Recently I was talking with my mom on the phone and she mentioned the anniversary. She said "it's been 30 years, do you realize that?" and I said, "no, wow, I can't believe it's been 30 years." She told me she had written something and would love me to look at it, I told her to send it my way.
Later that evening I received an email from her with the subject "May Anniversary" and I opened the attachment and found the words that I've included below. I was shell-shocked because my mom doesn't typically write things like this. Or really talk about this time. And I started to think about why.
It's interesting that this anniversary falls the day after Mother's Day. I think it's symbolic in so many ways. On May 14, 1988, my mom stopped being "just" a mom. She became a mom and dad, the sole financial earner for our family, the person whose shoulders everything rested. She went from sharing responsibilities to bearing all the weight--including the weight of her daughters' grief, along with her own.
She put her own grief on the back burner--at least publicly--for my sister and I. I remember seeing her cry at the funeral. I remember her crying one day in church, a year (?) later when they sang one of the songs that was played at his funeral. (And "Be Not Be Afraid" and "On Eagles Wings" still wreck me.) I remember walking into my grandma's kitchen from playing outside one afternoon and glimpsing a very emotional mom before being shooed back outside. I remember the day I got into the car accident she references below and how sad she seemed about the minivan. And honestly, that's it.
And in my selfish, young, egocentric world I always wondered "why doesn't she care more?"
As a mom, and an adult, I can look back on my childhood and see the stuff that maybe I wasn't aware of. Or the stuff that I chose to ignore. Or the situations that I didn't even consider her feelings about. I can see her perspective now.
And for all those years that I've wept for my dad, I now cry a little for that woman.
But, I don't feel guilty--I was a child. I was dealing with my own sadness. I'm just grateful to have this perspective now. And that my mom felt inspired enough to write down some thoughts and share them with me. And then allow me to share them here.
I do miss my dad. Grief doesn't get easier with time, it just changes. Right now it's grief more for the things I don't get to have with him than the things I miss. I wrote about that here. The ten years with my dad were special and I hope to never forget that. But in grieving for those lost I have to remind myself to appreciate those here--and all they sacrificed in order to make my childhood as happy as they could.
So, on the 30th anniversary of my dad's death, I just want to say: I miss you, dad, so much.
And thank you, mom, for everything. Love you.
Now, a note from my mom.
30 years ago today my life was turned upside down and changed forever. My husband, Curtis Danielson, the father of my two daughters, died unexpectedly of a heart attack. He was only 36 years old, 4 days short of 37, and had no prior heart issues.
I walked around in a daze for at least the next 6 months. However, I was lucky. I had a very large support system – I grew up in a family with 9 children. My brothers become male role models for my girls and my sisters became second (and third) mothers. But it wasn’t just my siblings that supported me. My parents watched them while I was working and many times took them to their cabin with them on the weekends.
My mother-in-law and sister-in-law had us over for dinners and air conditioning in the summer when I had none. They were also very generous with their time watching the girls when I needed help. My friends made sure I was busy and kept my social life active.
I made it through the initial shock and knew I had to make some decisions. The girls were going to school by my parents' house and it was becoming a nightmare for me to drive them there every day and pick them up at night. I sold the house Curt and I bought together and bought a new one. I then went through all of Curt’s things. I donated his clothes, sold some of his tools and other items, and packed up his personal items knowing my daughters would eventually want them.
My life moved on, I met and married a wonderful man.
The only material thing left in my life from my time with Curt was the mini-van he and I bought a mere two months before he died. Then there was a car accident – or rather a close encounter with a semi – and the van was totaled. As I watched the van being towed away I got choked up. It was silly to get emotional about a van, right? But as it moved away from me it hit me it was the last connection I had to him and I was truly ending a chapter in my life.
Curtis Allen Danielson. I will always remember and love you. Your legacy lives on in your daughters and grandchildren. May you always rest in peace.