logo
Currently Browsing: on family
Mar
22

The Things Not Said

logo
IMG_0594

Joshua Tree, 1972

When I was in high school, somehow you conned me into taking Business Law. I am certain you said something about it being practical, but it probably came out as,“If you had any sense, you’d take that business law class.”

IMG_0601

vietnam

So I did. Just to prove I had some sense.

 

We girls sat towards the back, passing notes, talking about boys, thinking about college. This one girl, she blurts it out one day, “I get to go to collegefor free.” And we all are thinking, we want this gig too.  And we are leaning in, wanting to know, urging her on, and she says, “because my dad died in Vietnam.”

I sit slack jawed, sucker punched with shock, think about what my life would have been without you. And as I weave in and out of classes the rest of the week, the thoughts, well, they just consume me.

 

IMG_0598

The Zoo Keeper, 1976

I would have been an only child. The first realization hits me when I am angry one morning – they have run me late again arguing over who sits in the front seat. This is the fourth time and if I get caught slinking in today, its detention for me.

Again.

And I am thinking a no-sibling life might have rocked.

But a few weeks later, someone starts a rumor and the two that might not have been, they stand ready to set the story straight on my behalf.  And for the first time I see they have your mighty heart – a warrior’s heart overflowing with a fierce and  protective love. I feel embarrassed, knowing how ashamed you would be had I spoken the thoughts out loud, and I carry guilt like boulders in my pockets, learn to love in spite of faults and inconveniences, remember the things you have taught me about the importance of family.

IMG_0611

USMC

Years later, when tragedy strikes my life, you show up selfless and strong, the whole family in tow, because that’s just what families do. You do the hard things: pick out caskets, stand vigil outside hospital rooms during the night, sit and tell me stories about squirrels in trees to distract my mind from pain.

One day months later, coming home from a doctor’s appointment, I fumble words, try to thank you, tell you how much it meant to me. You shrug it off, say, “kid, that’s just what fathers do.”  But I know better, not all father’s do these things, some fathers were lost in war ravaged places and aren’t even here to do these things. I count myself fortunate, say grateful prayers for this provision of a great father’s selfless love.

IMG_0599

perpetually goofing off…

IMG_0615

late-night builder of dollhouses

I wander around D. C., end up on the Mall, stumble across the Vietnam Memorial and I am struck dumb by all the names carved in granite. I step into an empty space, run my fingers over names with eyes closed and thank God over and over your name is not here, not anywhere on this cold black stone.  For the first time in years, I think of business law classes and girl talk. I rush home, call you and we discuss the timing of Google Earth photos; you certain it is a photo of my house from last week that you are looking at, me arguing telling why it can’t be and you say real serious, “You know, there was this one time I was wrong, back in 1986. I guess it could be it just happened again.” And I can see you there, shrugging your shoulders, grinning. And then, “maybe,” you say. I tell you God exists and anything is possible and I laugh loud, hang up happy.

God gifted me with your same infinitely curious mind and I want you to know, it drives my husband to madness, the unending whys and hows I need answered. He would prefer I use Google; I call you instead because Google doesn’t kick back your unique answers or your long winding ways to arrive at them. Now I wonder, how many times will I call before it sinks in deep, you won’t be there to answer, and how many rings before I understand this is the day the internet has to be enough.

IMG_0608

faithful and true

 

You always had a back-up plan and it was always practical. I admired this because I am the one always caught off guard when my perfect plans go awry. When I was five, and I got kicked out of ballet for not having enough grace to dance, Mom stood angry, cooked dinner, slammed down pans and wooden spoons; the audacity of it all in every action.

You try to soothe her anger, shrug and say, “What in the world is she going to ever do with a tu-tu? I’ll just teach her to shoot.  That is a skill she can actually use.”

 

IMG_0595

protector

You told me I could be anything I wanted to be and I often wonder, if it disappointed you when I turned to words and cameras and paint, never aspired to something greater.

