Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Our Life: Time Stops for No Man

Tonight is Turkey Eve. The night before the second major holiday in the holiday season. (The first one being Halloween.) And this year for me it is evidence that time stops for no man, that no matter how much we wish we could dig our heels in or bury our heads in the sand -- we alas cannot be ostriches.

This year our world was irrevocably altered on October 30th. My stepfather, Alan, died. It sounds kind of blunt, maybe harsh even, but it is the more true phrase. He didn't pass or journey on. It was sudden, unexpected, and there was not a single hint that he would disappear from our lives with such a finality on that day. He was so much more to my family than the word stepfather feels like it conveys, too. He was our Papoo. He was so many things to so many people. One second he was here with us, and the next gone. To relive the day is agony.

It's been a season of few words for me...   Those of you that know me well know that I am a woman of words. Jokes about how I never stop talking are frequent in our family, about how they would pay me to stop talking, about how my questions were endless as a child. And certainly words are what I would call the primary way that  I process the world.

So what does a woman like that do when there are no words? When there is  nothing to say?

My mom described the sensation like a cartoon with an empty thought bubble over your head. It is an appropriate illustration. There's this constant swirl of everything and nothing in the same instant. There's literally nothing that can prepare you to grieve. Anyone who has ever lost someone (expected or not, young or old, healthy or frail) can relate to this strange emotion.

My heart aches for my mom, for my children, my family, our friends, and I feel like I have nothing to say to make it any better. I wish so badly I could just undo the wheels of time and make it all go away. But I am reminded that Time, he stops for no man. We can't be ostriches... We can't live with our head in the sand, avoiding this reality, this sense of new normal. It's best instead to remember: remember the man that he was. Remember the man he always will be. 

Hardworker. Honest. Task oriented. Strong. Talented. Craftsman. Hero. Stubborn. Helper. Hungry. Tall. Casual. Laid back. Patient. Kind. 

Alan was so many things to so many people. He was anything he needed to be in the moment. There was nothing he couldn't do, and no one he wouldn't help. He could move walls, and he could see moving parts in 3D in a way that always amazed me. 

I remember coming home from school and sitting at the table with him. I would do my homework, and he would work on job plans. He tried to explain them to me sometimes, but I could never see the lines and squares on the graph paper as something real. He had incredible vision to see beyond what currently existed and see past it to what it could be. He made me a cedar chest when I was 14. He made me a corner shelf sometime after that. And he died before he could finish my bedroom furniture. I will forever cherish the two nightstands he did finish, and I will look fondly at them with a pang of sadness that will soften with time.

I remember what a hard worker he was. He worked harder than any man I know. He did the job of three and four men with an easy effort and blew it off like it was no big deal. He loved his job and the puzzle that it could be. He loved his last big job more than the others, but mostly I think that was the cows. The cows with the sweaters that he'd take pictures of and the waterbeds he would come home and laugh about. I can still hear him saying, "those cows have it better than me." I remember how shaken he was when there was a fire in the calf barn. I'd never seen him as emotional as that made him. He saved many baby cows, but the ones he didn't save haunted him for weeks.

I remember that he generally wasn't an overtly emotional man. He wouldn't tell you how beautiful you were or tell you how special you were. But I know that he loved us without a doubt and after he died so many friends with so many stories proved that he told everyone else just how strong he knew my mom to be and how precious my family was to him. He was the man who steadied me down the stairs at my wedding, and the one laced my dress for prom.

I remember how excited he was to be a Grandpa. When we picked Moose's name (his real name), Alan was so blown away. A man who would never have a son of his own would still have a boy to carry on his name. He smiled so much the day that baby was born, and he drove like a mad man in the middle of the night to try to beat Bo's speedy arrival.

This process has been a different struggle than I knew it would be. Some days I feel like the very core of who I am is missing a piece. Others life just sort of goes back to normal and the sadness is a little more quiet in the recesses of my mind. Mostly I just ache for my momma because despite my own grief, I know that hers is more tangible than mine. Hers is an all consuming feeling of ripping yourself in half, sort of, but not really. It's got to be unimaginable to have to realize you have to be a whole person in the world when half of you is gone.

I know that we aren't the first set of people to lose a husband, a father, a brother, a friend... and I know we will hardly be the last. The holidays will be hard for us as they have been for so many people missing a loved one before us. We will muddle and manage. We will do better than some others might and worse than others, knowing that there isn't actually a scale and knowing there no way to quantify or measure what success in grief even looks like.

We will still have a tree and lights. We will celebrate our saviors birth and eat pancakes in our pjs. And 2017 will be the beginning of a new year and a new life. It's not the one we wanted, but it's the hand that has been dealt to us.

This year my prayers for my family and for others like us struggling and coping with loss will be prayers for peace and comfort. Prayers for acceptance, and prayers for new joys. Prayers that our memories will always be rich and vibrant and not dull with the passage of time. That the ache of sadness in our souls will subside and be replaced by those happy thoughts that keep a small piece of him alive in our hearts and minds.

Many blessings to you and yours this year,
Lots of love


  1. Autumn, I found your blog years ago when I was pregnant with my first baby and you were doing your chalkboards for moose. He's only a few months older than my son. I found your pumping posts immensely helpful, and I got pregnant with my second baby not long after you with yours. I still check in time to time, even though you don't post as often as you used to, because I feel like I can relate to you in many ways although we are strangers. I can't imagine your heartbreak. This is a beautiful post, and while I'm sure it was hard to write, I feel God speaking through you. Prayers to you and your family during this joyful, yet also very tough season. Thank you for sharing part of your life with all of us.

    1. Heather, thank you so much for going through the journey of my life with me. I appreciate your prayers and thoughts. It was a tough year last year, and we are still working through what it means to move forward.