While driving to Ohio this past weekend, I missed my dad.
It’s not that I don’t think about him a lot. It's just that life fills up so quickly that I can put the hollow part of my heart on a shelf and go about my day. It waits for me (that hollow spot), knowing I will inevitably reach up, dust it off, and carry it around with me when the time is right.
The time was right as I was driving to Ohio this past weekend, and I missed my dad. I was tired; Skillet seemed like a good idea. When you’re sleepy, “Waking Up, Waking Up!” is a great stadium chant to sing in a car. But metal mayhem gave way to a song I had not heard and did not expect:
“I went to bed - I was thinking about you
I wanna talk and laugh like we used to.
When I see you in my dreams at night
It's so real but it's in my mind,
And now I guess this is as good as it gets
Don't wake me, 'cause I don't wanna leave this dream
Don't wake me, 'cause I never seem to stay asleep enough
When it's you I'm dreaming of, I don't wanna wake up
These dreams of you keep on growing stronger
It ain't a lot but it's all I have.
Nothing to do but keep sleeping longer
Don't wanna stop 'cause I want You back."
"'Cause I want you back." I had dreams of my father for months after he died. I wish so desperately I could have them again (and yet I don’t – it’s exhausting to wake up sobbing). Grief is such a confusing mix of “I hate this” and “Please don't let me forget.”
But there I was, on a toll road in Ohio, aching because of the grief I was dusting off and pulling down to eye level, but not wanting to let go of the….sweetness? The poignancy? The simultaneous love and anguish of memory? Even now, I’m not sure how to adequately capture the sweet ache of a fading grief.
I hated – hated – the weeks, months, and even years that followed my dad’s death. At times, I still do. Distance brings stability, but it also brings distance. I don’t want to forget why my dad mattered. I long for a day when the bittersweet become only sweet. Until then, I will cry, love, grieve and write:
Hello, Grief, my Old Friend,
It’s good to have you back again
but not for long – I do not miss
the way you tried to
Your shadow swirled; my lonely road’s
now briefly dimmed by memories
but never dark – the sounds of
sadness only briefly
My song plays on, your Siren's
moan now blends with tires’
steady drone – the only toll that’s costly now
Goodbye, Grief, my harshest friend,
It’s good to have you leave again,
But not for good – I’ll always
crave the way you
take me home.