It is a beautiful fall day, the kind of day everyone loves — sunny with morning chill. Later, we will be pulling off layers and lightly sweating in the garden. Well, I will be sweating in the garden. Sidney will likely tinker on his car. Lincoln and the girls will play in the woods, with Lucy or the stray kitten the girls found last week. And Sid will drive to the funeral home with his mama to plan his dad’s funeral.
That stray kitten has completely undone the steel of my husband’s resolve. Sid strongly dislikes cats. Perhaps I should say that he is indifferent to other people’s cats, but he is opposed to our family owning a cat. We have tried it before, when a friend going through a divorce talked us into taking his cat. It seemed like the least we could do. We couldn’t repair our friend’s marriage or his pain, but we could relieve his concern about his cat.
We blinked and the cat’s gestation period passed in that blink. That one cat turned into 18 cats. It was traumatic. We don’t like to talk about it. Plus we realized that taking our friend’s cat was not the least we could do. We could have done less, like NOT take the darn cat.
Then this starving kitten hides in our old goat barn, trapped by our dog. It mewed and cried until our girls found it. So, now we are stuck with a cat, because two experienced parents with years of saying “No” did not want to quell the hope in a daughter’s heart.
Unless Lucy, our dog, eats the cat, which is a possibility. Perhaps a secret, hopeful possibility for my husband.
So today is a lovely day. I have work to do in the garden and lovely schoolwork to do with my children.
And I have all these words to describe the weather, our uninvited cat, and the ordinariness of today. But there is this big, gaping hole that I keep pretending is not there.
And the important words, the ones that matter most are clogging my heart, clawing their way up my throat until I feel like choking. The words bubble up and leak out my eyes and nose — messy, sticky words that cling no matter how much I wipe them away.
Words like father, faithfulness, stubborn, pain, good, love, family, church, grandfather, protector, kind. And even careless. Though that tear-word makes me laugh too.
Sometimes, a few of the words connect and form cohesive bonds
I miss him
what a father should be
He was so good to me, so good to me, so good to me
I meant to ask him . . .
He made me feel worthy
Sid just left with his Mama for the funeral home
so glad I had him
And mixed with my congested and disjointed thoughts are flashes of memory — when Louis put my small child on a pony and then walked off . . . without the pony!
When he caught a 12-inch long snapping turtle and brought it over because he thought it would make a great pet for 3 yo Sidney.
When he brought me a vase of flowers in the hospital after I gave birth to Sidney.
When he created chemical explosions for a younger Sidney and Lincoln at the kitchen table rather than outside.
When he turned over our bobcat 3 different times, within inches of the whole machine toppling into his pond and Sid had to figure out how to get it out.
When he taught the kids his version of Psalm 23 “ . . surely mercy and grace shall follow me all the days of my life . . . and never catch up with me!”
Perhaps most precious to me . . .after I had Prairie and was sick and not recovering well. He would drop by randomly, sit on the couch in our tiny, cramped trailer, while the 3 older kids crawled all over him. I would sit fold laundry or make bread, while he played with the kids or asked me a deep theological question. Most of the time, he fell asleep, sitting on the couch with kids on him. And it was a comfort to me. There was no pressure. He expected nothing of me. He simply loved me. He came and sat on my couch several times a week because he loved me and he was checking on me.
Like I was a daughter.