But you were this great storyteller. I loved to sit and listen to stories about your granddaddy working on the railroad or deer hunting. Or about the time Papa left for work, told you to target practice and Aunt Dianne came home from school to find you shooting brown thrashers. Every time you tell it, I gasp, laughing, “Daddy, didn’t you know brown thrashers are the state bird?”  Your laughter would roll forth, “no, but Dianne did and she sure was sore about all those dead ones.”

And I never told you this, but you are the reason I choose to tell stories, write words. But for the last three days, words have eluded me, like convicts tunneling into the night seeking escape.  How do I describe the love you gave or the spaces in my life that you filled and how do I convey the emptiness that remains in your absence?

IMG_0597

lover of literature and baby snuggles

I find that I can not because words are scarce, but hyperventilating breathes are not.

 

I just know these things:

 

Wrapped in your bear hug was the safest, sweetest place to be, those long arms wrapped strong, enveloping me in unconditional love. Now panic sneaks up with frequency and great zeal, fills that space like a thief, steals my breath when I think about never hearing another, “hey kid” or watching your calloused hand cut wood. I already miss sitting there while you show me “just one more thing” on the computer, mom impatient because we haven’t come to fix plates, join others to eat.

IMG_0605

passing the time, awaiting your return

 

God gave me the perfect daddy and I would have never wanted another. Gods plans are perfect and without flaw. I know there is purpose here in this place, in this time and I can trust in that alone.  I can have peace you reside with Him.

But I can not make this aching go away.  I can not settle in to you being there and us being here.

IMG_0606

Christmas gifts from Okinawa

 

 

 

 

And for days, I have thought about that girl, sitting there, shrugging it off.

She never knew her father, never really knew the contour of his face or touched scars upon his arm, never heard his voice boom loud in joy or disappointment, never felt his scruffy beard.

IMG_0613

crooked and happy grins

She never had him rush in from the road – unfed and still in work clothes – just to hear her lead the Lord’s prayer in a school cafeteria full of stranger’s; never raised her head and opened her eyes and saw a crooked grin of approval shining forth.

He never taught her how a southern girl should behave or threatened to personally revoke her license if she got in too much of a hurry to pull over for a funeral procession.

I feel sorry for her; mourn her empty spaces that never filled up with a father’s perfect love.

IMG_0604

goodnight kisses

 

 

 

 

And she is the reason, in this swirl of grief, I can stand here grateful and praise Jesus for the beautiful gift of 43 years of your sweet, perfect and unconditional love.

And I wait for Him alone to fill the empty spaces that you have left.

 

 

 

 

 

Mar
6

Good Dog

logo
Christmas 2007

Christmas 2007

If I had known how sick you were, I would have stayed home. If I had known those hours were your last, I would have made you the chocolate cake I promised you for when that day came. Like most deaths, yours was sudden, unexpected, crushing coming on a day when everything had been normal, happy.

 

I believe that God gives us these happiest moments to ease us into the grief forthcoming because for some situations, there is no preparation. There is only trusting that God is in control.

To most, you were just a dog; to me, you were my best friend. And no one really understood that I loved you better than I even liked most people.

Marco 2008

Marco 2008

In thirteen years, you saw me through some of the best and the worst years of my life. And that one day, I rubbed your ears with the door half open, me stretched wide, you on your hind legs, feet upon my 8 month pregnant belly, toddler grabbing my other hand urging me onto the porch, you perked your ears and listened as I said, “Be home soon.”  Only I didn’t come back soon.  Not even that day. Not for many days.  But you waited.  You waited through the days that turned to weeks, and weeks that turned into months.

flowers for headstones

flowers for headstones

No one really believed I would survive the accident, but somehow you knew when I came home minus a pregnant belly and a toddler, it wasn’t the accident I had to survive.  It was the grief and the loss and the nosiest of people that needed fodder for their gossip of whether I was sane and whole – or not. It was the surviving of the silence of a house no longer full, the busy that no longer existed within its walls, the navigating of endless time and nightmare induced sleepless nights.

