letting go


five years ago, today, i lost my father. i've written about him and about losing him several times before on this blog. every august 31st i write. but today, i'm writing about it in a slightly different light. what i have to say is about letting go... not letting go of my father or the memories of him, but of the things that i can not hold on to... things that would not help me to keep a part of him here the way i would like them to.

you might be wondering why i photographed sherbet for this post... i'll explain. you see, i never got to say goodbye to my father. he died in his sleep the day before he was to move a few hours south to live out his years of retirement in an old farm house with my mother on a beautiful piece of land outside of springfield, illinois. losing someone you love is sad and devastating regardless of whether you had a chance to say goodbye or not. but i took it really hard that i did not get to have "one last conversation" with my father. no one did, really... not knowingly, anyway. but my two sisters and my mom did get to see him that night before he went to sleep for the last time. they were able to spend one last evening with him.

because i did not have that, i found myself relying on my "lasts" with him as special things to hold close to my heart and mind... things that would help me keep his memory alive. one of those lasts is the last time he came over to my house. it was july 4th of 2006. my brother, matt, my mom and my dad all stopped by my house after i invited them over so that i could share some news with them.

knowing it would be a hot day and knowing how much my dad was a fan of sherbet {particularly pineapple and raspberry}, i went to the store and bought two little tubs of it along with some other frozen treats. when they got to the house and i asked what cool treat they would each like, sure enough, my dad requested a bowl of sherbet... both flavors! little did i know it would be the last time i would ever see my dad enjoy one of his favorite desserts.

though i saw my father several times after this visit in the couple remaining months of his life, this was the last memory i have {and will ever have} of him in my home. naturally, as it is a frozen food, the uneaten, leftover sherbet from that day was still in my freezer when he died. this is not something i realized until a while after his death, though.

a short time after he died, while still grieving his loss very much, i remember going to get something out of the freezer and noticing the sherbet shoved way to the back. i started to cry and showed mr. b. what it was that would make me cry just from opening the freezer to get dinner ready. pointing to the sherbet, i said, "i'm never throwing these out." if it had been cheesecake in the fridge rather than sherbet in the freezer, i might not have said that... lest i grow a mold factory in my home. but because it was frozen, i knew i could hang on to the sherbet as long as i wanted... indefinitely.

i'm sure you are wondering... did she actually hold on to it? the answer is, yes... i did. and i thought i always would. but then one day, i did what i never thought i would. i let go of it.

but only just recently... earlier this year, when i was still pregnant with isaac and was in my nesting phase {toward the end of the pregnancy}, i tore through my home to get it clean and pristine and ready for baby's arrival. during that phase, my mom helped me clean out my refrigerator and freezer from top to bottom... one of those really good, every-nook-and-cranny kind of cleanings.

as i threw out dated food to make room and to get organized, i looked at those containers of sherbet and thought, "how can i ever let these go?" but at the same time, i felt this urge to do just that... not as a statement of "i don't think about my dad anymore... i'm done grieving... these do not hold the same sentiment that they used to." i did still think about my dad, although not as much, especially not about losing him. and i did feel i had come to the end of my grief over losing him {not to say i didn't miss him just as much as when i was grieving}. but i felt this sense of a need to let go so that i could embrace the new... that baby that was in my belly and swiftly on its way. 

in literal terms, i needed to clear out the freezer and make room to accommodate my growing family's needs. but upon doing so i realized that symbolically, i needed that even more. back when i thought i might never have children, one of the most difficult things for me was the feeling that something seemed to be missing after the loss of a parent... something more than just the parent. in other words, it seemed that when those who came before me {and brought me into the picture} start to be taken away, there is a need to know there will be those that come after me {that i brought into the picture}. and i did not have that knowledge without children of my own... that void left by not having children seemed like a canyon once i lost my father.

when i found out i was going to have the baby that i never thought i would, i felt this sense of relief... that i could finally let go of the things i held onto that would keep my father near and dear and that would help to fill that void.

