The other day I reached out to the vet to ask her opinion on one of my dogs, and after providing some insight, she suddenly responded, “I miss your dad.”
I was so happy she brought you up because it gave me a reason to discuss you too. I replied, “I know, I miss him too. He was always the life of the party.” Beyond that, it’s like the elephant in the room. You were such a big presence, and now you’re not here, and people seem hesitant to talk about you.
But I have some things I want to talk about with you, so here goes.
A lot has happened since we lost you, Dad. Actually, that’s a huge understatement, but I don’t know how else to say it. First, I got married. You met him a few times back in high school. He came to some of my birthday dinners and my highschool graduation. He’s in most of the pictures. He’s been around for almost all my milestones, just like you were before we lost you. He reminds me of you too. He’s so smart and reads a lot, just like you. He’s stubborn but caring and loving, just like you. We’ve been married for over eleven years.
I have twins, Dad. They’re brilliant, witty, and have a great sense of humor. We talk about you often, and they know all about their Grandpa Ray. I told them all the silly things you used to do. Remember when you used to watch me sleep? I knew you were doing it, and I would often lie there knowing you had opened the door, but I guess I just loved having your undivided attention in those moments. Now we totally watch the kids sleep too. So I get it, Dad. I even still catch mom staring at me. And as a parent, now I understand.
Something else that’s happening in the world is we are currently in a pandemic. It’s like something out of a movie. So even though I wish every day I could hug you again, we really wouldn’t be able to right now. Mom and I went months without hugging. Sometimes, you have to break the rules because you can’t let a worldwide pandemic stop you from hugging when you get news like we did this past July.
I had gone in for an embryo transfer, and to our shock – it worked! I’m now over seven months pregnant with our third baby. I can’t believe it. We are so happy and surprised. I know you are up there watching down on us and cheering us on like you would for your alma maters, Columbia and Northfield Mount Herman.
Dad, the holiday season has been a struggle for me ever since we lost you. When you got sick, I got sick. When you suffered, I tried to put on a brave face, and at times I surprised myself by actually being brave and strong. But deep down, I really suffered too. Did you know one night in Grand Central, after returning to the city after seeing you, I collapsed into your best friend’s arms? It was like a moment out of the movies. I don’t see your friends often, but it’s like you’re in the next room when I do. It felt so familiar and comforting no matter how much time has passed.
Coincidentally our twins were born on December 29th, and I think that totally had something to do with me needing a distraction during this time of year. Before they came along, I desperately needed a-pick-me-up and got the two BEST ones. Funny enough, they were born on the same day as my husband! Talk about being careful what you wish for!
Now, not many people understand Holiday Season stress as I do, but I smile and nod and get through it with my husband’s help (not including whatever I’m not keeping a surprise from him and the twins). He was there for me all those years without you, and he couldn’t do anything but hug me. He couldn’t bring you back, and I wouldn’t want you here in the condition you were in. You weren’t yourself when you left. You didn’t even look like you, but we all knew deep down you were still there. Like if we sang part of a song, you would sing another verse back to us.
It was invaluable to be able to spend those last days with you. Our family came together like no other divorced family I have ever seen. There was a day when I felt like we were twenty deep at the hospital, but who knows if that’s accurate. My perception at that time was very off. As you got sick, I began to get migraines. Maybe I was in some weird way trying to take your pain away…I don’t know.
I’ll never forget the last time I saw you. Aunt Ginny called me from the hospital, and I was pulled from a New Years’ party to see you one last time. AlI I could think was that you literally saved my life when you and mom adopted me, and now I was just supposed to say goodbye? Seriously?
I remember going in with Chris and running straight to the bathroom. I didn’t want to see you like that, no one should ever have to see their Dad like that, but I knew I had to see you off. No one would have wanted you living in that condition. You weren’t you. You were so weak, so gaunt. That glioblastoma really did a number on you. But we did have some amazing last words, and I will never forget them. We exchanged “I love yous,” which many people never get to do with loved ones before they die. What’s even crazier is in a few years, you will be gone for half of my life, but it all still feels like it happened yesterday.
After you died, I wanted to quit graduate school and take time off, but you-know-who wouldn’t let me. I graduated close to where you did, up near Columbia at Bank Street College. So many family members came. It was amazing. I’m glad mom forced me to finish it because you and I both know I would have never finished if she hadn’t. I’m so happy with what I do, and I often think about my early memories of when newborn babies were born into the family and how excited you and I were to play with them.
Dad, what I want you to know more than anything is you live on through the family you knew and the family you never met. Did you know we named our son after you? We call him everything under the sun now, but my favorite is calling him by his full name – Jameson Ray – so he knows there was someone important before him, and he has big shoes to fill.
The kids know you used to run around in masks scaring us and then tickling us. They know you were smart and had sisters – who, thankfully, are still very involved in our lives.
And just like you, I’m also big on photography. I’ve snapped thousands of photos of our growing family. It brings me such peace to do something I enjoy that you also enjoyed it too.
More recently, I started working in a supportive way with children who have been through trauma – it’s called Deep Play for Kids. I want to use my experiences to help others. Next up might be grief counseling. I want to go through this life, giving back and helping others.
I’m also writing for a site that supports and entertains women and mothers in Fairfield County. Can you believe that? I’m actually working and following my dreams of being a teacher and writer. I haven’t published a children’s book (yet), but that’s on the list. I owe you everything because you and mom gave me the confidence to try anything I wanted.
Most importantly, I miss you, Dad. Every single day. I wish you came over on Christmas morning like all the other grandparents. We lit a candle for you like we always do but suffice it to say there is a huge hole. But it’s better to acknowledge it than pretend it’s not there.
I often think about how lucky I am to have had you, how much it sucks to have lost you so early, and to anyone who has lost someone, I can only offer my support, “just remember how lucky you are to have had them in your life,” That’s the first feeling I feel when I think about you. You saved me. You entertained me. You helped me and supported me through all my struggles on and off the field. A million thank yous for that.
We all miss you down here. And we will keep your spirit alive for as long as we are.