My father died suddenly four months ago, and my heart aches from missing him so much.
He was the type of person that brought air with him into a room. His smile was infectious, and you never wanted to be cured. His laughter was musical, and he gave the best hugs.
My father was an accomplished baker and chef, a purveyor of fine wine (and the good stuff that was cheap), martinis with pickled onions (shaken, not stirred), and terrible dad-jokes that only he could get away with.
His go-to mantra, “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king,” made perfect sense if you had the pleasure of knowing him: use the tools you have to be the best at what you are.
My insides have been a mess since I heard of my dad’s death, but all along I’ve insisted that I was fine.
Following his death, I tended to my mother, and my brother, and my husband, and our children. I wrote his obituary, the words for his Shiva, and spoke at his memorial.
My beloved father had died unexpectedly, way before his time, but I was FINE. I mean, I felt fine — as fine as someone can feel after losing the man who taught her what a man was. My father showed me how to throw a football and helped me learn to ride a bike. He also introduced me to the marvelous wonder that is The Benny Hill Show and taught me the proper way to apply stage makeup.
Then, the bottom fell out. It became terribly clear that nothing was fine.
My middle kid started throwing tantrums. Big, hearty, meaningful tantrums with no beginning and no end. Tantrums that started with no obvious trigger, lasted for hours, and ended with sobbing. When I looked deeper into things, I discovered he was only acting this way at our house. With us.
I reflected on my behavior since my father’s passing and realized I was very far from fine. I’d mentally checked the fu*k out. I filled my children’s requests as if I were on autopilot. Yelling had become my love language. I laughed at their jokes with a maniacal canned laugh once saved for dinners with the boss and girls I wanted to smack but stopped myself, because jail. I never made eye contact anymore. I stopped showing my love physically with kisses and hugs. There was no room for praise. I was always mad.
The tantrums were a “me” problem. Holy sh*t.
I’d never lost someone this close to my heart through death. How was I to realize that this wasn’t the way every heartbroken person acted in their time of loss and mourning? How was I to pinpoint the moment when being fine became being fu*king angry, and bitter, and even more angry. Did I mention angry?
Making the discovery that I wasn’t coping well wasn’t easy, and I wasn’t easy on myself after I realized it. I have three beautiful boys that deserve to be raised in the way I initially intended when I brought them into this world: with love and light and laughter and a mother who is present.
I baked a batch of cookies and apologized to my family while we dipped them in milk and told stories about their Papa. Like the time he made pickle pancakes. Or the time he taught them how to make blueberry jam. And the times he baked Challah for every Hannukah. And we cried together with his name on our lips and smiles on our tear-streaked faces.
Right now I’m giving myself time to slowly heal. I’m not yelling as much. I’m angry less often. I’m giving my children my undivided attention whenever they need it, no matter what. I’m working on being present in the moment and enjoying the little things — things my father knew how to appreciate. I’m not fine right now. But I’m going to be okay.