For about the past twenty years, my family has taken an annual trip to an island off the west coast of Florida. It is a trip we all look forward to with great anticipation every year. We start daydreaming about it right after Christmas, and we count the days until May.
This year the build up has been different for me, of course. Right after Christmas is when my dad died. Taking this trip felt, I think for many of us, like something we had to “power through” because dad would’ve wanted us to go.
It’s hard for me to explain how dad seemed central to the whole experience – but I’ll try. He was so funny and quick-witted, smart, interesting to talk with, and also someone you could just sit with and feel comfortable not talking. He was warm, and people just enjoyed being in his company. At the same time, he was never loud or boastful. He never needed to be the funniest in the room or the one with the best stories (although he had some good ones, for sure). There’s something to be said about a person who is capable of being highly entertaining in humor and in intellect, but who doesn’t feel the need to prove that to everyone.
I hesitate to say he was “the glue” that kept us together, because I think we’re still stuck with one another (grin). I think it’s this – when you put a big group of people together – for us this is a group of maybe thirty-five people on this trip (my brothers, sisters in law, cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews…it’s big!) there are a lot of personalities. I am lucky to have so many amazing people in my family. Some of us are closer than others, but we all love each other. My dad, though, was so deeply loved by all, and he loved us all so deeply. In his quiet, unassuming way, to me he was the heart of the group.
That’s a big void.
Now that we’re all crying…
I had a dream the other night that the world was ending. This isn’t entirely new for me. Last fall I was having these natural disaster dreams, in which there was a flood or an earthquake and I had to save my girls. Those dreams made me panic. The dream about the end of the world, interestingly, did not make me panic at all. I was eerily calm. I was completely resigned to the fact that the end was coming (I think it was a meteor that was going to hit the planet, and apparently Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck were unable to stop it…). So, I knew we had only a few hours left on Earth. At first I thought I would invite everyone I knew over for a big party. We would flood the streets and spend the last hours festively. Then I thought better of it, and decided I only wanted to spend those last hours with the people who were most important to me – my family. The dream ended with that revelation.
Which got me thinking….
I don’t think the world is going to end anytime soon (although with the current POTUS, who knows, really). However, I’d be a fool not to realize how blessed I am to be gathering soon in Florida with the very people with whom I’d want to spend my last hours on Earth.
So, we will ease into the “new normal” once more. Dad will be with us in spirit (I am really growing to hate that expression, you know). He will be there for the beach walks, the sandcastle building, the golf games, the card games, and especially for the sunsets.
He wouldn’t miss those.
Photo credit – Ryan Harvey
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