telltale signs he was eating ice cream that evening. It is a comfort to know that my father, who was a deep thinker and prone to depression, was not only truly happy, but also eating ice cream the night he died.

Anyhoo, during what turned out to be our last phone conversation ever, I neglected to tell dad I'd  scheduled a job interview at the office of a horse magazine near my home. Would he have thought it was a good idea to work there?  I'll never know, but I ended up taking the job— the first big life decision I made without his guidance. Since then, I often wonder, "What would dad think of me doing this?" or, "I have no clue what do do here!" I guess when I think about it, dad's still speaking to me along the way, but instead of guidance, he offers only encouragement. "Well done," he says.

Funny how these yearly anniversaries broadside you, even though you swear there's nothing to the theory. Now, almost ten years after that fateful day, more "instant" changes: You wake up one day and that's the day your daughter no longer lives in your house. You wake up two days later and you are no longer working at your job of 10 years. More losses to grieve, yes, but also many new wonderful experiences and possibilities ahead. And your father's comforting voice ringing in your ear: "Well done!"