I Miss Him: Holiday Grief


*** Note to readers: this started as a Facebook status update and I decided to post it here.
 Missing this Irish man today.
Dad's article
He died 11 years ago in the middle of the night, technically December 11 at 4 am holding my mother’s hand. But I always feel like this is the day he died since December 10, 2003 was the last time I saw him and had to say goodbye to the father I loved for 29 years. Death sucks, but it is a part of life. Trying not to get all existential, but perhaps I should take this status update to my blog or journal. But you see I miss him. I miss him, and as grief has numbed the loss – a hole that death leaves, gaping in concave fragments of the heart, a sense of longing has replaced this. This sense of missing him, knowing he is gone. I miss him.

I miss seeing the veins on his hands, crossed in a holding pattern on his lap, a cigarette always tucked puffing solo in his lips. I miss his morning silence and two cups of coffee minimum rule: “Don’t talk to me until I’ve had my coffee.”

I miss him.

I miss watching his gait, heavy to the left, limping, shifting the weight in stride to his other leg — the leg I now know had significant damage from frostbite from Korea. I miss his odd sense of humor and his incredible intelligence. I miss how he could talk to anyone. I miss his pride. I miss his pats on the back and how awkward he became when I insisted on hugging him.

I miss him.

I miss the way he could pack a car, no matter how large with flea market finds. I miss his Cuban wedding shirts. I miss his scarves which he always called mufflers and reminded me to bundle up on cold Wyoming winter nights before I left the house. I miss his anger, sometimes dark and black. I miss his garden and the flower pots he filled them with — stacked in neat rows around the brick wall around our house on Maxwell. I miss seeing him peaceful with dirt in his hands.

I miss him.

I miss the way he wrapped his shoelaces around his ankles, tying them pragmatically in double knots as an old man. I miss his grey hair comb over. I miss his kindness and Irish pride. I miss smelling Corn Beef and Cabbage every St. Patrick’s Day. I miss the strong scent of coffee in the kitchen of our home. I miss having a hell of a hard time trying to buy him the perfect Christmas gift.

I miss him.

I miss his voice and his ability to speak only when necessary in a conversation. I miss his knowledge and the statistics he could whip out on any baseball team in this century or the last. I miss that he could give the biggest compliment to me through a third person like when he told my best friend Heidi that she had to make sure I write because it is in my blood — “Make sure Megan writes; she is a writer — a journalist a poet. She is related to Percy Bysshe Shelley, you know? Make sure she writes — it is in her blood.” I miss his smile, sometimes rare and sometimes wild.

I miss him.

I miss watching him read thick books and biographies. I miss startling him if I walked up on him unexpectedly, giving me a sense he knew fear in the strongest sense of the word and I miss the sense of relief he had when he knew it was me. I miss his car — a long maroon Lincoln Continental plastered with proud Semper Fi bumper stickers.

I miss him: John Shelley Miller, my dad — the first man I ever loved.

My father and I on my wedding day (November 23, 2003)

My father and I on my wedding day (November 23, 2003)

My dad in Korea. He was a member of the Frozen Chosen who fought in Inchon in the Korean War,

My dad in Korea. He was a member of the Frozen Chosen who fought in Inchon in the Korean War, He is bured at Arlington Cemetery.

My dad and his friend from Korea.  This man called me shortly after my father died.

My dad and his friend from Korea. This man called me shortly after my father died.

My dad around Christmas time 2002 -- his last Christmas

My dad around Christmas time 2002 — his last Christmas

My father had a poet's eye.  I believe he took these photos on leave during the Korean War.

My father had a poet’s eye. I believe he took these photos on leave during the Korean War.

My dad stopping to smell the roses. This photo gives me such joy.

My dad stopping to smell the roses. This photo gives me such joy.

Fence

Fences: I send messages to my father through the birds. Cardinals deliver same day mail. My father loved cardinals and I can’t help but think he sends me messages back when they whistle by me. My yard in North Carolina is filled with cardinals. I see one weekly — at least.

My father and I on my wedding day, November 23, 2003

My father and I on my wedding day, November 23, 2003

Photos from my wedding

Photos from my wedding

Betty and John were special people.  Anyone that ever met them knew this.  They were storytellers and magicians.  They made people feel good.  Sure, like everyone they had their problems, but deep at their core, they were the pot of gold.  My magic - my love.

