i’ll see you in my dreams

“I never knew grief felt so much like fear.”
–C.S. Lewis

Lewis was right on target: grief does feel like fear. The same breathless, sickening sensation of a sharp kick smack in the middle of the gut; the trembly, disoriented, foggy feeling in the brain; the same clenching, harsh pain around the heart.

All summer–strangely, ever since my headaches started easing up–I’ve been dreaming about my parents, especially my mom. The dreams always follow the same pattern. I’m reunited with either or both of my folks, only to have them die right in front of me. Almost every morning I wake up, crying, to face another day of fresh, raw grief, as though they died only yesterday. It’s as though I’m haunted. It’s made me depressed and weepy as of late; I’m extra sensitive, so every perceived slight hurts all the more, and my self-esteem is swimming around in the depths of the toilet.

Obviously, I haven’t processed my mom’s death. As I look back over the past year, I realize I’ve dealt with my grief, in many instances, by not dealing with it. By focusing on having a baby, partly to fill the void left by her absence. (Yeah, my head knows that won’t work, but I suspect my gut feels differently. I should point out that I’ve desperately wanted a baby for a long time; it’s just that losing my mom makes my grief over not conceiving even more intense.) By distracting myself with the TV and books. By telling myself that hey, I’m forty years old now, it’s time to grow up and stop yearning for my mommy. The constant migraines, I now think, were in part, my grief coming out sideways.

Oscar Romero once said, “As a Christian, I do not believe in death without Resurrection.” And I do, it’s the hope I cling to. But I can’t bear the thought that I will never again in this life feel my mom’s arms around me, or be able to rest my head on her shoulder. That she’s not there to soothe my hurt feelings when I feel rejected or like a failure at something. That there’s no one left to reminisce with about the things the three of us did as a family together. I want to get past the grief, to get on with my life, to focus on enjoying my wonderful memories of my mom and dad; I just don’t know how to, I guess.

d-day plus 63 years


Leonard H. Resch
U.S. Army
Third Assault Wave, Omaha Beach, Normandy, France
June 6, 1944

“They may be older now, and grayer now, and their ranks are growing thin, but when these men were young, these men saved the world”
–President Bill Clinton
June 6, 1994
Omaha Beach

Note: My dad served with an artillery unit rather than the infantry, which is why he lucked out and was in the third wave rather than, say, the first. The third wave took only around 50% casualties whereas the first wave sustained about 90% casualties.

happy birthday dad!!

My dad’s 87th birthday was Monday. Wow. I can’t even begin to imagine him at 87; to me, I guess, he’ll always be 73 at the most, which is not a bad thing: he never grew feeble in mind or body, and I never had to watch him suffer though a terminal illness. In fact, this week I’ve been remembering that I have so many things to be grateful for, that I am so blessed in the love and caring of my family and friends, and have been all my life.

On Monday, thinking about my dad, I realized that the flip side of the terrible agony of grief and loss is the comfort of memories; so often I feel my dad’s presence and know that he’s with me, and when I go over the times we shared together I feel immense gratitude that I was blessed with such a terrific dad (thanks, God!). The first few years after he died, the anniversary of his death (Jan. 12) was always such a painful day. In many ways, it felt as though the wound was reopened all over again, every year. But gradually, without my realizing it was happening, celebrating his birthday has come to seem the more natural thing to do, which, I guess, is how it should be: those we love are gifts from God, and should be celebrated and enjoyed as such!

June has always been my dad’s month, in my mind. I think it’s because both Father’s Day and his birthday come so close together. On gorgeous summer days like this, when the sky is blue, the air is warm, and the birds sing, and the scent of roses and mown grass is in the air, I remember my father, and I am happy.

There’s a lovely old WWII-era song that has come to remind me of my dad:

I’ll be seeing you
in all the old familiar places
that this heart of mine embraces
all day through.
In that small cafe
the park across the way
the children’s carousel
the chestnut trees
the wishing well.

I’ll be seeing you
in every lovely summer’s day
in everything that’s bright and gay
I’ll always think of you that way…

So many memories to take out and cherish, one by one: pink dresses…”walking on ice”…sitting on his lap drinking grape juice out of my bottle (my earliest memory of all)…getting my tricycle…long walks through the neighborhood, me pushing my pink plastic doll buggy, stopping at the corner store for orange dreamsicles..the Shrine Circus (an annual father-daughter trip)…fishing…trips with mom and dad and Bridget (our dog) up to Blue Lake Resort…the State Fair (also an annual father-daughter trip)…”our” flower garden…the smell of fresh varnish and paint (yes, strangely, I like them)…Gunsmoke (especially Festus!)… sawdust, the smell of freshly mown grass…my rolltop desk (gorgeous, solid oak, he made it for me when I was a teenager)…my dollhouse…putting up the Christmas tree together…going downtown to see the Christmas lights and decorations on the Nicollet Mall (yet another annual father-daughter tradition)…going to Midnight Mass and sitting between mom and dad…Sunday matinees…Laurel and Hardy on Sunday mornings (we went to mass on Saturday night, I still think it was so we could watch Laurel and Hardy on WCCO in the morning even though my parents would never admit it)…zucchini cornbread the summer of the Great Zucchini Takeover of the garden (shudder)…Memorial Day 1992…Baccalaureate mass and party at Boston College, 1991…and most of all, of course, the Minnesota Twins, so many games every year without fail, especially the 1987 season (Magic! as the Strib so aptly proclaimed)…our last conversation, when we laughed and joked for 15 minutes straight, (long-distance even!)….

Yeah, I’ve been blessed. Unbelievably, astonishingly blessed.

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