Let me start by saying that my Dad is a great guy. He was a loving and devoted husband to my mother for 54 years. He was a dedicated, caring, and very competent caregiver when she was ill. And he misses my mother very much. It’s interesting to me how the loss of a person changes relationships, and how people grieve differently.
In my previous life, I was a social worker who worked in a cancer center. I understand the grieving process and that grief takes many forms. My Dad and I have a close, loving relationship. I am the child who lives closest to my parents, so we are an integral part of each other’s lives. But mothers and fathers have different roles in their children’s lives. I said to my Dad, “You’re great Dad, but you’re not Mom.” “I know,” he replied. Just like I’m a wonderful daughter, but I’m not his wife. The nature of our relationship will change, while it continues to shift. I now will be focused on him, without trying to smother him with my attention. “I don’t need taking care of,” he told me. I assured him that I respect his autonomy and independence. But I still drove by his house recently when I hadn’t spoken with him one day, to make sure the paper had been taken in – he was alive, I surmised. We will find a balance of communication and space. As an adult child, I feel more vulnerable to have my Mom gone and feel the need to make sure my Dad stays around for as long as possible. Otherwise, what is there between me and my mortality?
My father is on a 2 week trip to Israel, where my parents have a second home. I spoke with him the other day and got choked up and teary when talking about my Mom. “We need to keep living,” he told me. “I know,” I squeaked out (although I wasn’t contemplating NOT living – I was just expressing sadness.) “God giveth and God taketh away,” he tried next. Really, Pop? He clearly could not tolerate my tears and sadness, as he tries not to grieve that way. He grieves by making lists of things to do, and keeping very busy. Of course he does – he’s a man and he lives alone. I am a woman with a bunch of people who share my house and need tending to. I have built-in distractions. We quickly ended our conversation as my grief was too much for him. Fortunately, I have many other people to share my sadness with – I called my sister.
I know my Dad thinks of my Mom every moment of every day and grieves in his own way – which is perfectly fine for him. And I’m okay with it too. We’ll help each other the best we can.
It’s new territory for both of us.