Washing away the river of tears, thanks for the message Dad!

The river’s been up for last week or so, that same muddy Marais that swallowed my big strong Dad. I knew that I would be writing on a somber anniversary today. Been wondering all week, what emotions would float up, 32 years, after he’d drowned.

Truthfully, it has been a jam-packed day, no alone time, or down time to ponder at all. I’ve awoke to my beautiful and pregnant bride on her first morning of summer. We talked and talked. Setting off for work, the pile of projects overflowed. Late to get back to the restaurant for a big evening rush, we served several large groups and performed well.

All day, my mind wanted to dive deep into the darknesses and be sad for myself on May 21st. It wanted to relish and lather up in the sadness of a young boy, who’d lost his Daddy… Too bad, I didn’t have time for that ๐Ÿ™‚

Nope, I just worked along, with action following action until the day is finally ending here at 1:40 am. My fingers are finally flexing enough to click these keys…

Flashes did spark as flew through this day. I’ve thought of my sister, just 2 years old, when our Dad was taken away. I’ve thought of how differently and separately we’ve coped with our common loss. I’ve thought of my Mother, such a beautiful young woman who’s world must’ve been ripped apart today… 32 years ago. I thought of my aunts and uncles and my grandparents too. I was delighted to serve dinner to my only living grandparents this very evening. Wow, how they’ve cradled our little lives ever since I can remember…

I think of my step-dad Joe and all the troubles we’ve tangled together. I know this man is full of so much real love. Yet I also know, our combination of personalities has been toxic at times to us both. I think of my sister Amanda. She’s grew up with these two other kids, brother and sister, us the Nichols’s and her the Tucker… still we all shared all of our families together, with so many good times and some bad.

I thought of my Dad’s friends. His best friend Jim. A man I love so deeply. A man who pains as I pain too, today. I will see him this weekend. I’ve been riding his case hard lately ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m sure my Dad would’ve been too, he may be the one providing the inspirational ideas for the constant stream of jokes lately ๐Ÿ™‚

I think about this loss and hold the facts of it in the palm of my hand. If I squeeze it and roll it around and around. I look at it from lots of angles now, not just one or two.

I see the rippled effects of this ‘accident’ and I study it up close. I look with a magnifying lens and see thousands of chips and flaws and cracks were left in the wake. As long as I stay zoomed in tight, I can notice each hairline fracture and tiny divot left from this almost lifelong void of growing up without my Dad. That is, as long as I stay zoomed in.

If I step back, and I give myself some room, it becomes harder to remember and to catalog the thousands of tiny emotional cuts I’ve felt over these 32 years. If I step back even a little further, I can relate my own issues and life experiences to things I see so clearly with the next generation.

I love to watch my nephews play and romp. I see the vigor of youth and rambunction incarnated in them. I watch them too switch from fits of laughter to wailing tears almost instantaneously at times. I notice the truth in their cries. They sincerely are upset. They express quick angers and sad pouts. They want what they want sometimes and cry if they don’t get it. As their uncle, I understand their immediate issues, but I don’t worry they will never recover. These are small potatoes in the big big picture. They will recover and move on. They will snap back, maybe in the next minute or two even.

And yes, tonight, I saw myself through similar eyes. Maybe even the eyes of our Almighty Creator. I saw myself being upset and crying. I saw pain and tears and selfish emotional fits. I saw my own wounds being rehashed over and over, ever since that day in 1983. I wonder if God watches me cry, and that same deeper understanding that even yet, all will be okay.

I think about being a child and losing a parent, and think about the kids in Ohio. My cousin Megan left behind two beautiful little ones. Just 6 and 4 when she died. I think about how I have barely talked to them in years. I am guilt-ridden. I wonder if someone out there was like I am now, as I grew up as a child. I wonder if someone was loving and well-meaning, but just didn’t know what to do or to say. I wonder if they too lived on, and hoped the kids were doing alright. I know I hope that every day.

I figured tonight, that over this lifetime of mine, I have carried an elaborate sack of despair and hurt and anger, embroidered with emotions concerning the death of my father. To me, the sack can seem like the world itself sometimes. It is all-encompassing even, to the point where I don’t know the difference between the world of sadness of death, and the opportunity for life.

Tonight though, a tiny voice spoke again. It mentioned somethingย to me, through the onslaught of activity while I worked at the restaurant. It served up an idea while I let the night wind down here at home… I recognize this wise whisper. I’ve heard it before.

Tonight it was friendly. Not a bubbly blabber-mouth buddy, but a smart and confidence-inspiring companion. The tone was so encouraging. It was matter-of-fact too. I wasn’t shaking a finger at me. It was helping me to recognize something. It showed me an obvious truth. It did not pass judgement, it didn’t illicit remorse in any way. This was the voice of God, but I still hardly noticed as the sentence crossed my internal radar screen…

“I think you’ve grieved enough”… it suggested…

I felt better, hearing those words in my own head. I believed them instantly. I wondered about the origins of my sadnesses and depressions over losing my Dad at a young age. I wondered about where I got the big idea that my life would be kinda ruined by this event? I could see this question curiously and lightly. Nothing could feel condemning or condescending in the flash of that almighty reassurance.

I could so quickly run through new scenarios for myself and for my outlook toward others. What if I really decided that I had grieved enough? What would that mean for me? How could I now operate and articulate and go about agitating up some ferver and vigor and excitement for life! I could have experiences, just like a ‘normal’ person! One who didn’t lose their Dad when they were 4 years old. I could do a lot of new things, if I didn’t have more grieving to accomplish from now till the end of my days!

I could maybe laugh and sing and dance and smile real real big. I could maybe walk lightly and upright in posture. I could bounce through my days, instead of dragging along heavy-footed and heavy-hearted. ย Funny thing is this. I know that lots of people have told me about the live-loving attitude my Dad seemed to always carry with him. Maybe if I wasn’t so stuck in grief, I might even resemble him more and more. Maybe he sent a gift my way today with this little mental message.

I’ve written here, a simple and powerful idea. I’ve told you it’s not mine, but I did receive it. I may not be strong enough to really live into it today. I may still curl up in a ball in and cry to myself sometimes. I may still visit the cemetery and talk to the rocks instead of a real person. I may never really fix myself up, all the way, and be that spark of life, like my Dad was…

But, I can move forward. I can live today. I can take this tiny little message and curiously discover what happens when I attempt to believe it. Maybe I have grieved enough. I’ve lost more that just my Dad. I have plenty of people to keep on grievin’ on, if I wish. I wonder though, if those same people are on the other side, wishing I would enjoy my today’s and the good memories of them together. Maybe they want to show me how too, I will take that help ๐Ÿ™‚

I will take this little tiny seed of an idea and plant it. I can water it and watch to see how it grows. I wonder what wild bushy tree of life can sprout from it ๐Ÿ™‚

I will leave you all tonight with this. If I have been grieving, then maybe I have grieved enough. Maybe I can move forward in love. I can remember in love. I can laugh again without guilt that I shouldn’t do so, because of the all the sadness that I ‘should’ carry around…

Thanks Dad. I Love You. I Do Miss You. I think I may be ready to laugh again and introduce your new grandbaby to fun and happy new world. I want to do that for You, and for the Little One, but especially for Me ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s time to be okay again ๐Ÿ™‚


Aaron Nichols


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