Present Tense

The “New Normal”…..

dadI’m struggling to accept my dad’s death. I know that’s normal, but it doesn’t make it any easier. Loss is part of our human condition and we all have to accept it in our own time.

He died suddenly about 2 and a half weeks ago and it’s been such a whirlwind of wrapping my mom in warmth and security and working to get her out of the house and into an assisted living facility that I haven’t had any time to really grieve or mourn my dad’s absence.

I don’t feel guilt for that; it’s absolutely what my dad would have wanted of us. He was completely committed to my mother and once said that when she died, he wanted to die the next day. The best laid plans, right?

He was taking care of business right up until the moment he died doing lawn work in the back yard and since he raised 4 competent, pragmatic children we knew that he would expect us to step up and take care of the business at hand. So, we did.

Now, I’m thinking about him; about how I can never again pick up the phone to commiserate about our miserable Detroit Lions. My husband can’t call him for apple growing advice or get his opinion on fixing our crooked screen door. During the chaos and bustle immediately after his death, his absence was noted, but now it’s settling over me and I’m feeling the finality of his death.

I started writing this blog several years ago as I began my journey to learn to overcome bad habits, non-productive worries and ultimately let go of my need to control everything. I’ve come a long way on that path and I think that my progress helped immensely in the past few weeks. But now, how do you let go of your dad?

I feel like if I do that, he’s really gone; like a puff of smoke, he will dissipate and no longer be real and that makes me feel awful. But, I also know that I have to allow the realness of his death to sink in. Yes, there are many happy and funny memories, but he’s not here and that feels like part of me has vanished as well.

My dad was over 93 years old and from all appearances, strong and healthy. It almost seems like when someone lives that long,you start to think that maybe they’ll never go. We all marveled as my parents lived into their 80s and late 80s and then into their 90s. I’ve waited so long for the call that one of them was ill or dead, that when it came, I couldn’t grasp that it actually happened. My dad, in particular seemed immortal.

So, now we learn to live with what people call the ‘new normal’, which is code for ‘this situation sucks, but you’ll have to accept and adapt’. And that’s the truth. All of us do it everyday and sometimes it’s a huge sea-change to your normal and sometimes it’s a minor zig zag.

My struggles are no different than anyone else’s. It’s life. It’s why we all have to learn to let go of our fantasies that life can ever be anything other than random and painful. As the Buddhists teach us, we all suffer together as part of the human race. We lose everything that is dear to us and we all die. It’s so obvious and true and yet, we fight it because we hope it can be different. It can’t.

I will hold my dad in my heart and my mind and love him that way. I will look at the faces of my siblings, nieces and nephews and see him in them. So many of us have his eyes and his silly sense of humor. We all love ice cream and pie.

He was able to see our little farm last fall and we have some of his tools and implements that will help us nurture and foster our land and our crops. He hated to see anything go to waste and we will honor him as we plant and harvest and care for my mom. We’re okay dad; you did good.

April 27, 2014 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

On losing a parent…


Now, I understand.

Losing a parent. I’ve seen plenty of people go through it, but you never really understand until it’s you. My dad died suddenly last week at 93, leaving behind my 93 year-old mother and four children, who are all trying to help and support our mother, while processing our own feelings of shock and loss.

Losing a parent leaves you feeling like a trap door just opened underneath you; like your tether to a fixed object has just been cut, leaving you floating helplessly in space.   It smacks you between the eyes with the vivid truth that you are a grown-up and now is the time to act like one, despite whatever family dynamic you’ve been used to.

I’m the youngest child or as my mom still says when she introduces me to people, “the baby”. When that’s your label for over 50 years, it sinks in. I know that my mom uses that label with affection, but it can mean that you’re never quite taken seriously as a functioning member of the family; I’ve always kind of hated that role. All of my siblings are at least a decade older and I’ve always felt little ‘apart’ from them, since they all grew up in a herd, while I was solo as a child. “The Baby”.

None of that really matters now, since death and loss bring people together in a way that no other event can. We will find a way forward and I like to think something positive will come from this; a deeper understanding of how our parents formed all of us and maybe a commitment to stay a little more connected as a family. We all have one common purpose now and that is my mother’s care and welfare. That makes for a very powerful bond.

So, as I grieve the loss of my sweet father, I will continue to write. It’s helpful for me as I sort through my feelings and think about his legacy. Judging from the many visitors and well-wishers over the past few days, he had a great impact on a lot of people that are complete strangers to me. That’s a good feeling during a very difficult time.


