I’ve written and discarded more than a handful of pre-Father’s Day posts this year.* Early attempts gushed, dripping with enough emotion to make the Enterprise‘s empathic Counselor Deanna Troi seem unfeeling. Later drafts evoked so little sentiment they could have been dictated by the most stoic members of the Vulcan High Command.
You might be asking, why the Star Trek references on a grief website about Father’s Day?
I introduced my late husband to Gene Roddenberry’s world(s), and over the years he learned to love Star Trek and Star Trek The Next Generation as much as I did. (Well, almost, anyway.) The Next Generation debuted weeks before the birth of our first child, and he watched (at first) only to placate his very pregnant wife. It’s the series I most associate with him becoming a new father.
A few years (read: show seasons) later, I went into labor with our second child (during the first commercial break) while watching a new episode. I hid my increasing discomfort (read: pain and silent attempts at Lamaze breathing) until the end of that hour. I knew he and my mother (who’d come to help with the baby) would insist I hurry to the hospital the second they realized I was having contractions — but first, I had to see how The Next Generation episode ended! (Besides, the contractions started at twelve minutes apart. When they soon skipped to five, I couldn’t exactly call the doctor as instructed at seven minutes apart, could I?) Better to wait until the end of the show …
In these days of DVDs and streaming, its easy to binge-watch not just one installment but all the Star Trek spin-off series. Yet, in the nearly seven years since my husband died, I’ve probably seen fewer than seven episodes of the seven hundred-some spanning six series not to mention the movies. It took time to win my husband over to the sci fi shows, and it has taken time to win me back to that shared interest.
Grief takes time. Lots and lots of time. Moving forward with everyday life while mourning happens only one step — sometimes one inch — at a time. (So, please, be patient with your grieving friends.)
During the first couple of years after my husband died, sometimes I wanted to say, “Beam me up, please,” but I knew my children, my dad, and my dog needed me (not always in that order).
As it was, grief stresses kept me on 24-7 red alert: single parenting, mourning, shifted family resources, altered finances, revamped career moves, overturned short- and long-term plans, sleeping, eating, paying bills, doing home maintenance … Those around me may not have seen the red strobes flashing behind my eyelids, and they may not have heard the sirens blaring in my ears, but my body and brain could not turn them off. Relentless fight-or-flight feelings brought on by bereavement drained my reserves at warp speed.
The future — the unplanned-for future without my husband — seemed vast, cold, and dark as I explored the “strange, new world” of widowhood.
I feel more upbeat about this Father’s Day than I have in years. Maybe it’s just easier this seventh year. More likely, it’s because I’m about to enter a new frontier of my own as the cast and crew of my family expands to include our next generation — my first grandchild.
Do I still miss my husband and grieve over him? Yes. Will there be moments of sadness in Father’s Days to come when his grandchild grows up without ever meeting him? Doubly yes. Will I fall apart at church on Sunday when the children sing to their fathers? Yes, yes, and yes.
But I think (and hope) I’ll shed fewer tears this year. Even as I “boldly go where no” husband of mine has gone before … from widowhood into grandparenthood.
* For specific things to do for and say to someone grieving this Father’s Day, please see Another Father’s Day — DANG IT!
(A few years ago I also wrote Father’s Day Non-Scents for the Segullah.org blog.)