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 | , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Hi Jane.. I am sure your father was proud and happy to have you in his life and delighted whenever he had the chance to hear you tell him of your accomplishments and stories. And with a loving wife and family, it looks like he had a long and wonderful life. Your father will always be with you in so many ways.

    Comment by Big Mike | April 27, 2014 | Reply

  2. I lost my Dad 8 years ago, nothing prepares us for the loss of a parent, nothing. I’ve grown closer to my Mom, she’s 92 she will be even harder to lose, I’ve poured all my parental love into her. There will be many times where you’ll curl up in a ball and ache with grief and sadness, it’s life and death coming together. My Dad is a part of who I’m…so I carry on for both of us.
    Lori W.

    Comment by Lori W. | April 27, 2014 | Reply

  3. I’m lucky enough to have my Dad show up in my dreams sometimes. It’s not even like the dream was about him, but he is there like “normal”. It always makes me feel good to wake up and realize I “saw” him again. I wish for you that kind of comfort as time passes on.

    Comment by Ginny | April 27, 2014 | Reply

  4. Oh Jane, my heart hurts so deeply for you. I too, like all others on this earth, have suffered a huge loss when my Mom died at age 64 nearly 2 years ago. The “new normal” is truly code for this sucks and life will never be the same. The emptiness never seems to go away, it is just reinforced around the edges. I pray for you and know that each day will bring memories, both happy and sad. May you find peace. I move forward day by day knowing that is what Mom wanted me to do. I just hope I never forget the way her skin smelled or the sound of her voice. You are not alone. Thank you for your blog. Shellie

    Comment by Shellie Berninzoni | April 27, 2014 | Reply

  5. Jane, he is still there with you. He is there in how he taught you to drive or trim a tree. He is there when you look out at the dock or when something needs fixing. He is there when the wind blows the trees just right, or the tools clink together in the garage. He is there when you look in the mirror or when something comes out of your mouth that only he would say. He is there, within you and your siblings, and he always will be. If you wrote down all the things that he has taught you through the years, or did to make you smile, I bet you would have pages. You are part of him. That is one of the gifts that he gave you.

    Comment by Tim Lankerd, Ann Arbor, Mi. | April 27, 2014 | Reply

  6. Such touching words and for a moment I personally felt your loss. I lost my grandmother in 1995 at 95 and there isn’t a day go by that I would give anything to talk to her again about all the amazing things she could do and the experiences she had.

    Comment by Keri Jarrett | April 27, 2014 | Reply

  7. Jane, losing a much loved parent is one of the harder things we can go through. It is stressful; it hurts.

    My mom passed away four years ago. I still walk into the houseand expect her to walk around the corner or be in the kitchen. Of course, I know in my head that she won’t be there, but in my heart she will always be there. She is there in how the house smells like her. She is there in the knick knacks that still sit on the shelves. She is there with the blankets that are stil folded on the couch.

    I think you will find your father in the little details as well, especially in ways you have already mentioned. Embrace them. Grief has no time limit. It dulls over time and you do adjust to the “new normal” but the heartache becomes a part of you. It becomes the “normal” and you learn to function through it.

    Wishing you peace, Stacey.

    Comment by soulsearchingme | April 27, 2014 | Reply

  8. As I hope to see my dad turn 87 this year, I too think my dad seems immortal. And I also think he “did good” with all five of his children. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    Comment by Penny Levit Ester | April 27, 2014 | Reply

  9. I’m so sorry that you have to deal with so many practical matters before you get to grieve unfettered.

    Comment by Jim Grey | April 27, 2014 | Reply

  10. A moving piece, thank you for sharing

    Comment by Miss B | April 28, 2014 | Reply

  11. Jane – like I’m sure you’ve heard many time thus far I am sorry for your loss. I can relate to losing a dad – I was a “daddy’s girl” and when he passed it was so hard to come to grips with, especially all the firsts after he passed like his birthday, father’s day, holidays they just weren’t the same without him. As the saying goes life goes on and it does that’s for sure and even though our dads are no longer with us take comfort in all the memories that will forever remain in your heart they will never leave you. You are strong and will continue on knowing that he is smiling down on you from the heaven above…Cathi

    Comment by Cathi | April 28, 2014 | Reply

  12. My Dad died almost six years ago and it still sometimes hits me like it happened yesterday. I heard this morning that you never get over it, and I think that’s true, you just learn to deal with it and live on. Blessings to you as you grieve and remember. It is with gratefulness I remember my Dad. I say it’s like life has been seperated, there is then and there is now. There are now joys but they aren’t quite the same as they would have been then. Life goes on, but never as richly as when he was here.

