We made it through Christmas. I hosted family here Christmas eve, had an asthma exacerbation requiring a lot of steroids and breathing treatments, croup in one of my kids with stridor at 1:30 AM….my wife then got diagnosed with Influenza A…and the list of fun goes on!
Overall Christmas Eve was a lot of work but nice and Christmas morning was fun even though I was exhausted and couldn’t breathe. That night found me standing outside holding my son while he took deep gasping breaths in the cold air waiting for the coughing and breathing to ease. I wore a long sleeve t-shirt and my underwear. It was freezing.
I heard a loud seal cough and that gasping raspy inhale from down the hallway. I didn’t think about getting some sweatpants on. I just grabbed him and carried him down the stairs and outside.
My wife brought him a popsicle and eventually his breathing eased enough that we could go inside into the warmth. I remember thinking as he was clutching his arms and legs around me and resting his chin on my shoulder that this moment is one of those parenting moments.
It’s done in the dead of night. Freezing cold. I didn’t freak out because I treated a lot of kids over the years for croup. Always the same thing. Bring them out into the cold air and/or give them a popsicle. If they still have stridor, then bring them into the emergency department.
I knew the drill. I wasn’t scared. I was exhausted yes. Fighting my own asthmatic cough yes. Freezing yes.
That moment you get to be the rock. Adulting in a way that provides a safe space for your kid when they can’t breathe and they are scared and have no idea what’s going on or what to do for themselves.
As they get older we get fewer and fewer of these moments.
I remember thinking of my Dad in that moment. I thought Christmas would be really hard without him this year. It wasn’t easy. But I was not overcome with heavy grief the whole time. It was more intermittent pangs. It wasn’t until I held my son, all 43 lbs of him, in twenty degree weather waiting for his breathing to ease. Rubbing his back and telling him he would be fine.
That’s when I missed my Dad. Because I would never have a moment where he could be my rock ever again.
It’s not always the big holidays that bubble up the grief of losing a parent. It’s those small, unsung moments, where I’m the Mama and my son needs me. Knowing if I ever need my Dad, I won’t have him there.
So many of my friends have lost their parents this year. My facebook feed filled up with beautiful family photos in front of big Christmas trees, with captions like, “Merry Christmas, Miss you Ma,” or “Missing my Dad this Christmas, blessed to have my children to keep me busy.”
Somehow I’ve reached the age where many of us have young children, and many of us are losing parents. It’s not what I imagined the defining feature of age 34 would be, but here we are.
Losing my parent has made me grateful for these moments as a parent. I want them to be instilled in my kid’s memories. These moments that I was their safety net. I want them to have those so that when I am gone one day, hopefully many years from now, they will find themselves with their own kids and remember how I made them feel.
Safe, protected, and loved. If that is the legacy my Dad left me and I leave to them to pass on to their own kids; then I think we are doing alright. The grief becomes almost easier to bear because I know I’m passing him on to them in the best way I can.