This picture was taken on a family vacation the summer after my sophomore year of high school.
I remember that my hair had just been permed and I thought it looked real fly.
This weekend marked seven years since my dad passed away. I laid my pregnant belly in the tub on Friday night and read all the posts I have written on this anniversary. (Two years, three years, four years, five years, six years.) Then I read the post I wrote about grief and the post I wrote about potatoes and the post I wrote about finding out I was pregnant with June on that same anniversary. I cried. I felt peace. I missed my dad.
Now, seven years later, there are certain things that stick with me about that day. Is it a day you try hard to remember all the details of? I don't know. But I do.
I remember how my sister and her husband picked me up from the school where I was doing my student teaching. They took me to my apartment so I could pack some stuff to take home for the next week or so. I remember standing in the middle of that little bedroom of my Branbury apartment, trying to think about something so everyday and routine as what physical items I would need for the next week. My dad had just died. Are my jeans clean? My dad had just died. Did I pack a toothbrush? My dad had just died. How many pairs of socks would I need?
I remember how I left a note for my roommates. My childhood home was about an hour and a half away from where I was going to college. My roommates were my best friends, but I couldn't tell them, couldn't talk to them. So I wrote a note on the white board in the front room. "I went home for the weekend. Bonnie." It was a Thursday morning. I had student teaching and classes and work that weekend. We had plans with friends on Saturday. I knew they would wonder.
I remember how I went a run for that evening, in the bitter Carbon County wind. How the bite and sting of the oncoming winter felt good as I ran. A song I had learned to love while in Argentina "Noviembre sin ti" came on my ipod. November without you. It was November. I was without my dad. I cried.
I remember that the Jazz were playing. They lost. I couldn't make myself care.
There are a lot of things about the day that I don't remember. I don't remember how my car got from the school where I was student teaching back to my apartment. I don't remember who drove me down to Price. I don't remember if I took a shower or combed my hair all day. I don't remember eating lunch or dinner. I don't remember what any of us did to fill the long hours of that day.
Seven years after loss, the hole is still there. The missing morphs and the grief shifts, but there is no end. I miss him the most now on my extreme days. During the best of times and the worst of times. I miss him during those happiest moments- times he should be there to share it with me. I missed him when I graduated from college, when June was born, when I was married, when I got my first teaching job. The absence of a father in moments like that is fierce.
I miss him on the worst days. The days I feel scared and frustrated and alone. The days I want to cry and go to lunch and complain to someone who loves me. The days where I experience heartache. The days I want to give up. Those are the days I notice so strongly that he is not here anymore.
Sometimes I wonder now, these seven years later, what is the best way to stay close to my dad? How does anyone continue to build a relationship, or at least honor that relationship, after seven years of absence? And what's that to say for ten years later? 15? 25? How does anyone keep that person close to them, keep their memory close to the surface, keep them alive? How do I help my children have a relationship with him? How do I help him become more than just a picture to them?
For me, I keep my dad alive by doing the things that he likes to do. I find myself being drawn to many of his hobbies and desires, not because of my own innate interest, but because my dad was interested in it. This fall was so warm in Utah. We had day after day of 60 and 70 degree weather. I heard on the news that our first freeze wasn't until November 17- the last time it waited that long to freeze was on November 16, 1921. November 17 set the record for latest freeze of all time. My dad loved weird information like this. Statistics and records about dates, temperatures, times. It fascinated him. So I guess I kind of take up this occupation for him now. Wow, we're having a record breaking fall! How many days in a row of 60 degree weather? How much rainfall? What time did the sunrise this morning? How many minutes a day of sunlight are we losing?
This year the Chicago Cubs won the world series, the first time since 1908. I like the Cubs because my dad liked the Cubs. My mom grew up in Chicago, my dad went to podiatry school there, and quite frankly, my dad just likes underdogs. He never roots for the team that is slotted to win. He watched so many Cubs games in his den. When I wore my Cubs hat this fall and watched those world series games, I felt like my dad was watching them with me. Telling me the stats. How historic would this win be? The night the Cubs won I felt like I could hear my dad cheering from the heavens. And what a way to win! Back from being down 1-3. Delay because of rain. Extra innings! Wow, way to seal it, Cubs, you dirty dogs!
I mentioned on my Instagram, but every fall my dad would read the Book of Mormon cover to cover. He'd start in September or October, pace himself for about 6 pages a day, and finish on New Year's. He said he felt like it was the perfect way to celebrate the Christmas and New Year season- to spend so much time focusing on words of Christ. So I do that too, now. It's a struggle to try to fit that much thoughtful reading in- especially during the madness of December- but I feel my dad there with me, helping me concentrate, helping me understand, filling my soul with peace and joy and family.
I hope I can teach my children to like the same things my dad likes, and by doing so his legacy can continue in my family. I hope they enjoy gardening and big breakfasts. I hope we can somehow keep visiting the cabin he built and toiled over and poured his heart and soul into. (Cabin posts here here and here.) I hope they enjoy looking at stars and they enjoy the satisfaction from a day of hard's work. I hope I can teach my children the importance of gathering people, of clinging to faith, of making family and God the priority always. That is the legacy he left for me.