Losing That First Parent

One day I will hug you again for real, Dad.

One day I will hug you again for real, Dad.

Today is a day I would dare myself to imagine from time to time, in the darkest recesses of my mind, but never quite opening that door. The pain was too great. I would well up with tears even toying with the idea. But today, it really happened. I officially became a grown-up. I lost my first parent. I held his cold hand as he took his final breaths and his heart beat for the very last time. It was far worse than I dared imagine.

I’ve held it together to comfort my son and my mom. I’ve arranged everything, with the help of my Aunt Karen and my cousins and my sister-in-law Danine. I’ve even arranged the stuff one doesn’t usually think of, like having someone protecting the house while we’re off at the funeral. I was always “Daddy’s Girl,” and today I stubbornly refused to let him down.

And tonight, when the house is quiet and I am sure everyone’s needs have been attended to, I will totally lose my shit and have that good cry. I’ve earned it.

Luckily for me, the softer moments of my crazy family just being my crazy family always seep in to alleviate some of the stress. Take this email exchange between my cousins just now. To honor my dad, we decided to host a sundae bar at the post-funeral luncheon. Dad was a fanatic for ice cream. (It feels so weird to be speaking of him in the past tense.) Dad could never remember the punchline to a joke (which fell to me), but he could recite the location of every Dairy Queen and Tastee Freeze in Northern Illinois…and parts of Southern Wisconsin. He also adored my Aunt Karen’s homemade hot fudge sauce–a family favorite at every get-together–which my hyper-competitive cousins are happily replicating for the funeral:

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone.
 Original Message  
From: Greg 
Sent: Wednesday, February 4, 2015 7:58 PM
To: Karen
Cc: Denise Dorman; Jeff & Janell; Becky
Subject: Re: Funeral arrangements

Are we going to have a ‘Mom’s hot fudge sauce cook off’? See if the 4 of us can take 3 cups of sugar, a can of evaporated milk, a stick of butter, 8 squares of Baker’s chocolate and a teaspoon or so of vanilla and taste a difference between the 4 sauces?

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From: Jeff & Janell 
Sent: Wednesday, February 4, 2015 8:20 PM
To: Greg 
Cc: Karen, Denise Dorman, Becky
Subject: Re: Funeral arrangements
Game on!
Sent from my iPad
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From: Becky
Sent: Wednesday, February 4, 2015 8:20 PM
To: Karen
Cc: Denise Dorman; Jeff & Janell; Greg
Subject: Re: Funeral arrangements
I’m sure we can find plenty of willing judges for this!
Send from my iPhone
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