No One Holds a Candle to You, Dad

Visiting my in-laws always triggers strong feelings of missing my father. It pains me so deeply to think that my child will be held by my father-in-law, but not by my own father; that my child won’t meet my dad­—and get to know the humble and sweet, intelligent, and sensitive man that he was. In fact, this very morning, it being the 4th time we are staying with my husband’s parents in LA LA land (i.e. LA), it concretized in my mind that my next writing project could be to write about my father and compile all the lovely stories that family, friends, and former patients had to say about him. I am not surprised that this idea came to me while visiting my in-laws—as I said, it is here that I feel my father’s absence the most and miss him most acutely.

And the only thing that will ameliorate the pain of my children not knowing my father would be to write up a text describing who he was and what he meant to those with whom he was closest. In fact, I could even see myself devoting a whole room to my dad in our future home with pictures of him hanging on the wall; it’s kind of shrine-like, I know, but it just feels like the next best thing.

But I would be remiss to end this writing here, for I had another revelation this morning, albeit perhaps less major.

Our April visits to LA also coincide with my father-in-law’s birthday—as if I need another jab in the proverbial chest that surrounds the gaping hole that is the loss of my father. Thinking about this, I pitied myself and my situation even more. But then, this morning, for the first time I realized that my father is in fact with me during this time.

You see, four days out of the year in the Jewish calendar, there is a custom to light a memorial candle and recite Yizkor, a prayer for family members who have passed on. And guess what? My father-in-law’s Hebrew birthday coincides with one of these days! So when my father-in-law gathers his friends in his home to celebrate, the pain of missing my father is slightly abated by the presence of the lit memorial candle in the corner of the room, which symbolizes my father’s soul, and the Yizkor prayer that I recite for him that day. From this I know deep in my heart that my father is indeed there with me.

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When A Loved One Passed On Before the World Went Digital: Where Are You, Dad?

This morning I was looking for a picture to post of me and my dad on my Instagram account. While I once briefly referenced my father on my page, I never posted a picture of him, nor did I fully explain the enormous influence that he had on my decision to become a nutritionist.

My Instagram account: gila_health_and_wellness, is an interesting breed indeed. It is an account dedicated to healthy living, but since I had no desire to create a solely personal Instagram account, it sometimes contains pictures about personal quirks/passions of mine that are, dare I say, not at all related to nutrition (Oh my!).

Being that I have black-and-white thinking, this is constantly itching at me. Are there people who begin to follow me and then stop because my feed is not solely about nutrition and exercise? I mean, I chose the name for my professional business to be “Gila Health and Wellness” several years ago with the intention of including more than just nutrition and physical activity. I wanted to include other topics such as mindfulness and emotional well-being, which are not strictly nutrition- and exercise-related.

But as I broaden my definition more and more of what “health and wellness” means to me, I continue to wonder if I am making a mistake in spreading my net so wide.

But, alas, I digress. And only time will tell if the unique fusion that is my professional image on Instagram, which in every way mirrors my person, catches and keeps the attention of others.

In my efforts to find more people who would be interested in what I express on my Instagram account (i.e. garner more followers), I realized this morning that I have yet to post a picture of me and my dad (my inspiration for becoming a nutritionist) on my Instagram page.

And I realized today that I don’t have any digital pictures of me and my father.

I created my current Gmail account in 2007, the year after my father died, so I wouldn’t have any there. I created my Facebook account in the summer of 2006, 3 months before my father suddenly passed away, so nothing there either.

I didn’t get a smart phone until 2013, which means that I wasn’t digitally chronicling my life until around that time. I mean, I had started to, but not nearly as heavily as the present time.

And, here I am two for two, for I have digressed yet again! For the intention of this post was not to write about how much more digitally inclined I have become (together with the rest of the world!). Rather, I wanted to express that this is the second time that I am intensely realizing that I do not have easy access to pictures of me and my father.

The first time, it was about five years ago, when I reflected on how I had no pictures with him, let alone of him, in my apartment.

And being that I have often struggled with feelings of abandonment after losing my father, I couldn’t help but notice that not having pictures with or of him, was probably both a symptom and a driver of my intense feelings of abandonment and loneliness.

I think I knew subconsciously that seeing pictures of my dad would make me miss him even more, and I created a reality where not seeing my father’s face for months on end was normal.

But, as I concluded then, I recognize today that this may not be the best approach.

And so, setting aside my strong desire to successfully build my brand based in part on my unique, painful experiences, which are, in fact, not so unique at all, since many can relate to them—setting aside my selfish professional pursuits for one moment, I can acknowledge, once again, that there are times that I rarely see a physical image of my father; and it’s weird.

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Home Renovations Hold Painful Connotations

My mother is planning on redecorating the house within the next coming year or two. Being that my parents never renovated the home since they bought it in 1986, renovation is a very positive thing. But somehow I am not taking it so well.

On the one hand, I am excited to see my childhood home become more modern and increase in beauty. On the other hand, and this is a very heavy hand, I want to keep living in the home that my father used to live in. I am afraid, for example, that when we redo the kitchen, the new kitchen will feel starkly devoid of any memories of my father; that I will in turn feel my father’s presence less—or more accurately—feel his absence even more.

I have been pining away at this thought for the past year or so—the conflict that I have between wanting to have a better, brighter childhood home, and not wanting to change the way things were when my father was alive.

I do not know if there is a term for the grieving that happens when one renovates one’s living space such that it is unrecognizable to the person whom they once shared it with, for whom they long. I know that holding onto a loved one’s material items is a common form of holding onto their memories, and taken too far, a not-so-healthy one.

In general, I try hard to put organization and minimalist, Zen living above keeping items of sentimental value, but for some reason, renovating the space I used to share with my father, the home in which he and my mother raised me—I can’t seem to emotionally prepare for this.

Then this morning, I had a thought. The greatest part of the grieving lies in the feeling of moving on and redoing the home without my father ever having stepped foot in it or experiencing it for himself. Surely my father cannot physically inhabit this space, but I could think about what my father would say if he were in fact here during this renovation.

I could imagine the sort of design he would prefer. I could think about the discussions he would have with my mother, as she spoke with the interior designer to set up the plans.

He wasn’t one for modern-day design, but I am sure he would appreciate the user-friendliness of the new cabinets and the increased counter space.

My father cannot inhabit the space, but I can mentally bring him into it. I can imagine how he would participate in the process. And I can envision him grabbing an Israeli salad from the fridge and chomping down on it on our new kitchen counter. (He usually ate his snacks standing up ;))

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