I kept waiting for the phone to ring.

It was Monday morning of last week – the day winter came quickly and decisively to Minnesota. I stood at my back door, looking out at the inch or so of snow that had come down already, and listening to the tap of icy rain on the windows as it started to cover everything with a thin, shiny layer.

It was exactly the time I normally would have gotten a phone call from my dad, saying, “So – I hear you’re getting some snow up there.”

We would then have spent a few minutes comparing the weather and the forecasts for “up here” and “down there” – the small town where I grew up, and where my dad spent his entire life – before moving on to weightier topics, like family news, our recent activities, and how the holidays would be here before we knew it.

But the call never came. And I’m still going through that first, toughest year of grief after someone passes away. The year when you feel the loss most strongly because it is still so fresh, and because throughout the year you go through the first of everything without them. It’s especially gnawing on the big occasions like birthdays, holidays, and other special events. But at least you can see those coming. You’re well aware that they’re going to occur, and you prepare as best you can for the feelings that you know will come.

It’s the times that catch me off-guard that stop me in my tracks and often bring me to tears. The ones that come with something casual and ordinary – like that first snowstorm – and that make me suddenly think of my dad and how much I miss him.

It was the end of January when he passed away, so I’m nearing the end of that first year without him. And even though it’s been almost a year since he died, I’m feeling his loss very powerfully right now. Not just because the holidays are approaching and I won’t see him over Christmas, but because his birthday is November 21. It makes me sad to think about the phone call I won’t be making this year, and I’m pretty sure I’ll spend the entire day walking around with this vague feeling that there’s something I’m supposed to do, but can’t quite remember what it is.

And yet, there’s joy and contentment interwoven with the sadness and loss that I’m feeling now, and have been experiencing all year. A friend recently pointed out to me what precious gifts our memories are, and I realize that I have those in abundance. Memories of major events and big celebrations, and of quiet, everyday conversations and occurrences. Visits, phone calls, the time we spent in each other’s lives – these make up the memories that will keep my father alive for me forever. These are the memories I should be thankful for.

And I am. I will treasure them now, and as birthdays and holidays come and go. I will cherish them with each new day, with each new discovery. And with each winter’s first snowfall, when the phone doesn’t ring.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on November 20, 2014.
©Betty Liedtke, 2014

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