My husband Mark is the guest blogger for today. So, instead of Always Mom of 4, you’ll be hearing from Always Dad of 4. I’m grateful that he agreed to give the perspective of a grieving father which is not frequently heard.
Jackie asked me to host blog today, looking to inject a different perspective into the journal of our journey since the loss of Jordan. I am honored and a bit intimidated in opening up in a forum like this, but I told her I’d give it a shot.
Last night, as I reached up to rub part of my back that is aching but in one of those hard to reach areas, I wrenched my face in obvious discomfort. Not knowing that I was being watched, I heard a careful whisper from the corner of the room, “Oh no, Dad, is there something wrong with you too?” The, “too,” part of her question came because Merrick was already sick and her mom had been resting a lot lately dealing with a flare from lupus.
“No baby. My back is just sore because of the way I was sitting over there on the couch. Don’t worry, I’m fine.” Always the worrier, she just wanted reassurance that things wouldn’t take an unexpected turn for the worse. After all, Jordan always called me “the healthy one.” In the cold of late February and early March we got hit with a series of sniffling noses and achy bodies. Recently, Merrick had been home for two days, as it turns out sick with strep throat. Jackie’s lupus has shown up this time as inflammation of her right Achilles tendon. Hard for her to get around when that happens. The girls just recovered from colds and a few days off from school. I’m fighting off a cold as well, but as all parents do, I reassure the children that I’m ok and here to make sure that things will get back on track. But sometimes I wonder, will they ever? I can’t give that assurance to our children anymore that “nothing bad will happen.”
I’ve tried to explain to my friends and family that the death of Jordan seems analogous to losing a leg and then being forced to learn in a short amount of time to walk again with a prosthetic. It makes it look to the outside world like I’m a perfectly intact human being, but that is far from the truth. I can stand up straight, but that limb, my Jordan, is still gone. While I can function, go to work everyday and have an outward appearance of being “ok,” the pain and sadness is right under the surface. It sits quietly with my soul similar to the way Jordan as a young child would keep his hand on my arm when we were sitting close as if to always keep me near. He was my oldest and that hand on my arm was a physical reminder of my stature as a father and caregiver. I would look down at his hand reassuring him, I’m here, you have me.”
I still feel that hand on my arm. Now the hand is a reminder that just as I’m a father and caregiver, I’m also a grieving dad. I’m learning how to move through life with this new moniker. The first two were expected and eagerly anticipated, the latter an intrusion and shock. But I continue to push forward. So to my babies, who know me well and walk with me on this journey, I do at times say, “I’m ok,” and assure them that if I can help, I’ll be here for them and I will do everything I can to make sure that they don’t have to face the unwelcomed shocks alone. If they come, we’ll keep pushing forward.
Since Jordan died, we all move with a vigilance, trying to ward off unexpected bad news. I say that knowing that keeping the realities of life at bay is impossible, but right now it feels like reassuring my children about the little things, like my achy back is a concrete way to make them feel secure. As a parent, sometimes I feel like I’m desperately trying to keep things on an even keel so as not to give rise to the tsunami of emotions that come along with knowing that our lives can be changed in an instant. Nothing is guaranteed.
A few weeks ago I was watching one of my favorite movies, “Dances with Wolves.” The girls walked into the room curious about what I was watching and joined me. While trying to enjoy the movie I also took the opportunity to share with them the beautiful filmmaking and historical relevance of the story. During an intense chase scene, when the US Marshalls were descending on the Native American tribe, one of my daughters turned to run upstairs. I protested saying, “Hey don’t you want to see what happens?”
“No” was her immediate response but I paused the movie to urge her to stay and watch. I told her that the man and woman wouldn’t be separated forever, but the tribe had to move on and they were splitting apart for a little while. I made the mistake of saying, “It’s a movie, everything works out ok, but their lives are changed.”
She looked at me saying, “How can you say everything works out ok when my brother didn’t come home from school? That didn’t work out ok, he’s gone.” I turned off the movie, called her down to sit with me and just held her as she cried.
All I could say to her was, “You’re right. Things don’t always have a happy ending. But even when they don’t people still continue to move forward.” For all of my family, the fear of sudden loss is just under the surface. My babies learned at an early age that life, while full of promises, could also offer bitter disappointment and sorrow. As parents Jackie and I choose to continue to move forward telling our children that time will help diminish the pain of sorrow and that Jordan will always be a part of our lives.