My memories of Easter prior to last year are few. Aside from the time I threw a plastic egg and accidentally hit Grandmother in the head, which made her furious, I remember very little.
Then came last Easter. April 24, 2011.
As I was heading off to bed the night before I said, “Goodnight, Dad. See you in the morning,” just as I’d done almost every night for the previous five weeks.
It was the first and only time you didn’t acknowledge me in any way.
Hours later you were dead.
I was relieved.
You have a grandson now, Dad. The bump beneath the maternity dress I bought for your funeral and wore as I stood before the church and gave your eulogy turned out to be a little boy. He was born on September 17th, ten days before what would have been your 60th birthday and on the same day as his great-uncle, your brother.
His name is Elias Henry, but for the majority of my pregnancy I knew him by a different name. A name that included your first name as his middle name. But Aaron never liked the first name I’d chosen, so in the end we settled on a different name entirely. I didn’t think you’d care. You already have a namesake.
Elias is already so mellow, like you, that I sometimes wonder if the other words people used to describe you will also be directed at him one day: easygoing, always willing to help, a good man, the consummate Southern gentleman.
Do you remember when I was first pregnant with him and in a fit of exhaustion lost my patience with Maisie?
“Are you going to be able to handle two kids?” you asked.
“No!” I answered. “No, I’m not!”
Dad, the answer is still no. On more days than I can count I feel like I cannot handle them both. I wonder if the truth is that I was not meant to be the mother of two small children. I don’t have fun. I don’t laugh. I force myself to smile at Maisie because I know she deserves a mother who is joyful.
You were right, Dad. All those times you said, “it’s hard” or “it’s too much work.” Raising kids is too much work, and I don’t get to escape to a cubicle everyday as you did. I work around the clock, and, as much as I love your grandchildren, it’s kicking my ass.
I understand now why it seemed like you enjoyed having adult children but were never thrilled about us as young children. I absolutely get it, and it makes me hopeful that one day I’ll like spending time with my kids. Because right now, for the most part, I just don’t.
Remember when I made you walk the very hilly streets of Seattle with me? I was seven months pregnant, but you were the one complaining the whole way. And remember when I was two weeks postpartum, still needing ice in my pants after being on my feet for more than a few minutes, and we walked to the Milltown Dam site? You were the one complaining again.
Yeah, well, as it turns out I’m pretty tough. I’ve had no choice. And while I’m like you in the easygoing demeanor checkered with a temper that can snap in an instant, I’m not exactly like you. My toughness must have been inherited from someone else.
Maybe I should address this part of the letter to Mom.
Dad, I miss you, you dumbass who smoked yourself into the grave and probably still wouldn’t regret a single one of those Salem Ultra Lights.
I miss you this Easter, but I’m OK.
Because for 32 years you did right by me.