My mom asked me if I didn't want to come home anymore...because it had been 9 months since I'd come, and the last time was when we lost him...Of course, consciously I did and just hadn't found a good time to come, not to mention the astronomical prices of plane tickets, but maybe, deep down, subconsciously, I had avoided the trip.
About a week before I left, I began to think about it. How different it would be. That HE would not be there. That he would not be waiting for me at the end of the ramp at the aiport, lifting my too-heavy, overstuffed bag into the back of their Camry. That we wouldn't go to the Y together, or chat over breakfast. That he wouldn't be out tinkering in his garage when we returned from lunch or shopping. That we wouldn't watch "Pickers" together and I wouldn't stay up late chatting in their bed.
Those thoughts haunted me before the trip, but they paled in comparison to all of the small reminders that would floor me. Even traveling up to Jewell county to see his grave didn't phase me. Not one tear was shed there. Perhaps because, to me that grave is irrelevant, other than a special marker to remind us, I know that he does not reside there, but is in heaven.
It was the precious inquiries of my 2 year old, time and time and time again, "Where's Grampy?" that brought the tears. She was reminded of him, being in that place, even though he was gone before she turned 2, she remembered. Looking at his picture on the wall one day she said "Grampy, wanna go swing?" Several times while swinging she pointed to the bedroom window where he spent his final days in the guest room, specifically chosen so that we could raise his bed high enough to watch his precious girls swinging. She said "Grampy is sleeping in there. I'll see him in a little bit." At church she even asked Pastor Dave "Hey! Where's Grampy?" And we were taken aback that a two and a half year old would know that Grampy's presence was always strong at that church. And still, every time she would swing, she would say "Grampy say 'Booga Booga'!" When we went to the zoo, she said "I want Grampy to go to the zoo! Where's Grampy?" The fact that the last time we went to their zoo she was only 18 months old and Grampy went with us and she remembered can only be explained as a blessing from God. Those things crushed me. And blessed me. The fact that God had answered my prayers about her having her own personal memories of him, memories I hadn't told her or reminded her of through pictures or videos.
But it was the other reminders that send my knees quivering. The top of his dresser, empty. No more chapstick or loose change in the tray, or lotion, or hairbrush, or random things he took from his pockets. All gone. And his closet, empty of his clothes, all gone, his desk and piles of stuff totally cleaned off and gone, his writing on the dry erase white board in the garage, left there, unerased, his tools and organized drawers of nails and screws, still there. Those small and simple reminders of him
were the most excruciating.
I always love going home, I look forward to it each and everytime. This time, however, there was a clear and tangible physical void in our home. There was a distinct missing piece, one that I don't suspect will ever be unfelt...I suppose in time the going home will get easier, as has grief at almost 10 months of him being gone, but for now it was so painful.
I broke down to Mom one night. I hadn't suspected I'd have such a terrible time with it, but being there was PAINFUL, and I was ready to go back "home" to Utah, before I usually am. I realized it was a roller coaster ride of emotions. Being away, I didn't see the day to day of his dying, I called in for a quick update from mom, but until I got back there in December, I just didn't know. Being home again was transporting myself back into the end, the hospice, the pain, the agony of knowing what we were about to walk through and knowing I couldn't do it! Being home again brought it all back again, and it was fresh and vivid again. In Utah I could choose to stop my brain from traveling back to that dark time, but in Kansas, reliving it was unavoidable.
And so, I'm back to my life and the reality that comes with it, and I can again sweep the horror under the rug for a time. I know my Daddy wouldn't want home to hold terrible memories, and so I choose to focus on only the good times, and picture him tinkering in the garage, and going to get ice cream, and recycling the bulletins at church, and hanging out and chatting, and being my dad. What I wouldn't give to have one hour with him, and to hug him a few more times.