It’s April and that means I’m missing my father. Fourteen years ago almost to the day, he died unexpectedly. I can remember it like it’s happening now. It was a fresh Saturday morning and I was about to pin on a bib for a road race when my mom called with the terrible news.
My dad was a couple days away from turning 61, my folks finally retired and enjoying the freedom for which they’d worked their asses off. I was typically 27, puzzle-piecing together some stretches of good decision-making punctuated by judgement disasters. My parents deserved to finally experience the world and each other in a lighthearted way, and I still needed someone to occasionally steady the wheel when I swerved too hard. None of us got what we wanted.
It’s April and I also miss all of you. We’re in a global pandemic, making us all effective shut-ins. Most of us haven’t spent time with people beyond the walls of our homes in any real way for well north of a month now. When we venture out for business deemed by our governments as essential, we move awkwardly among and detached from the humans around us. In a situation without precedent, it’s hard to know how to act and be.
Here at home, I have my husband. Of course, he’s great. But we humans are social creatures–even the introverts among us, me included–and I don’t think any of us are meant to be around the same one or two or three people only. We also have our family and friends electronically around, their voices and stories transmitted digitally across the boundaries of the crisis. We have our twice-weekly text check-ins, our exchanges of hilarious videos and photos, and our FaceTime happy hours. Though they are spirited and joyful, they still carry an air of emptiness. The essence of a person, I now understand, can’t always be conveyed in their electronic representation.
And so, it’s April and I miss a lot of things. However natural it may be to miss someone, it sometimes seems like a useless sentiment. What’s the point of mourning the absence of something you can’t have or that which is a long-time gone? There are far more useful emotions to carry around. We have remembering, or taking the time to conjure up the memory of a specific moment and reliving it again. And perhaps most productively, we have honoring, or incorporating a value or character trait of a person you don’t have into the world that you do.
We’re all made up of the people who surround us. While one of my eyes certainly crinkles almost shut when I smile big just like my dad’s did, I’m talking about more than genetics. In ourselves, we might carry a bit of another’s impatience, sense of humor, artistic bent, or cooking interest. If we acknowledge it, our very existence can be a way of honoring those who have and do compose our lives. Despite feeling lonely in this unusual time, I feel comfort in knowing that I can be a little bit of everyone I love, including those I’ve lost.
This idea is not a replacement of human interaction and isn’t meant to be. It’s okay to acknowledge the difficulty of social distancing from those we love. And it’s okay that no matter how hard I counsel, rationalize, or beg it away, the feeling of missing my dad still regularly stirs in me.
It’s April, family and friends, and I miss and honor you. I miss running with others, and the connection derived through moving in sync with another being. I miss watching loved ones laugh, like really laugh, all the way to their belly. I miss yoga class, and conversations over morning coffee and the sunset. I also honor those I care about by calling up my mother’s adaptability, my friend’s persistent optimism, and the ingenuity of an acquaintance as tools to navigate this time.
It’s April, Dad, and I miss and honor you, too. I miss waiting for the clever punchlines of your drawn-out stories. I miss your barbeque chicken in the summer. I miss waking up to go fishing with you before dawn. I’m honoring you by using some of your stubbornness to help get our small business through this economic crisis. Your curiosity about everything keeps me a perpetual learner. And your eagerness to explore the natural world is part of the reason why I will take to the trails today–and every day.
Call for Comments
- Who and what are you missing most right now?
- During this time, what social interactions have you sufficiently replaced in a digital way?