No Regrets

My father died in January.

Writing those words has been so hard. He was here one minute reconnecting with me over dinner on New Year’s Day, vibrant and bristly as always, nine days later he was in the hospital. As I watched him in the hospital bed, I saw a helpless old man instead of my dad.  I saw the man who taught me about the wilderness, broken. I saw the man who taught me to love horses, gone.

A few days later I held his hand as he fought against the illness that would take his life within the week. He squinted at me with his grass green eyes that always frightened my potential dates when I was a teenager. I told him I would take care of everything and he just needed to work on getting better. He squeezed my hand tight. Within days he was gone.

There was so much work to be done, so my husband and I worked. I had been angry with my parents before my father died but there wasn’t time for that now. I wasn’t ready to let go of my father’s dream of a ranch where horses lived like horses should. I was strong and there was no one else to do it. I had told myself that I could take anything.

Then all at once the strain of his dream and my mother’s needs broke me. I couldn’t take care of everything. I couldn’t keep his dream going. I couldn’t be responsible for what every friend and family member was feeling to the point that I was too exhausted to deal with what I was feeling.  So I left his world to grieve with my husband and children at home. I left with sadness for what could have been and what would never be. I left the expectations behind.

Now I remember my dad in music. I remember him with every photograph I take and every word I write because he taught me how to appreciate beauty. I think of how much he loved his work. He taught me about integrity. He taught me how to be independent.

He taught me how to hike. He showed me that a trail was like a person, not made up of attributes; colors, shapes, directions. A trail was complex, having hidden corners where the best secrets are kept.  He showed me things like mushrooms, moss, the world inside a fallen log, or how the trees frame the valley below a lookout. After that I was never the same. The world never looked the same.

He taught me to write using all of my senses because that is what makes a moment real.

He wasn’t afraid of taking risks, they are what made life worth living. This helped me feel comfortable taking risks as an adult including hiking alone, fighting for my dreams, getting divorced after 13 years of marriage, having two children, and falling in love.

I take a risk writing my true thoughts and feelings here. But I need to heal. I need to think of my happy memories. The bad ones are just part of having complicated relationships with complicated people. I will always remember my father on the back of a horse riding fast and smooth, loving every moment of his life. I will try to do the same in my own life because we will all face death one day. When I am in that hospital bed, with my son or daughter holding my hand, they will know that I have no regrets either. Or at least as few as possible.

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2 thoughts on “No Regrets

  1. Linda Strickland

    I am so sorry for your loss znara. And I know how you feel. Seeing someone that was so strong, suddenly so weak. It’s a shock. My Dad was like that. Full of life, vigor, took long walks every day, swam laps. And then suddenly he had a heart attack and a stroke, and he was gone in 2 weeks. It’s so very hard. And your grief will come and go in stages. But it sounds like you are appreciating the gifts he gave you. And your life changed for the better for having known him. It’s wonderful that he passed on his passions to you, of the outdoors and of writing. My Dad gave those same things to me too. It’s true relationships are complicated. But it sounds like there was so much good too. God be with you in the difficult times ahead, as you navigate your grief. And write as much as you can, and let out your feelings. It will help you heal.

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