Welcome back. Shortly after Jeff died (and maybe even before), the kids and I decided that we would create a new family ritual: every Sunday we would go to breakfast and tell our stories and memories of Daddy; we would go to mass, and then go visit him at the cemetery. This past Sunday was our first opportunity to implement our ritual. Let's just say it looked better on paper than it did in action.
First, Finn had been up since 7:00 a.m. and needed to be fed almost immediately (as usual). His little tummy is hungry when he wakes up and he is very impatient! So, Finn feasted on Eggo Waffles and, since he had already had breakfast, was likely going to be an unwilling participant in the second breakfast I was plotting for him. I waited until Jack and Regan were awake and I barely pacified them until 9:00 a.m. when I decided it was time to wake up Aubrey (she had been out late at a friend's house the night before). So, we got a late start and didn't leave the house until 9:30 a.m. My vision of all of us joyfully springing out of bed simultaneously, dressed and ready to go at 7:00 a.m. was beginning to seem a little ill-conceived.
Then I got another bad idea: I let the kids negotiate with me to determine the breakfast restaurant. So, due to the regulations of democracy, we ended up holding Jeff's first memorial breakfast at McDonald's. (Note to self: No more governing by consensus). I have nothing against McDonald's, by the way. In fact, I love the Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Biscuit meal, but I had envisioned four very well-mannered and well-dressed children enjoying a manicured buffet and a view of Lake Michigan.
Instead, this is what I got: at McDonald's, Jack and Regan fought with each other, Aubrey couldn't choke down her breakfast burrito because it was laced with salsa, and Finn had a temper tantrum because he wanted Jack's pancakes (note that two whole hours had elapsed since he had been fed. He has the appetite of a Hobbit). Although, to clarify--Finn didn't really want the pancakes. He just wanted to practice eating them with a Big Boy Fork. So, when he wasn't making a total mess of himself, he was screaming in frustration at the uncooperative fork. He labored for approximately 20 minutes under the mistaken belief that throwing his head back, twisting backwards in the highchair, and covering his face in snot and tears was the secret combination that would unlock the mysteries of the fork.
Old ladies, (who were clearly regulars and who clearly make Sundays special at McDonald's) were looking at me with either exasperation or pity--I'm not sure which. I'm pretty sure it was exasperation, but I'm going to pretend it was pity. So, as soon as was reasonably possible, I announced breakfast was over--Regan finished her pancakes and sausage in the car on the way to the cemetery.
At the cemetery, the kids were only slightly disturbed by Jeff's grave. His grave is still very raw and fresh--just a pile of dirt littered with clods and sticks. They said, "it looks like he could reach up out of it." And I have to admit, they are right. So, I am going to transplant some grass/sod from our yard onto the grave. Jeff would love that and the kids will enjoy visiting more. So, after making their morbid observation, they (with the exception of Aubrey), chased each other around the cemetery. Then we loaded up and headed off to mass.
Mass brought it's own fun and excitement: First, I don't think I've enjoyed an entire mass start-to-finish since 1995, so I shouldn't be surprised, but Finn was as boisterous and obnoxious as he could be. So, after I settled the kids into our regular pew, I ushered Finn into the hallway. While we were out there, we met another parent with his one-year old daughter--she was also too energetic for church. We were chatting and loitering near a statue of Jesus when Finn looked at the statue and said, "Da da." He tried to climb up to it (it was on a ledge and the statue itself was 3 or 4 feet tall) and he started waving to it and blowing it kisses and calling it "Da da." It was truly adorable and completely heartbreaking. The man I was visiting with said, "well, he must sure like his father if Jesus reminds him of him." I said, "his father died last week and he just misses him and looks for him everywhere he goes." The man looked like he was going to throw up and said, "Oh, I'm sorry." Then, he scooped up his daughter and took her over to the opposite side of the vestibule and didn't talk to us anymore.
Now, I'm aware that I create a certain awkwardness for everyone I encounter--anyone who knows of my situation and meets me must grapple with whether or not to say something; whether to acknowledge "It" and, if so, what to say, etc. but I had never had anyone literally run away scared. The good news is that Finn was undeterred. He continues to search for Jeff and was delighted tonight to find him in a picture in our home office. He picked up the picture and pointed to Jeff's face and said "Da da." I clapped for him and told him how smart he was to find Daddy in the picture. He carried the picture around for a while before trying to take it out of the frame--proclaiming "Da da" intermittently and applauding himself. Again, it was both adorable and unbearably sad.
But, I am comforted to know that God is "father of the fatherless" (Psalm 68:5) and will be my co-parent going forward. On a side note, I am less comforted to hear that God is "judge of the widows" (Psalm 68:5), because if you read the "Rules for Widows" (1 Timothy 5:3-16) in the First Letter to Timothy, it sounds like young widows are not held in particularly high esteem. So, I shall endeavor every day to deserve Jeff's station in Heaven.
Well, it's late and I'm tired, so I must sign off for now. Thanks for reading! Until next time, take care.