We have a fourth birthday coming up in this house. Every time one of my kids turns four I think, this is how old I was when he died. I look at their sweet little faces and wonder how my mom told me. I wonder how afraid she must have been. I wonder whether my siblings were thankful for me or mad at me for just being another burden. Mostly though, when one of my kids turns four, I thank God that their dad is still around and I pray with everything I have that they get to keep him for a long, long time.
I used to think of how my father’s death affected all my siblings. I used to wonder what it was like to be 24 and watch your father suffer when you yourself were just trying to begin your own newly-healthy adult life full of promise and the joy of new love. How conflicted must she have been-caught between celebration and fear? I used to wonder what it was like to be the “The” boy and have to go away to school and leave your mom to care for your sick dad. Did it make him worry? Did college lose it’s luster or become even more important as a safe haven for a young man about to lose his dad? Did any of the friends at school even know what was happening or was it easier to pretend for awhile? I wonder what it was like for the thirteen year old who wasn’t treated like the baby because there was a four year old? Did she feel lost in the shuffle? How about the fifteen year old? It’s hard enough being 13 and 15 and navigating junior high without watching your father die in his bedroom every day after school. What about the 20 year old? You’re supposed to be silly and still a little immature at 20. You’re not supposed to have to take a four year old to your college class with you. But maybe that was a good distraction. I know my four year old was a good distraction when I lost someone.
Perspective. I have always been fascinated by my siblings’ perspectives surrounding my father’s death, perhaps because I never really had one of my own. It’s funny really, I was so young when it happened that I always figured it didn’t have a huge impact. I have always thought I didn’t really grow up without. My siblings, they lost something. I never felt the same about myself.
Until now. Until I watch my kids turn four every couple years. Until I watch four years of bonding with their dad. Until I imagine the horror of having to tell them their dad is gone. Until I can’t imagine how they could go on living if anything happened to their dad.
I never thought about what it was like to lose my dad until I married a man and he became one and I see how important a dad can be even when-especially when-you’re four.
** This post was inspired by the book The Kids are Alright, by Diana and Liz Welch with Dan and Amanda Welch. This book is a fascinating memoir of perspective written by four siblings who lost their dad and their mom. I received a copy of this book as a member of the From Left to Write Book Club. You can read other inspired posts here.
P.S. Looking for more parenting guidance and tips for self-care? Check out From Chaos to Calm a guided training to help you feel better in this tough season.