Riding the Bike with One Pedal.

Not shaken, mostly stirred.

April 6.
The day my father called & told me he had cancer.
June 10
The day he died.
January 22
His birthday.

I will have these dates, like beads on a rosary, tied around my heart for the rest of my life. I’m glad today’s anniversary didn’t create paralysis, albeit, a little fluff of down, some sadness, soaking up my residual sadness of last week, when we went through layoffs. I used my father’s death as an excuse at the time, when a co-worker walked in on me at my desk, dabbing my eyes. Mentally, I kind of gave dad a begrudging grin, like, “thanks, man”…. and I also felt guilty. Lying to cover up what was going on, doing it by using the most sacredly painful piece of my life. But I’ve no poker face and I had to say something.

So, tonight, when I walked into Panera to pick up a loaf of bread, I got the sesame semolina. It was his favorite. And I smiled to myself, wistfully. It is in those small moments I hear his voice, just the most ordinary of sentences or comments (“Oh, I love that bread.”). I love that bread, too, I love it more because you loved it, and can we pretend for just half a second that I’ll call and tell you, “Dad, we had the semolina, man that is such good stuff, I’m so glad you told me about it” and then I have to remember that there will never be another phone call, that I just have to be happy James and I love this bread, and I’ll mention it was his favorite, and life will move on. Because that’s what life does.

My melancholy. The sweetness of love mixes with the acrid memories of sadness. Despite grief’s sharp, astringent bite, I am glad to find there is more love in the glass each year.


  1. Tony

    Amazing post. Thank you for writing it and sharing it with us.

  2. meesha.v

    I thought about this post and your other posts on the subject. This may sound insensitive and you don’t have to answer. I have a 12 year old daughter. We have a relationship not unlike yours and your Father’s. I don’t want her to go through this for years after I die. I don’t want her to remember the dates, details, medications etc. Maybe once in a while she can tell a funny story about me to her kids. Kinda like I tell her about my Dad. I don’t want any grief and pain and tears. Maybe you have the answer. This worries me.

  3. Andrea (Off Her Cork)

    Wow but I get that. My dad’s birthday just passed not long ago and I try to do something in his honor on that day.

  4. Mary

    I think about Meesha’s response alot with my own grief over my father’s death. He would have been sooooo angry at me if he knew the amount of tears and sadness I have experienced. I can hear him now. He was a big guy, 6’4″…about 240…with a deep voice. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I have to take some joy in those alful days…just like you did with the bread.

  5. RDM


    Praying for you. My brother’s birthday is the same as your Dad’s. I hope your healing continues as you remember the good times you shared with your Dad.

  6. PlazaJen

    Meesha – I don’t know that you have that much power. You wanting to spare her a similar pain makes me …. smile? Makes me happy to know how much you love her? I know my father tried his damndest, when he knew he was dying & I had yet to accept it, to tell me over and over again that it would all be ok. Maybe your daughter will be stronger than I was; my experience is like a thumbprint – everyone’s grief is unique and different.
    The way I see it – your choices are to love your daughter and have that love returned, or to have a bad relationship she’d never mourn or miss. For her sake (and yours!), may she not experience that loss until later in life, later than I did. But I think her entire life – whether you are there are not – will be better for having you in it, and knowing in her deepest part of her heart that you love(d) her, totally. To me, that is the beauty that has come out of this very painful experience – to move from a place of sobbing every day to being able to laugh freely, and even when the moments come, the ones that make me cry, I can still smile because now I see more love than pain. I love knowing that when I play a joke on someone, or find something humorous to make other people laugh, that it all comes from my dad, he taught me how to do that, he taught me to be fast, and witty, and clever. He taught me so much, so many things I use every day. So the best parts we shared do stay alive, in a way.

    I appreciate everyone’s comments & kind thoughts & empathy. It’s not been an easy journey, yet having this blog as an outlet, a place to explain the ups and downs, and have it truly heard, reminds me that even when it feels lonely, I’m not alone.

  7. Carrie

    I’ve been mostly offline the last couple days, so I missed this post the day of.
    Jen, I can’t imagine what you go through. I’m very close to my dad, and although I hope it’s many, many years before I understand your grief on a personal level, I’m so grateful to you for sharing it, because it helps to kind of give me a preview, and buck up in preparation for the day.
    Luvs, Jen, and hugs, and anything else I have to offer that might bring you some bit of happiness or relief.

  8. Becky

    Just about every holiday stands out for me — there’s always someone missing, but I think it hits me the hardest when I need advice or reassurance and there’s no one to call that can give me the level-headed advice that I need (b/c now I fulfill that role for the rest of my family). I don’t think it will ever be easy; it just gets easier and the best way to get through it is to remember those little things that are “them.” Like your dad’s bread, I always think of my step-dad when I see chili dogs (his favorite).

  9. sue

    I truly envy the love that comes through in your posts about your dad. I wish I’d had the same loving relationship with my father. I had one where I loved him, but didn’t like him very much, most of the time. Still, I know what you mean about the dates. December 11 was when my dad fell and we got the call to come to the hospital… January 5 we made the decision to move him to hospice, and January 12 he passed. I think those dates will forever be burned into my brain.

    You honor your father with your memories and your writing. {{{hugs}}}

    Sorry I’ve been away so long. Hope to do better!

  10. jc

    Well . . . I was going to harass you about wining the latest PW giveaway – but that is all forgotten now. I love how you express your feelings for your Dad. I have all those dates carved in my brain too. I don’t need “closure” – I don’t want it. I want to remember everything. Always. Thank you for a new blog I can totally enjoy.

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