Love trumps Grief

Losing my father, Losing my mind

On this day 10 years ago, I drunkenly stumbled into a bar on the University of Pennsylvania’s campus with my childhood friend. I had graduated college in May, moved back home from New York City, was unemployed, living at my parent’s house, and had generally thought my “fun years” were over.
My childhood friend, Rachel, invited me out and we ended up in Smokey Joe’s Bar, where she met up with her boyfriend, John, and his friends. Enter, Nick.
I had traveled all over the world, lived in Italy 4 months, and ended up falling in love with a boy who grew up blocks from me.
After a few Southern Comfort lime shots, and a very spirited conversation on who gave Justin Timberlake the authority to “Bring Sexy Back (it was 2006), everything had changed for me.

Now, 10 years later, we have a house, a car, a cat, 2 dogs, and 5 years of marriage.

People ask me all the time if marriage is hard, and it always is a peculiar question to me. I’m not saying everyday is a fairy tale, some days your dog gets sick all over your comforter, other days you watch Netflix, drink wine, and life is good. There are ups and downs, good and bad, just like in life.

However, one thing that my parents always taught me is that love is enough (I know, you’re probably thinking, she’s finally mentioning her Dad).

When Nick and I started dating, eventually moved in with each other, and then got married, the coupling part (to steal Gwyneth’s word) wasn’t something I had to think about.
Love and marriage came naturally, mostly because I met the right person, but also because I grew up witnessing love at its finest.

I was lucky to not only have 2 parents still married, but 2 parents who genuinely liked each other and still did things together.
Like 2 pirates from a Jimmy Buffet song, they had many adventures together— they drove cross country 4 times, took a transatlantic cruise, sailed down the Panama Canal, and visited 47 states and over 20 countries together. Whether it was watching Dr.Who at home, taking a day trip to Maryland for crabs, or going to obscure minor league baseball games, they did everything together.

They always made marriage seem effortless.

I’m not saying they were Mike and Carol Brady, nothing and no oct is perfect. For a high school project on “What is love to you” (Nazareth Academy thought it was an awesome idea to have a Nun teach us a class about marriage. another column called scarred for life), my mom’s first answer was “Love is wanting to strangle someone one minute, but not doing it because you can’t picture yourself without them.” Needless to say, I didn’t think the Nun would like that, so she changed it to, “Love is never having to say you are sorry.” Right.

No matter what, they were always a team. What do teams do? Teams compromise, help each other, and split the work. Along with that, they share the triumphs and the disappointments.
They weren’t dragged down by society’s expected gender roles, my Dad cooked, my mom paid bills, and they both were baseball fanatics.
Most importantly, teams care for one another. Up until he got sick, my Dad still sent my mom flowers on her birthday, Valentine’s Day, and their anniversary. The florist knew him by name, she got teary when I went in and told her that he passed.

I am aware how lucky I am to have had this in my life. My Dad once told me that as a father he always tried to show me the world and help make it a better place for me.

At the time, this statement was lost to my bratty 18 year old self, but at the ripe age of 31, I realize how much he did for me. I hope to explore many of these lessons in future writings.
But without teetering on the edge of a Beatles song, the greatest lesson he taught me was love.

My parents marriage embodied real, true love. I strongly believe I wouldn’t have Nick without them (or without Soco lime shots. Or without John and Rachel).

His love of my mother and their 40 years of marriage not only shaped who I am as a person, but shaped who I picked to be on my lifelong team.

The world is a scary place and with all the horrible things we see on a daily basis, my wish is that everyone has that someone or something in their life to show them this love.

Whether it be their parents, 1 parent, a grandparent, sister, brother, child, friend, or even a dog-- find that love. Cherish it and learn from it.
This is even more important if that person isn’t with you anymore. Use their love to remember them and make the world a better place.

Since I lost my Dad, there have been times when I didn’t know how I was going to make it through a day. Grief can come creeping out of nowhere and drag you down when you least expect it. It can make it seem like the world is against you and it hurts to breathe.

My husband was always there for me, no matter how ridiculous I was being or how sad I felt. This is true teamwork. I always knew he was a good guy, but never quite grasped how great until my Dad died. With grief and despair hovering over you, it makes the good in your life come into a much clearer focus.

Marriage is not all flowers, sunshine, and Instagram pictures (though I do love my Insta). It’s teamwork.

I hope that if Nick and I ever have children we can pass on these same lessons, maybe without all the Jimmy Buffett songs that I was subjected to.

Okay, you can stop rolling your eyes now. This was the most gushy thing I’ve written since my 10th grade writing teacher told me I should write for a soap opera (god knows what my Leo loving self wrote, but regardless that would never have been told to a man).
I’m pretty sure if my Dad was here and reading this, he would shake his head, shrug his shoulders, and say “tacky” at all the mushy stuff.
After all, this was a man who wanted their wedding song to be the Beatles classic, “Why don’t we do it on the road?” Which first of all, eww, but also hysterical.

Love is also about never taking things too seriously.

Part 3 in what *hopefully* will be a multi-part series on “Losing my father, Losing my mind”