so the sherbet came out from its frozen tomb... four and a half years later. not to be eaten. just to be let go. but it wasn't so easy. although i got as far as removing it from the freezer, i could not bring myself to put it in the garbage. i set both containers on the counter, and then left them there for a couple weeks... maybe more. of course, the sherbet inside melted. but the tightly capped plastic tubs kept the counter from becoming a sticky puddle.

i guess i had to let go in baby steps. i eventually threw them out, and put it behind me... not the memory of that day when we all ate sherbet together... not the memory of him... just the little thing that i felt i had to keep, but really did not need to.

i know it sounds strange, but i actually felt a relief when i finally threw those out. they sort of cluttered my freezer, and as a result, i could not fit all my food in there on many occasions... so i would think to myself "how silly to sacrifice the needed space for something that will never bring him back." but i also think it was okay to keep them as long as i did. it was what i needed to do for that time. of course, there are things i continue to keep that i never will throw away... but they are things i would keep whether he had died or not.

anyway, i picked up a couple more tubs of sherbet a few days ago... knowing this day was approaching. i needed something to photograph for the post. but more than that, i wanted there to be some sherbet in my freezer today... ready to consume in celebration my dad and the memory of our last visit here in this home. and so, i did just that... i celebrated him with nice cool bowl of raspberry and pineapple goodness on this hot day. and i remembered him well, just as i always will every time i have some sherbet.

this time, i plan to consume both tubs entirely before throwing them out. and i will enjoy each and every spoonful for my dad. in such a short time {less time than what has passed since i sat and ate with my father}, i will be feeding spoonfulls of sherbet to my isaac... and when i do, i will tell him all about my father... the memories that could never be tossed or melt away... the ones i will always hold onto.


{speaking of remembering the "lasts", i also celebrated another last with my father today... the last place i saw him and embraced him. i believe it was a couple days before he died that i last saw my father. and oddly enough, it was just two small blocks away from where i now live, at a restaurant downtown. i decided to take isaac there today for a late lunch... well, lunch for me... he just sat in his stroller. we walked over to the restaurant, and i told the hostess that i would like to sit out on the patio, because that is where we all sat when we had dinner that night five years ago. when she took me out to the patio, she could have sat me at any number of tables that were open. but she took me directly and immediately right to the very spot on the patio where we all ate that night... the EXACT same spot. i don't think that is even slightly a coincidence.

anyway, i sat with isaac and remembered dad... wishing he were there to meet isaac. but i was not sad. it was a nice, peaceful, quiet lunch... just isaac and me with my memories of dad. i am grateful to be so close to this place so that i might visit and remember each year. i suspect i will go there for lunch every august 31st as long as i live here and am able.}


Hi Kooky said...

I think you are starting a GREAT tradition, a wonderful tradition to share with Isaac. What a lovely way to remember your dad. :)

beth said...

i couldn't agree more with kooky.....

this is a beautiful tribute filled with honesty....and what you've started with isaac will give you more memories then you ever imagined.....

Shay said...

Your blogpost about your father moved me to tears. I lost my Dad shortly after he turned 53 to brain cancer. He was diagnosed and given 6 months. They were correct in their findings. He passed one day before the 6 months was up. I, too, have that 'letting go' hardship. Thanks for making me feel you understand my greif.

georgia b. said...

thank you, shay. yes, i do understand. i'm sorry for your loss. i just went to your blog to wish you a happy birthday, but it looks like you have changed the format, and i can not find a place where i am able to comment. =(

i will also turn 40 on the last day of the month... but instead of august, it is september. happy happy birthday to you! i'm glad you were able to read this today and think about your father. i hope you hold dear memories of him as well... and that your grief and sorrow will soon turn to rejoicing in his life.

big hugs to you!

sperlygirl said...

i so understand...lost my father unexpectedly nearly 20 yrs ago. i was young and broken for a long time. the letting go was very hard but in time it did come. but even after all those years, i too, have some magical moments of reconnection, much like your trip to the restaurant. many blessings (what a lovely blog you have, came here via ELK). warmly...