It finally occurred to me what may have been the cause of Dear Daughter showing up bright and early in the morning in the living room, in her house coat, subdued and quiet before she started getting ready for school.  Normally we don’t see her until about 20 minutes later, showered and ready to eat before going to school.

Mother’s Day is coming up next week.  My Mom’s birthday was yesterday.  But it seems ‘fathers’ are also occupying the minds in our household this week.

Over the weekend and the last couple of days while reading blogs, magazines, etc. I’ve felt bombarded with messages about people ‘s lives affected by tragedy and loss.

Middle East Mamma wrote about a high school principal here who’s leaving.  He was recently diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease.  A young man of only 50 with a wife and two children, slightly younger than ours.  She said what a difference he’d made in the lives of so many here.

In another the writer bossybetty, who presumable is about my age, just found out her best friend of 44 years has been diagnosed with a terminal illness.  She lives 2000 miles away from her friend and feels somewhat helpless but is writing daily letters to her, so she stays connected.  So her friend feels her care. 

In yet another, the writer spoke of her father and the wreckage of her family life, growing up.

In this month’s Reader’s Digest I read about Michael J Fox.  He writes about what his illness has taught him.  About being a father.  What makes him happy. How he’s learned to acknowledge the reality of a situation and find acceptance. 

Two nights ago, Dear Husband arrived home from work looking like he had just crawled out from underneath a sand dune.  Walking through the door, he was covered; well caked, in sand.  His hair gone back to the dirty blond color when I first met him.  And his eyes.  I thought he had been crying.  I have never seen eyes so visibly bloodshot, sore and obviously painful.

It turns out there was a 13 vehicle accident on the road back from where he works, so he spent 2 hours in a brown-out, or shamal, or sandstorm – whatever you want to call it, in command of the accident scene, trying to sort through the wreckage.  I think 14 people were sent to hospital, 4 in critical condition.  They had to work on one casualty, for over an hour, to get him from being trapped inside a vehicle.  But persistence of the emergency crews paid off and eventually the man was freed and sent on to hospital. 

The emergency crews had masks over their mouths and nose to protect their airways from the sand, but nothing was available for protection of their eyes.  Dear Daughter volunteered to help administer some eye drops to Dear Dad over the next few hours which seemed to help somewhat.

I myself have been struggling with some father issues so perhaps that’s why I’m talking about them, thinking about them, processing them.  My Dad died 4 months ago.  I hadn’t seen him in over 17 years.  It had been a tumultuous relationship and one I no longer continued with under the circumstances, but it had been my choice and one that I was okay with.

Since his passing though, I’d been struggling as I wanted to acknowledge the loss for my aunts, his sisters, and express my sympathy to them for the loss of their brother.  But how does one do that and still stay true to my own feelings without negating theirs.  Well, four months later I think I’ve finally found the right words.  If I’ve learned one thing from this relationship …. Speak the truth. 

So that is what I’m going with.  Truth, coupled with kindness and sensitivity. 

Maybe it’s not the right thing to do, but I was relaying many of these stories to our kids on the way home from school one day, as they had been impacting how I was feeling.  I was feeling lucky.  So fortunate, so blessed in comparison to so many others, and telling them how we need not take our life for granted.

But back to Dear Daughter.  She got ready for school.  She sat down at the dining room table.  Again, not the usual routine.  I noticed tears welling up in her eyes.  Asking her what the matter was, she said she was tired, slept poorly as she lay awake much of the night suffering from a nightmare. 

“About what?” I asked.

“I dreamt Dad was dying of a brain tumour.”

I gave her some time.  My ear, some sympathy and a big hug.  Tried my best to balance my sympathy and understanding with the need for her to get to school in just a few minutes.  Questioning whether it was that important to send her to school.  Or wondering if it was it more important for her to stay home, get some sleep.  Some reassurance.

It was mid-morning before it occurred to me why she might have been dreaming about such a thing.  Perhaps all those stories of other Dads.  What they and their families were going through.  Combine that with the realization of the situations Dear Husband is sometimes faced with due to his line of work.  Maybe it was all a bit too much and was playing on her mind. 

Again I wonder how best to deal with these kinds of things.  How do we talk to kids about loss?  Tragedy? Do we just keep silent and pretend these things don’t happen in life?

My Lesson Learned:   Speak the truth.  But with kindness, sensitivity.  Even more so, with reassurance and a sense of security as I think that’s what she needs most right now.

Oldest son is at home from school part of this week due to study leave.  He’s normally up at 5am for school but was saying he might sleep in until 6am.  Then he said “Oh, maybe I’ll just get up at my usual time of 5am”.

“Why would you do that?” I asked.

“Well, so I can see Dad in the morning, before he goes to work.”

And Dear Daughter?  Well, she obviously wanted to do the same on this particular morning….