When dad died I wondered how I would respond at his funeral because I wasn’t sure if I would be a ball of fury/sadness or so calm you wouldn’t know what I was thinking.
Didn’t know if I would be somewhere in between or if nothing close to any of it because it was impossible to know.
I had seen my parents at the funeral of their parents and had seen both my grandfather bury their wives but my folks were in their sixties and my grandfathers in their nineties.
Which is not to say there has to be a relationship between how they did it and how I would do it because in spite of relationships and similarities we are different people.
In some ways the very worst part of it all was over because when dad died it removed the anxiety and fear of what happens if he dies while I am 1,500 or more miles away.
So in the midst of the aftermath I thought about possibilities and wondered what I was allowed to do.
Thought about whether there would be consequences of just letting go. If I wailed, hollered and beat my chest the way you hear about ancient warriors doing would that scare my kids, niece and nephews.
Would it upset my mother and siblings?
I didn’t worry about everyone else because I was confident they would be fine.
Sometimes You Mourn Alone
There was a part of me that didn’t want to be there. A part of me that wanted to say sometimes you mourn alone but I obviously didn’t skip it.
Some responsibilities have been burned into me and so I decided I would just roll with it. Those who know me well know I have moments where I will let loose and rant.
Moments where I will yell and scream but they also know at the funeral I am unlikely to assume that position.
Dad was going to be there but he wasn’t going to be a in a position to comfort anyone and so I figured I could do that if needed.
Most of the time I am pretty solid in hard situations. Dance in the fire often enough and you figure out how to handle tougher situations.
Besides I made some promises to the old man about looking out for people and was tasked with some very specific instructions to follow if need be.
I told him I would. I looked him in the eye when he wasn’t drugged and we both knew exactly what was being asked and answered.
They told us at the hospice to never stop talking to dad and said he would and could hear us. I am confident he did, but when I told him it was ok to stop fighting and to let go he never opened his eyes.
I held his hand, told him to squeeze mine and promised he couldn’t hurt it but I never could figure out if he really did.
I wanted him to, but I accepted on blind faith that he heard me.
It was surreal because only a few days prior when I had taken that desperate flight to get to the hospital I had held his hand.
That time was different, because he was in more pain than I had ever seen him in.
That time he squeezed my hand with enough strength that it hurt, but I never complained.
It was one of the few things I could do to help.
Most of you won’t know that for years he and I would test our strength against each other with a handshake.
I lost over and over and over again as a kid.
It is not a surprise to anyone with sense because there is no way a kid should have a stronger grip than a grown man, especially when you are talking about Wilner man hands.
Our hands are never referred to as slim, dainty or graceful looking.
I suppose it is probably more accurate to say I tested my strength against his than the reverse. I was probably close to 20 or so before he stopped it.
By that time my hands were as big as his and I had more time/incentive to work out. He didn’t feel any need to prove anything to me, but he wasn’t about to just let me win either.
I expect there were a couple of times that both of us felt a significant discomfort but neither of us ever admitted to it.
He just told he was done with nonsense and told me to go grab some tools so we could work on the sink.
Who We Are & Who We Were
Dad had a much tougher childhood than my sisters and I did. He and mom provided us with a pretty idyllic life.
It wasn’t perfect and we didn’t get all we asked for or wanted, but we never went hungry or worried about life the way others did.
I never felt like dad resented having had in some ways a more challenging childhood than we did, but I know his sense of responsibility was far greater than mine for years.
Some of that was just the distinction between adults and kids and some of it was learned. At times it was challenging because if he felt things had to be done chances are they were going to be done first and complaining wasn’t going to be particularly useful or effective.
I used to watch my uncle and wonder sometimes how he could be so much more playful and relaxed than dad would seem to be.
I wondered if that came from not being a parent or married and what dad would have been like in those circumstances.
Maybe my kids think the same about me. Maybe they wonder what I was like before life and all of the responsibilities that come with it hit.
The same questions have occurred to me regarding my mom, but I always felt like it was easier to imagine her before dad, marriage and kids.
I guess the funny thing about it all is that now at the end of things I feel like it is easier to picture dad as I suspect he might have been.
Doesn’t really matter if I am right or wrong because I won’t ever know and that question/answer aren’t particularly important any more.
And the ones that are, well I can’t get answers to most of those either so now they all fit into a different sort of box.
Sometimes you mourn alone.