It feels a little strange to experience such joy, when the subject matter is so sad.
You see, this month, an article I wrote and submitted was published. It was the first time I’ve seen my name in print since 2001. My first byline since 1999 (my college newspaper counts!). The first time my byline featured my married name.
It was a big deal. (Like, jumping up and down like my exuberant four-year-old girl at the mere prospect of ice cream: Big Deal.)
I was thrilled. After a couple-month delay (for totally understandable reasons) I almost forgot to look for it among the (free) parenting magazines I religiously grab in the doorways of the library/grocery store/bookstore/museum or wherever our adventures happen to take us. (I should note, however: in the few seconds it takes me to grab and stash these magazines in my Mom Bag to savor later, simultaneously my kids have ravaged the area collecting every nearby colorful handout or bookmark they can fit in their flailing, multiplying hands. Thank goodness for recycling!)
Back to being thrilled: I took pictures. I posted on Facebook. I tweeted. I texted. I emailed. I even made phone calls! I forgot to take the time to find the actual link to provide to everyone, I was so crazy excited to have the hard copy in hand. Of the three articles I recently submitted, this was the article I had hoped would be published first. And it was! It was personal. It was meaningful. It was prompted by the death of my Dad.
As I paused to consider this, I lost my smile. I remembered my triumphant return to writing was engineered by something horrible that happened to me and my family. Part of my eager attempt to transmit my thoughts from rambling brain to hard copy was in fact to actively grieve his loss.
The person who would have been unconditionally proud of the article, of my phrasing, of the analogy I retained from start to finish, was not even here. He is unable to read it; unable to offer his opinion, or an awkward hug, or even a phone call saying he saw it. If he was, he would have shared the link on his Facebook account, I’m certain.
I became conflicted. Should I be celebrating, when the entire premise of the article is about my most painful loss, to date? Shouldn’t I be crying, instead?
And then, came the comments. Your support. Your shares. Your hugs. Your heartfelt words: “Your Dad would be proud.” Those comments sound so much better vocalized by you, than spiraling around in my head.
Just like in the days following his death, your support was viable. Sustaining. So necessary.
I was bewildered and humbled by your responses. Thank you. Thank you, so very much.
It had been a couple months since I wrote the piece, which allowed me a bit of a disconnect to read the article as a Reader or Writer; as an Editor, rather than Daughter. I found all the sentences that had been cut and the phrasing that was tweaked (not too many, she proudly notes). I noticed a seemingly unimportant word choice by my editor that in fact changed the meaning of the sentence to something that wasn’t completely true. (It happens.) I remembered what it was like to work in a “newsroom” where getting the final product to press is the ultimate goal. While physically reading the magazine, I was strangely detached from the story, which is something I could not say when I wrote the piece.
I choose to consider that Growth. And for that, too, I am grateful.
A couple of sidebars: I interviewed many, many friends and acquaintances who have experienced the loss of one or both parents. Only two of them were quoted. My sincere thanks to everyone who openly shared their stories and struggles about raising children without your own parent/s. Your loved ones live on in the memories you share, not only with your children but also with your friends, and their children. May you always smile when you remember your loved one/s.
Also, the original story included a bit about a friend to whom I had confided that I was losing it, when I was pushing myself and my family too much while Dad was in the hospital that last month. This friend offered to buy groceries for us, knowing I hadn’t been in weeks. I declined her kind offer. The next day, we arrived home from the hospital to bags of groceries on our front porch. She thought of everything: a new book for our toddler, a new teether for the baby, toilet paper, even organic produce and dairy because she knew our preferences. I was completely blown away by her thoughtful act. I still am. I really wanted her generosity to be included in the article, but word count prohibited it. So here it is now, in black and white. Thank you. (If you can’t think of a way to help your friend as his or her parent is dying, a trip to the grocery in their stead will go a long, long way. Even if your friend originally says, “No, thank you.”)
Also, I did interview the author of the book, Parentless Parents, and when I notified her about the article, she thanked me, commended the article (“Great Piece!” She said “Great Piece!”) and said she would share the link on her own author website, as well as with the Parentless Parents Facebook group (also referenced in the article). I think that’s pretty cool, too. Especially considering how I sounded during my interview — the recording is proof of my nervousness, and her complete grace in its wake. Thank you, Ms. Gilbert. (It’s not there yet; meanwhile, there are many other valuable articles and interviews if you are so inclined.)
You have helped me through this process. Even if the writing is simple, the story was limited by word count, and the premise is basic, it is mine. But it is only mine, because of you. I am forever grateful: for believing in me, for helping me believe in myself, and for so much more.
PS — I was able to write this post without crying. That is a Big Deal too.