Dad, holding brand-new Audra. You can tell because flannel.
I don't know how to be a mother without my father.
Dad was one of the first to hold her that night in the hospital room. She is named for my paternal grandmother, and we had kept it a painstaking secret from almost everyone (except my mother, who I have never been able to keep secrets from).
I wanted it to be a surprise for Dad, and had tried to tell him a month or so earlier during a trip back to Illinois and yet it had never happened. So I needed him to be in the room just after Audra was born.
So in the hospital, when the nurses asked me what her name was, I turned my head to the open door to our hospital room and yelled, "Dad, would you come in, please?"
My father came back in from where much of the crowd of family members was lingering in the hall and stood nearby.
"Okay, I can tell you now," I said. "Her name is Audra Grace."
My father looked at my daughter and then at me, a little stricken at first. "Seriously?" He asked.
I said yes, yes seriously, this is my Audra Grace.
My father put his hand over his mouth and he briefly left the room to compose himself. Then he made phone calls.
He called my uncles and my aunt and my grandfather to let them know. I still hear, over a year later, what a wonderful choice of name it was. I tell them I knew, I knew before I knew she was a girl, I knew that if she was she would be Audra Grace.
I had a father standing behind me in my new identity as a mother right from the start. I don't know how to be a mother without him, without the calm and steady knowledge that he is there. Maybe he's 800 miles away, but there. Always there.
Now, he is so much further from me. It's a little hard to pick up a phone to call heaven, and essentially impossible to explain to my daughter why diesel is one of my favorite smells because it would be all over his clothes sometimes when he came home for dinner or how he could light up red with anger, it would flare, and then be gone. She'll never watch my dad and I argue good-naturedly about basically everything or see her grandfather's hands with dirt beneath his nails after a day out in the fields or see how well he cleaned up for church on Sunday morning. My grief isn't only at my own loss, but for a loss my daughter doesn't even know she has just endured.
She will not remember him like her older cousin does. She won't know what it means to ride the combine with Grandpa Randy or to have him say "Now settle down" if things get too rambunctious. She won't get to laugh with us about how Grandpa Randy just can't help but fall asleep in front of the TV in the evenings.
When I tell her about the patient man who withstood teenage rages and slammed doors and stomps up the stairs, she will have only photographs to picture those moments by. She will not listen to him remind me that I have only to wait a little bit before we're staring at those slammed doors, too.
I simply do not know how to be a mother without my father just a quick phone call or a long drive away.
I don't know how to parent without him on hand to grandparent.
Grief steals my best parenting from me right now; I catch myself staring off into space, barely aware of time, answering my daughter's babbles and burbles only belatedly. I fall asleep on the couch reading but can't sleep the minute I get into bed. It's all my willpower to move my legs when she wakes us up at 2 a.m. because she's awake and this isn't her crib and she needs someone to be there to tell her where she is.
I'm a muted version of myself as a mother right now. I have to tell myself that Jason can pick up the slack for the moment, while my brain fights hard to reconcile this new life with the one I was happily living right up until 10:17 in the morning on Saturday 19th, when I spoke to my brother and the white noise started in my head and it hasn't stopped since.
The last time my daughter saw my father was Sunday, August 9th, and I have to figure out how that could possibly be true. How it was exactly that I fell off a cliff and landed in a place where I do not have a father. How my daughter fell with me and no longer has one of her grandfathers, has lost one doting pair of arms to hold her, has lost one happy voice calling her name after a long separation. How it is she is so young that she doesn't even know the earth gave way beneath us and the place we live now may look the same, but it is utterly new.
I don't know how it is I can keep being a mother without a father standing behind me, how I can be a mother while mourning a loss that my mind is working so hard to reconcile.
I'm about half a mother and thirty percent a wife and whatever's left is a grieving daughter and I have to hope the bit that's still a mother is enough to see Audra through, for however long it takes for me to climb back up the cliff.
When I tell her stories about my dad, she will have only photographs to reference.
She will not get the option to turn and look at him and say, "Seriously, Grandpa?"
Things may look the same to her, but I will know that things are just a little bit faded.
Today's post is my ninth while participating in the #Wholemama linkup. This week's theme was "leap". The linkup is not yet active, but I will link to the official post on Erika Shirk's blog Overflow once it is.My other posts as part of the linkup or just inspired by the theme are Motherhood on Purpose, On Reading and Peace, I Lay You Down to Sleep, My Love, When It Rains... Celebrate, Parenting is Silly, Anything But Ordinary, Space, Prayer, and A Supermom is a Sleep-Deprived Mom.