And when alone I cleaned out rooms and sorted clothes and toys and baby gifts unopened, there you were constant by my side, the tangibleness of Jesus.

watching rabbits play in the Nature Bubble (what we call our dining room)

watching rabbits play from the Nature Bubble (what we call our dining room)

You were a perfect example of Jesus in my life.  Oh, if only I could have had your heart, your faithful spirit. Your loyalty and kindness were unparalleled. You were so in tune with me, you knew when I was sick often before I realized it myself and stayed by my side in constant vigil – even as I would sleep, you sitting beside the bed, head upon my arm resting against a faint pulse beating slow.Of late and often I wonder, if the flu I had the week before was the beginning of your demise. As feeble as you were, for days you lay on my feet, on the sofa between resting and fretting.Not once, not ever did you ever elude to my brokenness or my worthlessness; you never said I was no good. You never yelled at me, never called me a nasty name, never threatened to leave me. You were the perfect confidant and never barked one secret I told you. You never dashed a dream or called me crazy. And when you could no longer tag along on my excursions, you waited patiently upon my return and never chastised me for staying away too long. You were just happy I was home, happy I existed. I cried a gazillion tears onto your black velvet ears and never once did you become impatient. You understood me in a way few ever tried to. How can a love like that ever be replaced?

Tobias on the ride home

Tobias on the ride home

I wish you were here to meet Tobias. He is only 7 weeks old. I chose his name because it means God is good.

And we both know HE is and we could always say it, “Yes. God is good.  All the time.”

On Tobias’ second night here, the owl, who has not been here since the night before you died ,returned. He hooted a lament for you, while Tobias played in the garden.Like the good dog you were, he sat still and listened as if out of respect for my broken heart and in honor of the paws he has to fill. Intently he peered into the darkness of the woods.

ready to chase black bears

ready to chase black bears

 

What I know is there will never be another you, and the only reason Tobias is here, is because you are not.  

But he brings joy in my sadness.  He licks away my tears and doesn’t seem jealous that they are shed over you.

photo (3)

helping build a fire

He also pees on the floor, steals my socks, chews my shoes. He loves your duck and thinks it must go wherever he goes.  He sleeps on your brown fuzzy blanket in your same spot.  He tries so hard to carry in kindling just like you always did – he already knows the importance of a good fire and cup of tea.  He is patient during quiet time as I pour over the Bible and my journal. When I rub his ears, he groans a deep satisfying moan and flops down happy on my feet, mostly I think to chew on my toes.

Some thought I should wait before I got another dog, but I disagree. I know you would have too. Even at birth, there was a dog laying beide the cradle. I think it is why you hung on as long as you did – you knew I needed a vigilant protector, a constant friend. I know in my heart, you feel relief to know he is already honing all those fine qualities that made you a great dog.

preparing to drool....

preparing to drool….

Still every night, I go to bed with a stomachache because you aren’t here to eat the other half of my dinner. You know how I hate to throw food away.  And the one night I actually do remember to spoon less onto my plate, I know I will look down and see him in your place, patiently waiting, quietly drooling for the other half.

 

Mar
22

The Things Not Said

When I was in high school, somehow you conned me into taking Business Law. I am certain you said something about it being practical, but it probably came out as,“If you had any sense, you’d take that business law class.” So I did. Just to prove I had some sense.   We girls sat towards the back, passing notes, talking about boys, thinking about college. This one girl, she blurts it out one day, “I get...
Mar
6

Good Dog

If I had known how sick you were, I would have stayed home. If I had known those hours were your last, I would have made you the chocolate cake I promised you for when that day came. Like most deaths, yours was sudden, unexpected, crushing coming on a day when everything had been normal, happy.   I believe that God gives us these happiest moments to ease us into the grief forthcoming because for some...

logo
© Elizabeth Marchman and A Quiet Chaos LLC., 2011 | Designed & Developed by Author Media