Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The hard stuff. The good stuff.

Once again, I have failed to update this blog for months.  *sigh*

But, I find myself sitting here, alone, watching cheesy chick flicks and listening to my lab snore.

Tomorrow is my dad's birthday.  Only, this year, he isn't with us to celebrate.  My dad died of cancer earlier this summer.  We started the year with him healthy (so we thought), and only found out two months prior to his passing that he had terminal cancer.  It was all a blur.

I remember rocking my son at night the few weeks after we found out.  It was so hard for me to rock him because all I could think about was how, for my dad, rocking us as kids (to him) felt like yesterday.  While rocking my munchkin, my thoughts would drift between the sadness of my dad aging, and dying, and how quickly the next thirty years will pass for me.

Then, I took the munchkin home to Texas so we could hang out with family.  We didn't know how bad it was.  Within weeks, dad was in the hospital dying.

About a week after the funeral, the munchkin and I returned to our home--Virginia.  And life went on.  There were errands, playdates, naps, grocery trips, and chores.  And as time went on, I noticed a change in my toddler.  He was more defiant.  More difficult.  Angry.  Insecure.

People kept telling me that perhaps he was somehow reacting to me grieving.  I was perplexed.  I mean, I know they say that kids sense things, but I wasn't crying in front of him, and I was absolutely trying my best.

But still...he was different.

So, I dug deep.  Smiles, grins, cheery dispositions, and lots of patience...and there wasn't much of a change from him at all.

Until it hit me--I hadn't been rocking him.

So, I did.

Rocking a baby gives you time to think.  Time to sing.  Time to pray.  Time to ponder.  Rocking him was hard.  Hard because I missed my dad.  Hard because it made me realize just how quickly life passes.  Hard because I knew that in the blink of an eye, I could be lying in the hospital.  But you know what?  I noticed a change in the toddler.  He seemed happier.  More secure.  I only rocked him for 5-10 minutes each night.  It was just "our time."

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized, blessings hide in hard stuff.
Whether it's marriage, raising kids, working, dealing with family, life--it's hard.

My dad wouldn't disagree.  When he told us stories about the times he remembered us as kids, the stories were either funny and carefree times, or they were full of "hard"...full of challenge.  Full of lessons.

Whether it was the time he made my brother burn every single pokemon card for telling a lie (which was really hard for my dad), or canceling my twelfth birthday party as a consequence, or sitting up with us through the  night when we were sick as babies, or, on faith alone, uprooting his family, moving 2000 miles, and starting his own business.  Hard.  Dealing with lay offs, siblings dying, bills, parenting decisions, coaching.  Life.  Hard.

But, the beauty is in the mess.  The mess of raising babies with the one you love.  The mess of figuring out how to be a grown up (sheesh!).  The mess of dealing with loss.  The loss of a pet.  The loss of a friend.  The loss of a dream. Hard.  The mess of learning to love and live with the same person--to accept them and see the sides of them that they don't want anyone to see.

And my blessing for choosing the "hard" and rocking my munchkin?  I got my kid back.

When people stop me in the grocery store, and say, "You'll miss these days" what they really mean is, "I remember how hard it was but the hard was SO worth it."

But, the truth is, my blessings outweigh my hard ten-fold.  Sure, I am dealing with grief.  But, I get to grieve a great man.  A man who was my daddy for thirty years.  A man who was always my number one fan on the field/court/stage.  A man who taught me how I should be treated.  A man who loved us unconditionally.  A man who sacrificed and put us first.  I'm sad because my dad was so great and I miss him so much.  I'm frustrated because I have a beautiful child who is healthy and rambunctious.  The frustration of raising this toddler is refining me and making me a better person--one tantrum at a time.  The feeling of loneliness is tempered by the fact that because I am far from family, my husband is my best friend.  My marriage is wonderful, beautiful, amazing, and it's the marriage of my dreams--because of the hard stuff.

So, I will embrace the hard stuff.  Because I know, that the hard stuff is making me better.  Stronger.  Braver.  And the hard stuff is actually blessing me along the way.

My dad would have been 60 tomorrow.  I know that he's looking down, and rooting for me.  At every turn--when I am at a loss as to how to handle a challenging toddler, or dealing with the sadness, I know that he's there.  Supporting me.  And, as hard as it is that he's not available for me to call, what a blessing that I know he's always there.

So, tomorrow--I will not ignore the hard.  I will listen to great music.  I will drive with the sunroof back.  I'll enjoy being out at dusk--dad's favorite time of day.  And I will  not let sadness reign.

Happiest of Birthdays Dad.  You're the best, and life without you is hard.  But, still good.  Full of blessings.