A Father’s Grief

From my journal dated August 16, 2002:

I’m concerned about Joe. I don’t think he’s doing well at all. He was crying in his sleep last night. He’s been much more edgy than usual…and more quiet. Jenna hasn’t been around much lately, at least not while Joe’s home. I think he misses spending time with her. Eric moved out and away a long time ago. Jason is gone forever.

Jenna, Joe, Jason and Eric

Joe’s heart has always been for his family. I think he misses doing things with the kids so much. When the kids were born, it was a conscious choice for Joe to be a dad involved in all aspects of his kids’ lives, to be a good dad. It was also his greatest joy. On top of that, he’s a “more-the-merrier” type of person. Whoever was over at the time was included in whatever we were doing, too! He loves to have fun…and takes everyone along with him on the trip!

Joe made up this game we called “swamp monster” when the kids were little that became a favorite of not only our kids but all of their friends when they were over. We’d turn off all the lights in the house, and all the kids would find some place to hide. The goal was to get from the hiding place to the designated base without getting caught by the “swamp monster.” Joe, of course, was the swamp monster. He would take an afghan from the couch or small blanket and try to capture the kids as they ran for base. More often than not, of course, the swamp monster “missed” and the kids got away. The fun was in playing the game! For years our house was filled with running, shrieking kids, trying to outrun the swamp monster.

Joe reading to Jason and EricIt didn’t matter what the rules of a game were, what the words to a book said, what the words to a song were; Joe was apt to make up his own to make it more fun. He’d read books to the kids (ones they had heard so many times they practically knew by heart) starting at the back page. He’d read it to them backwards, he’d make up his own story from the pictures, or he’d read every few words. Swimming, roller skating, football, baseball, card games, board games, baseball, trick-or-treating, shooting off fireworks on July 4, to the park…whatever. Joe just likes to have fun with his kids, and we whoever was at our house had fun right along with them.

As he got older, Eric started doing stuff “away” from us. Jenna is doing the same thing now, partly, I think, because of Jason’s death and how hard it is to just be around the house…too many reminders of his absence. I know it’s understandable, but it’s hard on Joe.

Eric, Joe and Jason

Jason always seemed to have someone over for one reason or another…and/or invited them to go do things with us as a family. He didn’t always try do do everything away from us as teenagers are apt to want to do. People went to church with us, to dinner, to the concert in the park, to the beach, to some activity, to whatever we happened to be doing at the time. It seemed like so many “kids” were just extended family and we could have any number of kids in our house or with us at any time. We just loved having family – and the kids that became family by extension – around.

In Victoria, Canada - Joe, Jason and Jenna

A couple of weeks ago, Joe went with Tom to see the movie K19. He was having a rough day and wasn’t really in mood to go, but went anyway. (He’s never been one to have to have “guy” time, to have to hang out or do something with “the guys.” He’d rather go with me or the family.) I was teasing him, trying to lighten things up, and said, “Oh, so, you’re more of a “wif” [Joe sometimes calls me the “wif” and I sometimes call him “hubby” as a term of endearment] kind of guy. He looked at me very seriously, very sadly, and said, “No, I’m a family type of guy.”

Joe with Eric, Jenna and Jason

He always has been a family type of guy. He’s always wanted to include the kids in everything we did. We so seldom had babysitters when they were little because we did things where we could take them with us. It only seemed right.

So now we are both lost. Eric is sort of disconnected from us, Jason is gone, Jenna is growing up and will soon be moving on. What do we do now? We are family people with not much family left. Such a huge hole. Joe is a father with a huge father’s heart…and now he has a huge father’s grief.

Jason's high school graduation

If you look at all the pictures we’ve taken over the years, it’s been all about our family and activities with our kids. We absolutely loved it. And now what do we do? We don’t even have anything or anyone to distract us from this awful emptiness. Broken family. Broken people. No extended family close by. No church family involved. Everywhere is just emptiness and pain and trying to figure out how to keep going.

Joe making sure Jason is all spiffed up for the formal

Joe and I are getting tired of trying to figure out what to do and how to keep on going. We’re weary. Doing stuff like yard or house work gets old so quickly. We’re all by ourselves a lot. It may seem like we have each other…and we do…but both of us are in so much pain. It’s like the drowning trying to rescue the drowning.

My poor hubby. He misses his kids so much. He’s just so sad. I don’t know how to help him.