Betty and John were special people. Anyone that ever met them knew this. They were storytellers and magicians. They made people feel good. Sure, like everyone they had their problems, but deep at their core, they were the pot of gold. My magic – my love.

Ten Years


Today, ten years ago I married my soul mate on a wintry Wyoming November day. Sugary snow crystals covered Cheyenne from the evening before. A blizzard blanket covered the town — all was quiet.

My father joined in our intimate ceremony, lying in bed, but lucid and present. My mother’s gregarious laugh echoed in the art filled rooms. My best friend Heidi wore a navy blue velvet gown. Our smiles were our lipstick.

It was a beautiful day. I knew the man I was marrying would be a wonderful husband and father and most importantly — best friend.  He is my soul mate. I love him so.

Here is an essay I wrote around this time in 2003 about my wedding dress. It’s a short read. I feel it is one of my best essays I have ever written. https://memomuse.wordpress.com/2011/12/11/the-dress-and-the-snake-2/

Happy Thanksgiving, but Also Sad (and that’s OK)


Since this video is of Johnny Cash playing a Thanksgiving Prayer on the show Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman (which takes place in Wyoming), I thought it would be àpropos to post some photos of Wyoming.  I am very thankful for my ties to Wyoming, for this thick rope holds family, friends, memories, and a deep love for the landscape.  I met my husband in Wyoming and our anniversary is coming up this Friday.  We were married twice.  The first time we were married, my father had cancer and we had a small ceremony in my parents bedroom so my father could walk me down the aisle. The second time we were married was an outdoor wedding in July 2004. This is a post about the story of my wedding dress and how it was made, called The Dress and the Snake.

My father and I on my wedding day, November 23, 2003

My father was not able to get out of bed though.  Nonetheless, he was able to be present.  He was very lucid.  It was a beautiful day; there was a blizzard the night before and a thick blanket of snow covered the streets, sparkling like crystals.  My friend from California came out and said it looked like “a magical fairy land of sugary sparkles.”

That’s me and Mae — my friend from California (in front of Mabel — the stuffed lion) before the ceremony.

November is a difficult month for me since there are many emotions I feel.  I can’t help but think of my dad.  My mother now is in a nursing home and her health is not good.  She always made such an amazing Thanksgiving dinner, complete with relish trays, cheese trays, and an assortment of nuts — complete with a nutcracker.  My parents decked their house out with Christmas decorations.

I love the snow. This photo is from our 2010 trip to Wyoming and Colorado over Thanksgiving

It was always very special and wonderful to be surrounded by my family.  Now things have changed.  My mother is in a nursing home in Colorado. My father is in Heaven and my husband and me live on the East Coast.  What does remain the same is the memories and love.  I am very thankful for it all.

Photos from my wedding

Thanksgiving fell that year the Thursday after we got married.  We bought a meal cooked by the grocery store and all got food poisoning.  Not fun.

Have a great Thanksgiving.  May the force be with you if you need it.

I wish I was in Wyoming to see my people. This photo is from two years ago when I went home for Thanksgiving.

Your friend is your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving.
 Kahlil Gibran

My mom was very healthy, considering her brain tumors (which she had in 2003 and was diagnosed with brain tumors in 2000 and had brain surgery the same year), at my wedding.  I wish I could go back in time, but I can’t.  This is part of the cycle.  I have the memories and the love.  This I am thankful for.

My beautiful mom. I am thankful for this moment, which is chiseled in my heart.

I am thankful for my family. I have a son now.  This beautiful two and half year old.  This little bundle of energy who is speaking now in complete sentences, no longer toddler gibberish.  This is part of the cycle. I am thankful.  I know many of you may be struggling with your own problems and heartaches (aren’t we all).  My heart and prayers go out to all bleeding hearts on Thanksgiving.  I think the holidays are very hard.  I find joy in them, but I also feel very sad around this time of year.  And that reminds me of a quote my mom would always say, and she could never get it out without crying.

“The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.” – Kahlil Gibran

On Joy and Sorrow
 Kahlil Gibran

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say, “Joy is greater thar sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

Kamilah, Kahlil's mother
Kamilah, Kahlil’s mother. Painting by Kahlil Gibran

My dad stopping to smell the roses. This photo gives me such joy.

May your Thanksgiving be filled with love and laughter, but also honor the tears and heartache for the ones you will not see at the table this year.  Many people have lost loved ones and it is hard, especially if this is your first Thanksgiving without them.

This is my family and I am thankful.