    Comment by rocky mountain simpsons | April 28, 2014 | Reply

  13. Wonderful piece, Jane. I hope you find peace and solace in your healing journey. Allow the grieving process to take it’s course, and for as long as it takes. What I found in losing my mother seven years ago, was that although you will never cease to miss your parents or a deceased loved one, the only thing that gets a little easier day by day, is coping. After seven years, I still find myself reaching for the phone from time to time, to give her a call and have to stop myself. Your father’s spirit is with you every day.

    Comment by Peggy Lee | April 28, 2014 | Reply

  14. I lost my mom suddenly 11 years ago and it seems like yesterday. I went through all the stages of grief. They will always be in your heart and on your mind. I wouldn’t have it any other way, as it helps me keep her close to me and helps her be a part of my life still. I even find myself talking to her sometimes. Hugs to you. So sorry for your loss.

    Comment by Heidi | April 28, 2014 | Reply

  15. Wonderfully put! I lost my Dad in Sept and the chord that stroke home in your blog was “seemed immortal” It’s so true for both parents I feel. When he passed we were happy he was out of his 4 year kidney cancer struggle but then reality hit when I went to pick up the phone, dialed his number and as it rang I realized he was not going to answer. We are from Michigan as well but live in Colorado and so from one Michigander to another our hearts and prayers go out to you and yours Jane!

    Comment by Hilary Griego | April 28, 2014 | Reply

  16. My mom called me 9 years ago as I was getting ready for work. She said, “Missy, your dad died.” I called into work and headed straight over to their house. He passed unexpectedly in his sleep. To this day I find myself wanting to call him to share. I may not be able to hug my dad but I talk to him all the time. May peace grow in you and be with you.

    Comment by anne aguirre | April 28, 2014 | Reply

  17. I still have my parents, but I lost my grandma two years ago. She was my second mother, to this day I haven’t been able to take her number out of my phone. Probably because I used to call her everyday, and I would see her every other day. I catch myself wanting to pick up the phone to say “Ma how do you make this or that recipe”, or tell her what weird things my kids did. Missing her is an ache that doesn’t go away, but I am thankful for the memories me and my kids have of her. I’m sorry for your loss. Peace and love to you Jane.

    Comment by Stacy Garcia | April 28, 2014 | Reply

  18. Jane… I just read your blog dedicated to your father and preserving his memory. It really hit close to home for me. I don’t think one can every really “get over” losing a parent. I for one do not believe that. I lost my dad just short of his 45th birthday 20 years ago and struggled with the fact that I always wanted him to know that I turned out for the most part ok. He met my son when Will was only 3 m old and of course never met my youngest child or my husband. My father’s death was literally over night and so fast… no one knew he was sick and he didn’t even know. I struggle some days more than others. But you never forget. You have a family and siblings that also are a vast wealth of support along with all your personal friends and I am sure a fan base that rivals most movie idols! You will find strength in things that you never did before. You are a strong and dynamic personality that you will over come but doesn’t mean that you will ever forget… may God lead you and help you find strength in healing and keep a watchful eye over your mother… thinking of you and your family… The Macey’s – Parker, CO

    Comment by Wendi Macey | April 28, 2014 | Reply

  19. Jane, I lost my dad in January of this year and very clearly understand your pain and loss. I’m not liking the new normal but I do keep moving forward, putting one foot in front of the other. Blowing his picture a kiss in the morning and saying hi help to get my day started and sheer willpower does the rest. Throw in some tears and some fun memories, when I’m emotionally able, help lead me towards survival. My dad will always remain with me, even when the raw ugliness of grief fades. He lives on in my memories and my heart.
    Many blessings and peace to you, Michele

    Comment by Michele | April 28, 2014 | Reply

  20. Jane, I lost my dad 11 years ago and it still feels like yesterday. While I have grieved I have never been able to let go of him completely. Somehow that would be too final. Instead, I find at as I grow older I see him in myself more every year. His memory and the lessons he taught me give me strength and provide solace. My heart goes out to you and your family. I hope you find your way and are soon at peace.