April 15, 2014 Posted by | Musings | 43 Comments

My Dad….

I got the call that my father passed away suddenly this afternoon.

This is the oldest Family Pic-1story on the planet. Death. Yet, it’s still so shocking. That’s really the only word that comes to mind. Shocking.

It’s the final destination for everyone and everything. It’s inevitable and common and….shocking.

My dad was 93 and in the true spirit of a stubborn, old, farmer he died in an accident. Not natural causes. One would think that at 93, some sort of organ failure would be the culprit. Not my dad.

He was so intent on getting his yard cleaned up after a long winter, that he apparently forgot all of the safety rules. Or maybe it was just a freak accident.  It gives me comfort to know that he was outside doing his favorite thing on a sunny day.

I know he would be kicking himself for leaving my mom. His tireless devotion to her made it possible for them to stay in their home all of this time. My mom is also 93, but no longer capable of caring for herself. She is frail and sort of foggy about time and events. He fussed over her and made sure that she took all of her pills and drank plenty of water. He had her on so many supplements that she was barely able to swallow them all. He wanted them both to live forever.

All of us assumed that my mom would be the first to pass, but feared that it would be my dad. This is the worst case scenario. Now, she has lost her caregiver and her life partner of over 70 years. My heart aches for her loss. I can’t imagine waking up next to someone for that many mornings and now suddenly, they are gone. She is the remaining half of a perfect pair.

So, tomorrow, I head home. To the house where I came of age and flew out the door at 19. This is the reason we moved back to Michigan. To be geographically close as death closed in on my parents. This is why I am here and I hope that I can offer love, aid and comfort to my mother and my family.

I loved my dad and he loved all of us.  Fiercely.  In a few days, I’ll be in a better place to eulogize him.  This is my stream of consciousness from an awful day.

Be well. Be grateful and never forget that life is finite.



April 9, 2014 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , | 56 Comments

Teetering or Tottering?

tetter totterOur lives are a series of tipping points. Some are subtle shifts in our awareness or behavior or circumstance; some are like a teeter totter falling when your partner jumps off and you crash to earth. But, they happen.

Sometimes these tipping points are forced on us by events that are out of our control, but sometimes they are the result of making a decision; usually a decision that we KNOW we have to make. In my experience, these are decisions that our intuition has already made, but our brains override.

I have been mentally balanced on the fulcrum of a tipping point for over a year now, weighing both sides of that teeter-totter. My heart and intuition on one side and my brain and logic on the other. The balance has shifted from one day to the next, but as I began to feel more than think, the balance shifted and I made the decision.  The tipping point arrived.

One of my goals for 2014 is to tune into my intuition; to stop analyzing and crunching numbers and feel my way forward. I had to finally ask myself, “Jane what do you WANT to do? Not what SHOULD you do.”  That is a freeing moment when you answer yourself honestly; it’s like the first breath when you emerge from underwater.

We have to unravel ourselves from other people’s needs and expectations.  We have to let go of the belief that we are so intertwined with our past and present that we can’t move forward. This happens professionally and personally, despite huge piles of evidence that when people quit a job, quit a relationship or in the worst case, lose someone to death, we all move on. We grieve these losses and we survive.

Nothing is permanent, is it? That’s why tipping points are so important. They remind us that change and evolution have always been and will always be, the drumbeat of our lives.  They remind us that we have choices; that we can either be an active participant in those choices or have them forced upon us by default.

So, listen to your little inner voice. It’s often drowned out by the louder ‘voice of reason’ (in my mind, that is the voice of my mom or dad…for you, it may be James Earl Jones. Whatever). That voice has served me well on many occasions, but when it becomes constrictive and stifling, sit quietly, sometimes for months and allow the quiet, but insistent voice of intuition to have a say.

Here’s a warning. The voice of reason is not just internal; it shows up in your friends and family when you tell them that you’ve made an important shift. “But, why would you do that? You’re in a great situation and jobs like this don’t come along everyday.” “It will be get better. Just work harder.” “Give it another year or two. You can do that, right?” “What if this doesn’t work out the way you think it will?” “You’re being kind of selfish, aren’t you?”

Tipping points are about choices and dreams and knowing what you have to do; they lead us to the next phase, a new outlook, an end, a beginning.  Don’t fear them.






April 6, 2014 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments


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