“My daddy gone.” That was my first sentence as a child.
My dad traveled a lot for work when I was a kid. I was always so sad when he would leave. I wanted my family to be together – guess that is true of most every child. As I grew older, I understood the pattern. Daddy left on Sunday afternoon (or early Monday morning) and would return on Friday. It was a routine, a pattern. I liked patterns, predictability. I like(d) a plan.
Plans, organization. I think I was born wanting a plan and structure. I have a couple of early memories that are engrained in my mind – core memories you might call them.
- Morning schedules: I would wake up early (say bye to my dad if it was a Monday). My mom would still be asleep, so I would then get my (nutritious) oatmeal pie and raspberry Kool-Aid (waiting on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator), turn the TV on and watch Sesame Street. I was probably three or younger at the time.
- Organizing my grandmother’s thread: Around the same age, I would walk next door to my grandmother’s house every month or so to reorganize her thread. I would take the thread out of the drawers, wipe down the drawers, and then systematically regroup the thread by color so that it would be easy for her to find. Now I realize she must have intentionally rearranged them so I could organize them.
I am a planner. I like to have a plan. I like to have back-up plans. And sometimes I like to have back-up back-up plans. When we travel as a family, I pre-pre-pack two months out, pre-pack one month out, and then actually start packing two weeks prior to the trip. It is what I do. It is what I love to do.
One of my favorite quotes is from Benjamin Franklin: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail” – so I plan, knowing that outcomes may not always be exactly as I expected.
2015 was not what I had planned.
Early in the year, I made a decision to change careers a bit – try something else. I loved my job, loved the routine of it. While I love predictability, I also love challenges. Everything seemed too stable at the time, too predictable. All signs were pointing toward a new challenge for me, a new adventure. In late May, I found a great new role at the same great company and planned for the transition.
Just before I started my new career adventure, our family was given its own challenge and had to say good-bye to our feisty dog Maggie. She had been with us since she was 8 weeks old and was just shy of her 11th birthday. She had seemed completely healthy up until April, but by late June she let us know in her own way that it was time.
Explaining death to a five- and three-year old is hard. Our kids get the concept of heaven. We talked a lot about heaven and how one day we would see Maggie again. I cried every time they asked about her – Was she in heaven? Was she still sick? What was she doing? – The thing about kids at this age is that as a parent you tend to answer the same questions over and over again. And though they did not mean anything by the repeated questions, every question hurt. It meant I had to admit she was gone and not coming back. Maggie was our first child and now she was gone.
That was the summer. By the time school started in August, I thought maybe we were back on track. Goose (our five-year old son) loved his new school. He was having a great time in kindergarten aside from the periodic complaints of not having as much play time as he did at his old school. Chicken (our three-year old daughter) loved her new teachers at pre-school… we were going to be okay. Time to get back on plan. School routines were in place and going well. Our kids function so much better on a routine – maybe because mom functions better.
Confident that everything was going so well, we took a quick weekend beach trip over Labor Day weekend. I was also intently focused on planning our fall break excursion to Chicago and thinking ahead to a spring trip to Ireland.
Then mid-September crept up on me and caught me without a plan.
My husband Low-Key was sent to my office to tell me in person. My dad was gone – passed away suddenly. The moment, the place, it is etched in my mind. It felt as though I was not there but watching as life unraveled.
Everyone handles traumatic news differently. My default reaction (beyond tears) was to start planning. What else could I do? I plan. Planning is what I do. Planning is how I cope.
We had to tell the kids that their Granddaddy was in heaven with Maggie. It had been less than three months since Maggie passed away. They had fewer questions this time. I had more questions. Questions that will never be answered.
Earlier in the year, as I settled into my mid-thirties, it occurred to me that I was within a year of the age my mom was when she lost her dad. It was a thought that had worn on me throughout the year. Each time I dismissed it. Now, I find that I have to remind myself daily that “my daddy gone.”
2015 was not what I had planned.
2016 will likely not be what I plan either. That’s the thing about plans – outcomes are never exactly what you expect.
How about you? What did 2015 bring that you did not expect? What plans do you have for the new year?
As I approach the new year, I am already planning. With all that has happened in the last year, I have decided to start a blog to help catalog my journey as a Left-Brain Mom seeking to maintain something that looks like order in the midst of a rather chaotic life.
While planning our family’s upcoming spring trip to Ireland, I ran across an Irish blessing:
May your troubles be less,
And your blessings be more
And nothing but happiness come through your door.
Happy New Year!