Sometimes Sadness Feels Happy

By Jeffrey Pillow on May 3, 2019 — 3 mins read

“Sometimes sadness feels happy. Sometimes sadness keeps my head. Sometimes it helps me get by.” Bouncing Souls

I was putting my son to bed last night, when he paused from reading his book A House for Hermit Crab by Eric Carle, and asked me to count his money in his wallet. Having just had a birthday a couple of weeks ago, my son was proud of his bounty.

He reached over on his nightstand and brought up my dad’s old brown leather billfold my mom had given him not long ago on a trip home to visit. I remember my dad’s wallet well — the too full block that etched a hole in the bottom left corner of his back pocket, stuffed with cards and to-do notes he had written himself during his life.

“Look what I found,” my son said to me, unfolding a small green slip of paper. On it, it read:

“I miss my dad,” I said to my son.

“I do, too,” he said. “I wish I could have met him.”

“I wish you could have too. I think you two would have had a lot of fun together. He would have loved to have thrown the ball with you in the backyard and taken you fishing.”

I don’t talk a lot about my dad to my kids, but I do from time to time when the moment is right. I tell them stories of how he once jumped out of an airplane, owned an actual race car, a video arcade, how he could put you in tears laughing telling a story — not simply because of the subject matter, but how cracked up he would get telling it. How much he loved being outdoors.

“Shedding off the weight,” he told me proudly a few months before his diagnosis, touching his once formidable ice-cream belly.

“Nice,” I said. “How’d you manage that?”

“Just started walking every day and it’s coming off like never before.”

Only the reason why, he’d come to learn, wasn’t because of the walking.

I tell my kids my dad was far deeper than most people may have ever realized. There was poetry under the surface.

“He once covered the floor in rose petals,” my mom once said just before Valentine’s Day.

“Daddy did?” I asked in question.

We used to talk a lot, me and him, at night after my mom had fallen asleep on the couch. No subject was off limits. I miss those conversations. Sometimes I pretend he is still physically here with me and we talk into the night while everyone else is fast asleep in bed.

It’ll be ten years this coming May 21 since my dad left this world. I still miss him every day. I see him in me. I see him in my kids. I see him in my own handwriting and hear him in my own laughter. Whenever I see a canoe strapped onto a car headed for the wilderness, I think of our time on the Staunton River, getting caught in a bad electrical storm, paddling for our lives to the shore, and once on the bank into the woods, where we held the canoe over us to prevent being soaked even more by the cold, hard rain as the lightning bolted from the heavens above and the thunder deafened our ears on the earth below.

The pain isn’t there like it once was. I’ve worked through my emotions and grief over the years, confronted his death, and do my best to remember his life and the person that I knew him as — a person I’m not sure everyone knew or saw in the same way as I was fortunate to have experienced, as his son.

I know we all have our own unique perspective of those we’ve lost. And, I’m glad we each have our own stories and memories to share. These are mine. What are yours? Tell them. Your loved ones are never really dead.

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Related:
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Posted in: Personal Musings

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  • I can’t tell you what my mom’s voice sounded like but I can see her hands holding mine when I look down and hold my daughter’s. I love that I have her hands. I love that my daughter has my hands. It’s the little things.

  • My favorite Birthday when we were engaged was when your dad wrapped about 10 boxes;some with notes, some with gifts. It was a scavenger hunt in my bedroom at my parent’s home (the big house on Proctor Street). My room was shaped like a half octagon with 4 windows and green marble on the hearth in my bedroom so there were lots of interesting places to find my treasures! The 1st and obvious gift was written directions to find the 2nd box and the next 8 gifts! The scavenger hunt was a fun gift in itself! Wayne was more of a romantic than most people would have ever thought since he was so quiet!

  • Through all these years of following your blog, I feel like I know your dad through your writing. Peace to you. He sounded like a wonderful man.

  • Wow, Jeffrey, this is beautiful.

    I thought I was the only one to carry on conversations with a loved one who had died. I’m glad to hear I’m not. After my little brother, Noah, died, I would go for long walks through the woods and talk-and he talked back. Or my brain talked back for him, but what’s the difference really? Those conversations soothed my wounds and helped me start to heal. Did you have a similar experience when talking to your dad?

    That line you end with-“Your loved ones are never really dead”-was similar to what a therapist said to me in reference to my brother. She said that our relationships don’t end with a death, they just become something different. That helped me so much, and it still does. I have a little daughter now, and I feel like she has an uncle, because I still have my brother.

    But gosh, does this make for a confusing and awkward response when someone asks me if I have any siblings. Well, yes….and no. Definitely yes. But kind of no. Um, he’s just not alive, but he’s still my brother. I mean we still have a relationship and all. Haha…..even 6 years after his death I still don’t know how to properly respond to this. Oh well.

    Anyhow, thanks for your words. I just stumbled on your blog recently and I’m so glad I did <3

    • They are indeed conversations that soothe, and I am very sorry for the loss of your brother. Regardless of when it happened, it always seems like yesterday they were still with us.