I am grateful for my dad. He is here this weekend for the umpteenth time helping us do repairs and improvements around the house (among the many, many other things he’s done for us at this house and our rental houses at home, he helped Ed paint Hudson’s nursery when I was pregnant and couldn’t paint). When Hudson was alive, he came up on numerous occasions to watch her so that we could attend some special event, most recently last January, when we spent our first (and ultimately, our only) night away from Hudson to go to a spa for my birthday.
But on top of all the practical help he gives us, he’s trying, as a 67-year-old guy, to change some things about himself. Men in my dad’s generation were not raised to discuss their feelings. My dad was no different. He and my mom spent 30 years largely talking past each other, in part because all my mom wanted to do was talk about her feelings (of which she had a lot, and many of them were dark, complicated, and very difficult to understand, even for herself) and my dad just didn’t really know how to deal with that (really, none of us did).
Recently, I noticed that my dad never seemed to talk about Hudson when he was around me. Sometimes it felt like he was purposely trying to avoid talking about her, even when I was crying in his presence, which I didn’t understand, because I knew that her death had deeply affected him—I knew that he was suffering a lot, too. So I decided to talk to him about it. He told me that he worried about how upset I already was all the time and he didn’t want to make it worse by talking about her to me (I imagine this was not the only reason, but I understood what he meant). I told him that it’s good for us to talk about her, that I don’t always cry when I talk about her or think about her, and that even if I do cry, that’s OK, too. I told him it it’s way worse when it felt like we just try to pretend like she never existed.
And so he changed. Now he talks about Hudson freely with me and with the rest of our family. He spends time in her room when he comes to visit. He tells me when he’s been feeling sad. We cry together sometimes. And what a difference it has made for me.
It’s not easy for a 67-year-old man to change his ways, particularly not his emotional ways. I’m grateful that mine is working on it. I’m grateful for him. (And I really hope he’s not embarrassed by this post.)
I love you, Dad.