    Anne – Highlands Ranch, CO

    Comment by Anne Nadler | April 28, 2014 | Reply

  21. I have to say how impressed I am with the depth of caring in all of these comments. My dad passed suddenly 18 months ago. After the first few weeks I realized that I was missing him more and more every day. Then I went through a phase where I compared everything to whether Dad would have liked it or not; you know, I wish Dad could have seen this movie, or, Dad would have hated this restaurant, and so on. Over time the sharp sense of loss has dulled to a constant feeling that he’s still a part of my life. Although I continued to work and to put one foot in front of the other, it was a full year before I felt myself emerging from a detached state and was able to start taking control of some of my own affairs that I had let slide while taking care of Mom. Everyone’s experience will be different. Be kind to yourself through the transitions ahead.

    Comment by Becky | April 28, 2014 | Reply

  22. Great photo, your Dad with Chili

    Comment by Mike | April 29, 2014 | Reply

  23. Do you remember the earthquake in Japan where the Fukishima mess happened? I read somewhere where that earthquake was so powerful that it shook earth on it’s axis. I read that not too long after my mom died and I thought to myself, “wow, that’s a good way to put it.” On the outside, I look just the same. Of course on a day to day basis I am fine but on the inside, there is this inexplicable change about me. I am not the same person I was before that happened. The New Normal is a great way to think about it.

    Comment by Carolyn | April 29, 2014 | Reply

  24. My dad passed away on April 1st this year so when I heard that you lost your dad only a short time later it hit very close to home for me. My dad was only 74 and was working up until the day he was hospitalized. Two weeks later he passed. I am so sorry for your loss and can completely relate to everything you are experiencing right now. Even though it has been a month today that I lost my dad, I still am struggling with the finality of it. Thanks for sharing your story as I know there are so many people who can relate to it and feel some sense of normalcy for what they are going through, knowing they are not alone in this struggle.

    Comment by Amy | May 1, 2014 | Reply

  25. Jane, I’ve stumbled onto your blog…this post, and I’m feeling this! It’s way into March, but your words stuck. Just saying…I still feel the sharp pain of loosing my father 3 years ago. Things stuck in my soul…not getting lost in it really, but as I’ve sort of danced about in your posts, I recognize your process. Time DOES change things…I’m not going to say it’s better…I just don’t like that word in conjunction with this kind of loss…it just becomes different. If we choose we can become stronger, more aware of what is important, and it ain’t what we used to think was so important! 🙂 I wish he were still here in some ways…because I miss him being here…and I see the pain my mom feels…actually I think I can feel it at times, and that scares me. But, I do believe he is in heaven and feeling no pain, so I would not wish to pull him back here…and on we go. An interesting thing I’ve noticed is it has sort of created a fear in me of loosing my husband. At first it was terror, and I felt clingy…but now it’s just moments of realization that we have a finite amount of time left together (like you said), and it helps wash away those moments that are petty and helps bring me to a more full realization of his importance to me…thus our life is better. I thank my dear father for that…I thank him for going ahead and making the path safer for those of us he loved…thank you for saying things that gave me pause to stop and connect with you in this way! Have a glorious life in Michigan…I listened to you for years…still in Denver, but wanting to move on myself…life is an awesome adventure isn’t it?

    Comment by Saundra Galloway | March 24, 2015 | Reply

    • Saundra
      Thanks so much for the note. I’d like to say that I’ve made a lot of progress since I wrote this nearly a year ago, but as you pointed out, it’s a process. Several of my close friends lost parents after I did and I do feel as if maybe I was able to give some comfort or at least empathy. Another friend lost her husband and one of my dear friends died just a few weeks ago. What a run, eh?
      However, I will say this: I no longer fear death. I honestly have developed a faith that we don’t just disappear, but rather that we morph into a loving energy. The thing we fear most, may actually be a most wonderful transformation. And the beauty is that we all will find out; we all have to face it. That’s my lesson of the past year.
      Appreciate that you took the time to write. I do miss Denver on occasion and most certainly the mountains. I do not miss the rest of it:)

      Comment by janelondon | March 25, 2015 | Reply

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