Long story short, my goal since August 19, 2010 has been to carry on my dad's memory. To keep him alive as much as possible, specifically for the benefit of my children. I never got to meet two of my four grandparents, and that has always been so sad to me. I never wanted this type of absence for my kids. So far I've done what I would consider a decent job of still involving my dad in our lives. Pointing out songs on the radio that he loved and food that was his favorite, and reciting things he would've said in the moment. However, a few months ago, after recounting another "Grandpa J" story through stifled tears to my three year old, he replied very matter-of-factly, "Mommy, I don't like Grandpa J".
My heart was broken. How could a three year old be so devastatingly mean? Fortunately, a deep conversation with him made me realize something key: When I talk about my dad, I'm usually on the verge of tears. What child wants to see their mom cry? And whoever's making them cry MUST be mean. That's how three-year-olds think.
There began my mission to carry on his memory in a light more fitting of who my dad actually was. Fun and clever. He certainly wasn't someone who made his kids cry all the time, so why am I portraying him as if he did? Instead, I need to make my son CRAVE knowing more about him. To make my kids wish, in the least upsetting way possible, that they had gotten to know my dad while he was alive. Because lord knows they would be obsessed with him if he were here.
The biggest example I can give of this has been my effort to put forth the love I used to give my dad, into my kids. Recently, something reminded me of my dad and I said something along the lines of, "I wish he was here to see that." And an idea was born. I quickly followed up with "You know what? If my dad were here, I would hug him sooooo tight and sooooo long. Wanna see how I would hug my daddy if I could?" I then proceeded to hug my son as if he was my father. Specifically, how I would hug him after this six-year, no-end-in-sight hiatus. Who wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of that? It was so beyond cathartic for me, a great way for my son to see how much I loved my dad (he loved that amount of love), and not one bit sad. It was refreshing. (I highly recommend!)
There are other examples, but essentially, each time I end a Grandpa J story with "he's so cool, right?" I'm trying to keep the tears out of it for a while. That's not to say I won't cry. Heck, I broke down several times on this sixth-year anniversary. And that's ok. I want my kids to know it's okay to miss someone so much it hurts, because that's how hard they should love. But for the most part, love is happy and powerfully rejuvenating. So that's how we talk about him now.
Last night, a few months after his Grandpa J apprehension began, my son asked, "Mommy, how do our cuddles get to heaven?" and my heart was repaired!